How stories work
Multiple studies have shown that stories consistently outperformed factual narratives for encouraging action-taking in all audiences, even controlling for pre-disposition. Fictional storytelling that reaches mainstream audiences has the power to change cultural narratives, to influence social norms and change the debate. The climate community has not yet begun to tap into this enormous potential for engaging new audiences. This is Climate Spring’s focus.
The Problem: We need to shift from communicating the facts to inspiring people with the solutions.
80% of individuals globally believe that they have a personal responsibility not to destroy the planet, and yet that is what we continue to do.  The majority of people globally think that climate change is a serious threat, and that governments are not doing enough to combat it.
This failure to change is not to do with a lack of technology, or even finance, it is now a cultural challenge. Scientists have demonstrated the many ways we could be reducing our emissions, from renewable energy and tree planting through to reduction of meat consumption and air travel. 
Governments in democracies take their cues from their electorate.. Governments have been allowed to fail to take climate change sufficiently seriously because they do not have a sufficiently clear public mandate for solutions. They know citizens care about climate change, but not whether they will they support policies to reduce meat consumption and change travel habits. . For an effective and democratic approach to climate change, all of society needs to engage. 
Limits of fact based campaigning to motivate the public
Campaigners focused on changing individual behaviours and perspectives have for the most part taken approaches based on the ‘information deficit model – the idea that individuals are ‘empty vessels’ waiting to be filled with virtuous knowledge, who will see the error of their ways and change their behaviour. Science communicators believed that by giving people better information, this would reduce scepticism, bolster public opinion and mobilise action. Through public information campaigns, documentaries, protests and speeches, the tactics of environmental campaigners were founded on this idea.  This has worked to inform the public of the facts of climate, but is the wrong approach for the cultural and social shifts that need to happen at an unprecedented speed and scale. In fact there is some evidence this is starting to cause despondency; 50% of individuals in the UK feel hopeless about the issue, and feel they can do little about it.
Efficacy belief is the measure of people’s confidence that they can exert personal control on an issue.  Individuals who believe they cannot do anything about climate change, won’t do anything about climate change. Low efficacy beliefs compounded by high levels of risk – such as the collapse of civilization – can result in people implementing denial-based coping strategies to reduce their fear and stress levels. 
Climate change communications has tended to focus on convincing the general public about the existential threat facing them with factual information. While they have managed to convince the majority of the public that climate change is an all too real threat, they have not convinced them that they can do anything about it. Indeed, some studies have shown that individuals who receive informational narratives perform fewer pro-environmental behaviours than those who did not receive any information. 
Traditional science communication has underestimated the complexity of learning and behaviour change. While educational interventions may help fill gaps in knowledge, there are limits as to what information can achieve in changing attitudes and behaviour in respect of climate change, and it can at times be actively damaging.
A recent report from the Garfield Weston Foundation highlighted that the British public is struggling to grasp the immediate need to take action on the environment, and that environmental charities are struggling to raise funds despite considering themselves well equipped to do so.  They highlighted the need for compelling storytelling to improve to facilitate fundraising by environmental organisations, and increase public engagement.
A successful scripted television show, such as The Night Manager, can reach over 5 million viewers at broadcast, with double or triple that watching over all. Similarly, successful British films such as The King’s Speech can reach a similar number at box office, and many times that through other mediums. The Day After Tomorrow, a disaster film about a catastrophic climate event, sold an estimated 30 million tickets in the US alone, and generated hundreds of articles in media coverage. Studies demonstrated that the film had significant impact on viewers, and were more likely to give money to environmental charities, buy a more fuel-efficient car and publicly express their opinions about climate change.
Film and television are the ideal mechanisms for engaging a huge, diverse audience with complex subjects, but we need to see climate fiction to show us inspirational futures, rather than dystopia and apocalypse.
 Rebecca Lindsey, “Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide”, August 2020. doi: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide.
 Kelly Beaver, “Majority of people expect government to make environment a priority in post COVID-19 recovery“, June 2020. doi: https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/majority-people-expect-government-make-environment-priority-post-covid-19-recovery
 Stuart Capstick et al., “International trends in public perceptions of climate change over the past quarter century”, WIREs Clim Change 2015, 6:35–61. doi: 10.1002/wcc.321
 Charities Aid Foundation, “CAF UK Giving 2019”, May 2019, doi: https://www.cafonline.org/docs/default-source/about-us-publications/caf-uk-giving-2019-report-an-overview-of-charitable-giving-in-the-uk.pdf Lorraine Whitmarsh, “Public engagement with climate change: What do we know and where do we go from here?”, International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, Vol. 9, 1:7-25(19), doi: https://doi.org/10.1386/macp.9.1.7_1 Jack Lewis, "The Birth of EPA", EPA Journal, Vol. 11, 9, November 1985, doi: https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyNET.exe/93000ECY.TXT Ibid 5. Ashley Bienieck-Tobasco et al., “Communicating climate change through documentary film: imagery, emotion and efficacy”, Climatic Change, 154:1-18, April 2019, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-019-02408-7 Lorenzoni I, Nicholson-Cole S, Whitmarsh L, “Barriers perceived to engaging with climate change among the UK public and their policy implications”, Glob Environ Chang 17(3–4):445–459, 2007 Brandi S. Morris, “Stories vs. facts: triggering emotion and action-taking on climate change”, Climatic Change, 154:19-36, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-019-02425-6Garfield Weston Foundation, “Prioritising our planet”, October 2020. doi: https://garfieldweston.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/GWF-Environment-Report.pdf Kendall Haven, Story Proof, Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited, 2007, p.24 A Gopnik, et al. The Scientist in the Crib, New York: Harper Perennial, 1999. M Johnson, The Body in the Mind, Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1987. Ibid 10. Paul J. Zak, “Why inspiring stories make us react: The Neuroscience of Narrative”, Cerebrum, 2, Jan 2015. doi: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4445577/ PJ Shoemaker, “Hardwired for news: using biological and cultural evolution to explain the surveillanceFunction”. J Commun 46(3):32–47, 1996 Ibid 10. D Kahan, “Fixing the Communications Failure", Nature, 463, 296-297. 13, 2010. Graham Riddick, “Blue Planet II is this year’s most watch show”, The Guardian, 6th November 2017. BFI, BFI Statistical Yearbook, 2019. Brian Merchant, ‘Nike and Boeing Are Paying Sci-Fi Writers to Predict Their Futures’, OneZero, 28th November 2018 Nancy Tartaglione, “The Night Manager registers £5.14m viewers in BBC One debut”, Deadline, 22nd February 2016. “The King’s Speech”, European Audiovisual Observatory: LUMIERE, extracted 28th January 2021. Anthony A. Leiserowitz, “Surveying the Impact of The Day After Tomorrow”, Environment, Vol. 49:9, 2004.
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