Meet the members – Climate outreach

By Chris Shaw on 1 May 2020

Climate outreach aims to ensure that climate change and its impacts are understood, accepted and acted upon across the breadth of society. We caught up with Senior Programme lead for Research at the organisation, Chris Shaw.

Why did you join the Rapid Transition Alliance

Climate Outreach joined Transition Alliance to be part of a network that recognises the urgency of climate change and puts people at the heart of the strategy for delivering a low carbon future.

What for you is the biggest challenge of rapid transition?

Creating a social tipping point for rapid transition. This can’t be achieved by a top down narrative based around scientific targets and long term goals. We have to work from the ‘values up’ not the ‘numbers down.’ Though recent surveys show a big rise in concern about climate change there is still low awareness of what changes people will need to make in their lives to limit climate change impacts. Even those who accept the reality of the problem are often dismissive of the role they can play in solving it – most people have not yet heard a story about climate change that sounds like it was written ‘for them’. We need to listen to people, hear their climate change stories, hopes and concerns for the future, and build narratives and policies that speak to those issues.

What is your organisation doing to encourage rapid transition?

Climate Outreach work across the research-practice divide to provide organisations with evidence – based strategies for communicating climate change. We have established a set of evidence based principles for effective public engagement on climate change and support a range of regional, national and international partners to ensure those principles are embedded into their communication activities. We help local councils develop communication strategies for the proposals emerging out of climate citizen assemblies, provide advice to national governments on how to effectively engage their publics with climate policies and deliver communication advice to the United Nations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

What is your favourite example of rapid transition?

The emergence of ‘flight shame’ has been a development with great symbolic power, showing how seemingly intractable norms can shift quite rapidly.

What one thing would best help the task of rapid transition?

Policies need to be developed in conjunction with the public. Creating the evidence based frameworks to support dialogue between all levels of society is vital if we are to encourage a rapid societal transition built on a shared understanding of the risks and changes needed to help us through the coming years of climate change.


Chris Shaw