Talking Climate Change With NNOCCI

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This training will boost your skills in proven communications techniques that shift the national conversation about climate change to be more positive, civic-minded and solutions-focused through providing an overview of the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation's recommendations for identifying common values, metaphors, and solution-framing.
TOC and Guide Section

Important note: All of the following training recommendations are directly from the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation - NNOCCI Climate Interpreter program. 

  • The NNOCCI network aims to change the national conversation around climate change to be positive, civic-minded, and solutions-focused. NNOCCI uses evidenced-based communications methods, provides social-emotional support, employs the latest climate science findings and applies them in our institutions. 
  • NNOCCI builds trust and lasting bonds among colleagues across the country to develop effective ways to engage audiences in learning about climate and ocean change.
  • Together we can train enough voices in proven communication techniques to shift the national conversation about climate change to be more positive, civic-minded and solutions-focused.
  • As a result of increased feelings of self-efficacy and hope, along with the benefits of social support, NNOCCI members become significantly more likely to talk about climate change with their audiences and peers. In turn, their audiences are significantly more likely to understand climate change, feel increased hope for climate change solutions, and increased intentions of taking community-focused actions for climate change solutions. 

So how does one craft messages and engage in productive conversations that will navigate away from the unproductive parts of the “swamp” and inspire understanding and hope?

The Importance Of Strategic Framing

A research-based approach that is proven to:

  • Bridge the gap between scientist and public understanding
  • Help the public understand the mechanisms of climate change
  • Show the public how they can be ‘heroes’ of the climate change story
  • Leave the visitor and the interpreter with a sense of hope

Strategic Framing includes a set of recommended communications elements that when used together allow us to strategically navigate our way toward the biggest impact.

What we need to do is change the story and move away from the crisis-oriented message that “climate change is real and we’re all going to die!” Instead, think of your story in these three parts:

  1. Why Does It Matter?
  2. How Does It Work?
  3. What Can We Do About It?

To leave people feeling a sense of hope, efficacy and agency about ocean and climate change, whenever you talk about it, including these three key pieces (while maintaining that reasonable, explanatory tone), is your best bet at success.

These elements will strengthen any topic, because they address fundamental ways that humans think and take in information. Apart from the content of an issue, these elements work to drive people toward more systems thinking and a sense of collective responsibility.

Why Does This Matter To Society?

The first part of your story is why someone should care about climate change. If you don’t clue them into this first, they will tune you out. 

Align climate change with an issue someone already cares about so it’s not competing for time and attention with other issues in their lives.

We can’t assume that everyone cares about climate change for the same reasons we do. NNOCCI did research to find out how to best connect with people. It turns out that the ideals, or "values" as NNOCCI calls them, that resonate with the largest amount of people, and that set us up to have conversations on appropriate solutions, are "Responsible Management" and "Protection." Why do we need to think about how to appeal to Values in our climate change communications? Values are enduring core beliefs. They are the ultimate underlying motivation for a particular attitude or behavior. So let’s dive into these two values a little deeper.


This is the value that tested the best at getting the most people oriented and supportive of climate action.

‘x’ matters because we have a duty to safeguard the well-being of people and places

  • We must protect and preserve the habitats and ecosystems we depend on
  • Showing concern for others is the right thing to do
  • Stepping in to ensure peoples’ safety and well being
  • Let’s take measures to eliminate or reduce risks
  • Let’s be vigilant in shielding people and places from harm

Responsible Management

This value stresses the importance of using common sense and step-by-step approaches to come up with responsible long-term plans that act in the interest of future generations. 

‘x’ matters because taking common-sense steps today is in the interests of future generations

  • Let’s be responsible when it comes to the environment
  • Let’s look ahead to handle problems before they get worse
  • Responsible managers keep an open mind, look to evidence, and take a level-headed, step-by-step approach
  • Future generations depend on the decisions we make today
How Does It Work?

Many climate communications focus on the impacts of climate change and do not specify how it happens.

Without this crucial piece of information, people arrive at the wrong solutions. People are more likely to act when they know how something works.

A good explanation will:

  • Walk people through the mechanism at work
  • Connect the science to the solutions and the story to the subject at hand
  • Motivate productive consideration of multiple solutions
  • Give people a role in the story

Explanatory Metaphors

  • NNOCCI has created the following helpful reframe cards.
  • Use these cards as cheat sheets for how to use each metaphor. Look through these resources and choose which metaphor to use depending on the story you are trying to tell. 
  • You want to include the bold text in the ‘important concepts and ideas to include’ in order to use the metaphor correctly.
  • You’ll notice that each of the reframe cards has a section on “strategically redirecting thinking away from patterns such as:”- these are the red models in your swamp. If you use the metaphors, you are automatically by-passing these swampy zones and setting yourself up for success in cueing the green, or productive, models.
How Do We Improve The Situation?


  • Community-level solutions foster hope and instill a sense of agency and efficacy.
  • We can help change the decision-making context so that making sustainable choices is easy for more Americans.
  • Involves describing evidence-based policies, programs, or initiatives that address the problem.
  • Foster engagement and hope by framing climate change as a problem that can be addressed at a collective level through practical steps by an informed, engaged citizenry.
  • The solutions element helps move us past the media gridlock where no one does anything and instead highlights the idea that action is happening all around us, and its normal to take part in it.
  • Research tells us that a majority of Americans are concerned about climate change, but they are self-silencing because they’re convinced they have the minority opinion. They are also nervous about talking about climate change because they’re not confident they can talk about it correctly. So, if we can empower the majority of Americans who are already concerned about climate change to start talking with their friends and families, we can start to turn the tide on this misconception and really start mobilizing for change.
  • Highlighting actions that are happening now (or could happen now) gives people a sense of agency and a sense that this is a problem today, not some other day down the line.

Cues to use with caution:

  • Politicians, policies, laws, regulations, government:
  • Instead of using the word “politician”, use “civic leader”
  • Instead of using the word “policy”, use “approach,” etc.

Additional recommendations in describing solutions:

Be specific! 
  • Concrete examples help show that change is possible!
  • Be explicit about how people can work together to push the solution forward.

Reinforce with other frame elements

  • Cue the Responsible Management or Protection value to remind people why the action matters.
  • Explain how the solution helps reduce CO2 emissions.
We’re all in this together!
  • Reinforce that concern for our climate is normal.
  • Invite people to talk to others. 
  • Avoid polarizing language.
Putting It All Together: Resources & Next Steps
1. Why does this matter to society?
  • Values (Protection and Responsible Management)

2. How does it work?

  • Explanatory Metaphors (Heat Trapping Blanket, etc.)

3. How do we improve the situation?

  • Solutions

Continue your communications framing practice with these resources:

Press play to start the video (51m 58s)
Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda
(from beginning)

What is NNOCCI?

NNOCCI Resources Available

What Americans Think About Climate Change

The Core Story of Climate Change

What Does This Look Like In Conversation?

Summary & Next Steps
  • Hannah Pickard
  • Rebekah Egbert 
  • Katie Vitti 
  • Alexis Koontz
Audio length
Press play to start the audio (51m 58s)
Audio embed code
Audio Outline

To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda
(from beginning)

What is NNOCCI? 


NNOCCI Resources Available 


What Americans Think About Climate Change 


The Core Story of Climate Change 


What Does This Look Like In Conversation? 


Summary & Next Steps 


  • Hannah Pickard
  • Rebekah Egbert 
  • Katie Vitti 
  • Alexis Koontz
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