The ICNet Guide to Climate Communication

The ICNet has compiled a list of best practices for communicating climate change and specified them for researchers who might be presenting to industry professionals and agencies in transportation and infrastructure.

Top 10 Best Practices for Communicating Climate Change Impacts on Infrastructure:

  1. Know, respect, and connect to your audience
    • Speak to their professional interests and concerns
    • Prioritize impacts and motives that align with existing pathways and design standards
  2. Use existing channels and local sources, and coordinate with those who have already built trust
    • Senior faculty, state and federal agency leaders, etc. have influence
    • Encourage spreading the word within known routes, such as existing networks
  3. Keep the science simple and clear, but acknowledge uncertainty
    • Avoid acronyms and jargon
    • Relate that uncertainty is not an excuse for inaction
  4. Address impacts regionally, and convey due urgency
    • Make the consequences of climate change local
    • Use terms that relay the appropriate need for expediency of action by avoiding the idea that impacts of climate change are only in the far future
  5. Connect climate change with transportation performance, the economy, and security
    • Convey that long-term economic prosperity is tied to, not hurt by, climate resiliency
    • Focus on preparation for near-future events, due to the higher amount of certainty and urgency of planning
  6. Emphasize group identities and affiliations
    • Create a sense of responsibility beyond a single asset or agency
    • Tap into regional group goals and collaboration
  7. Include and prioritize solutions, benefits, and successes
    • Talk about specific benefits of climate adaptation, such as reduced maintenance and improved performance
    • Incorporate the message that success is feasible and progress can be made
  8. Use visuals and examples to make local connections
    • Specific case studies are effective as examples
    • Be careful not to rely on overly technical details, as they can obscure the most important findings
  9. Focus on clear, accessible actions that agencies can take
    • Outline a clear and simple plan of action for agency personnel to make a difference
    • Work with existing institutions and pathways to act
  10. Help to avoid and overcome climate fatalism and environmental elitism
    • Do not let your audience become discouraged or cynical by correcting statements that imply nothing can be done
    • Show that any sectors or field can make a difference, in order to change the idea that only “environmentalists” care about climate change