Climate Communicators Guide June 26, 2017

Welcome to the PSR “Climate Communicators Guide”. We want you to be a successful speaker on behalf of PSR and there is plenty here to help you. We encourage you to reach out to the National office (202-667-4260), to a Board member, or to a leader in your chapter for advice. Please understand that:

  1. As a speaker representing the medical profession and PSR, it is essential to use facts that are science-based, and true to the values of PSR. Your credibility and success as a climate communicator depends upon maintaining a high standard of accuracy, and by not making strongly emotional or partisan remarks.
  2. You may use the slides and materials produced by others, but always acknowledge or thank these sources in your talks.
  3. Be mindful that some of the materials we offer here are several years old. We provide the source and date for each but cannot vouch for every presentation’s accuracy.

Resources List: This Excel spreadsheet is part of the “Guide”. It offers websites, webinars, PowerPoint shows, tools to build your own talks as a climate communicator. We would be grateful to receive resources you would like to contribute, or suggestions for ones that we should delete.

View Resources List

Before You Schedule a Climate & Health Talk:

  1. Get informed. All you need is found in the excellent webinars and PowerPoints included here. Another tremendous resource is Dr Alan H Lockwood’s 2016 book, “Heat Advisory: Protecting Health on a Warming Planet”, available from Amazon and The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
  2. Understand your role as a “climate communicator”. Likely you are not a PhD climate scientist. Don’t worry: you do not need to become one or pretend to be in order to be a highly effective climate change communicator. Your credibility derives from being a respected, compassionate, and experienced health professional with the ability to explain science and climate policies to others.
  3. Learn from an expert communicator. A “must watch” is Professor Ed Maibach’s 2015 talk on tips for successful climate change communication, based upon his research at George Mason University.

Booking your gigs:

Here are some ideas for people to call to schedule climate and health talks in your community:

  1. Your hospital or university: Ask the CME office, the department chairperson, the medical school dean’s office, or teaching program director.
  2. Local environmental groups: Sierra Club, Audubon, university student organizations, outdoors clubs, etc. A useful website to identify these is Reach out to groups by phone or email– they are usually thrilled to have a climate talk by a medical professional.
  3. Civic Clubs: Rotary clubs, Civitan clubs, women’s clubs, garden clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, League of Women Voters, etc.
  4. Schools: Your public school board office will know of high school science teachers who might offer you a speaking opportunity; consider local private schools.
  5. Religious groups: churches, mosques, synagogues, youth groups, and even to speak from the pulpit. Speak at your own house of worship or ask a friend who is active in her/his congregation.

Preparing Your Climate & Health Talk: The resources in this guide offer you far more than you need for an effective 30-40 minute talk. Your challenge is to target your particular audience carefully. Here are tips from some of our experienced PSR climate communicators:

  1. Restrict your message to 4-5 key points; to try to say more will be counterproductive. If you haven’t already, watch Professor Ed Maibach’s 2015 talk on tips for successful climate change communication, based upon his research at George Mason University.
  2. Budget your time carefully. A 60-minute talk is really 40 minutes as you must budget time for introductions, questions and answers. That means a 30-slides maximum for the beginner climate communicator; 40 for the experienced.
  3. Be attentive to your slide content. Use big lettering. Do not include complicated tables and graphs that you cannot easily explain. Avoid having to apologize for the content of anything you present; doing so weakens your case. OMIT such slides: they do not impress your audience and distract from your 4-5 key points.
  4. Know your audience’s scientific background. Carefully avoid medical jargon and abbreviations. If you must use abbreviations in your talk or slides,, explain them carefully and repeatedly, for example: IPCC, CO2, NH4, ATM, ppm…
  5. Don’t talk up or down to your audience. This is not always easy.
  6. Offer facts that interest your audience. Bring climate facts from the audience’s region, available from The National Climate Assessment. Choose slides on health topics for medical audiences, students or parents; include economic and policy slides for business and government audiences.
  7. Don’t be ruffled by the “climate denier”. Most in your audience will be receptive to your message. Ardent deniers are a shrinking minority, fewer than 10% of Americans. A valuable tool is to show the positive benefits of clean energy and energy efficiency options. Use jobs in these growing industries as common ground, that wind turbine construction & maintenance are big job creators. Offer to meet privately with a denier, if necessary.
  8. Always be positive & optimistic in your overall outlook. “Doom and gloom” is not effective. Emphasize “opportunities”.
  9. Provide positive steps that your audience can take home
    1. In the home: recycling, installing LED bulbs, transportation & purchasing choices, solar hot water.
    2. At work: recycle, start a “green team” (, ).
    3. Community: urge the creation of a local or state climate change response plan if you do not have one already, talk to your friends and colleagues, speak with elected leaders, write an Op-ed, join groups, sign petitions (e.g. a community climate petition such as this one from Florida, vote.)
    4. “Join PSR today!”

What to bring to your talk:

  1. Your PowerPoint on computer or thumb drive
  2. Brochures for joining PSR.
  3. A slide about PSR with the website for donating. Example: “Join PSR today!”
  4. Hope for the best, plan for the worst. At a minimum, bring your own laptop. Not all presentations will work well with different operating systems (Mac vs PC). If you have one, bring your own projector. Consider bringing an extension cord and laser pointer. Do not count on the stuff promised working well and being compatible.
  5. Dress and present yourself appropriately for your profession and audience.
  6. If possible, bring an assistant, someone to watch the lights and microphone volume for you, distribute PSR brochures, answer questions, and take new memberships, if allowed by the meeting director. Always have a sign-in sheet to capture names, email, and phone number.
  7. Finally, bring a positive attitude: enjoy yourself, have fun as a PSR climate communicator!

After Your Talk:

  1. Thank your host(s) by phone, email, or personal note.
  2. Reach out to audience members who may have shared their contact information.
  3. Thank your assistant.
  4. Inform PSR of your talk title, forum, and roughly how many attended. Email or call 202-667-4260. Send us your selfies and other photos of your experience.
  5. Schedule your next Climate & Health talk!

Document origin: June 2017, Todd Sack, MD

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