Back in 2012, concerned that climate change was largely no longer talked about in the U.S. or was poorly framed when it was addressed, Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions, LLC, set out to research how those in positions to speak publicly on climate could do so successfully.
We consulted with national communication experts and commissioned leading national opinion and research firm Harstad Strategic Research, Inc., to explore this issue. We sought not to simply ask Americans if they believed in climate change, but also to understand more deeply what values, constructs, and hopes most resonated with Americans when confronting the climate challenge.
We conducted extensive telephone interviews with over 1,200 likely voters and then conducted sophisticated analyses to identify a compelling climate narrative, one that was rooted in strongly resonant core values and that was reinforced by specific, tested facts that our research found to be linked with increased support for taking action on climate. The narrative told the story of the threat we’re facing, those obstructing our ability to make progress, and a hopeful solutions-pathway forward.
Among our many findings, we identified:
the effectiveness of sharing hopeful and concrete facts on actual progress in clean energy (e.g., “In the past 18 months, we’ve installed more solar in the US than in the prior 30 years” and “In the U.S., a new solar installation is completed every ___ minutes”—'an ever-shrinking number: 4 minutes when we started, down to 2.5 minutes in 2014, and now even faster.);
that sharing information about those obstructing progress helped galvanize support for action by demonstrating that there is indeed hope on climate if we tackle those who are throwing up roadblocks;
that respondents really didn’t like learning that the American Petroleum Institute had planned a multi-million dollar disinformation campaign to sow doubt on climate science, which included targeting teachers and schoolchildren;
that a significant number of respondents had recently had either first- or second-hand (family/friend) experience with strange or severe weather and that such experience was linked with their support for both climate mitigation and adaptation efforts; and
that our responsibility to protect our kids was a compelling driver behind support for climate action.
We took our learnings and created our first version of “Climate Solutions for a Stronger America: A Guide for Engaging and Winning on Climate Change & Clean Energy.” In 2014, we worked with Harstad Strategic Research to again conduct in-depth telephone surveys with over 1,200 likely voters, verifying and updating our earlier findings. And, in 2018, we updated the key supporting facts.