Climate Change in Ohio: WilsonsWarbler - Photo Camilla Cerea

Climate change threatens more than 300 species of birds in North America and thousands more worldwide. To tackle this threat, Audubon’s network is taking action through conservation, science, public engagement, and grassroots advocacy. We believe and have confirmed through talking with our members that taking action on climate change is not a partisan issue. People from all across the political spectrum, all across the country and beyond need to come together to protect the birds we love and the habitats they depend on.

So how do you talk with others about climate change — especially those who have their doubts?

Here are quick highlights from Audubon’s research about how to communicate effectively and inclusively about the issue of climate change.

Climate change can seem like an overwhelmingly complex and abstract issue. But we don’t need to tell the whole story of climate change with elaborate temperature graphs or atmospheric data. Tell people that climate change affects beloved species, like the Bald Eagle, Wood Thrush, or Rufous Hummingbird, and tap into their love for these birds. Put birds front and center in the text and photos you use when talking about this issue.

Climate change isn’t a faraway problem—its effects are happening right now in your backyard. Tell the story through local birds that are climate-threatened. For example, in North Carolina, you can tell people about the Brown-headed Nuthatch; in Minnesota, talk about the Common Loon; or in Maryland, talk about the Baltimore Oriole.

Positive messages, such as protecting the birds we love for future generations, tend to resonate better than focusing on doom and gloom. You can tell people, “You are what hope looks like to a bird.” The ideas of responsibility or moral duty also resonate well with many people.

Offer simple, concrete actions like growing native plants in your yard, emailing elected officials about renewable energy, or talking to friends and family about climate change. Many Audubon supporters we’ve contacted are ready and willing to take action on this issue—keeping in mind that some people might prefer to sign an online petition, while others might prefer to build a nest box for a climate-threatened bird, for example.

Many people don’t need to know all the details of Audubon’s climate science to care about the issue and get involved. Again, know your audience: When talking to Christmas Bird Count veterans, you may want to talk about exact percentages of range loss by the year 2080. When talking to other audiences, you can say things like, “Climate change threatens more than 180 bird species in Washington state, and their ranges are likely to shift and shrink in the coming decades.” People can find more details from Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report at audubon.org.

Many Audubon members we’ve talked with who identify as conservative or independent were less concerned with discussing exactly how much of the changing climate is caused by human activity. What matters most is that birds we all care about are at risk, and we can take action to help them.

It’s often better to avoid extreme language, such as “severely” or “disastrous,” in describing the climate threat to birds. While the problem is serious and we need to communicate this, we’ve found that not everyone responds well to dire adjectives and adverbs.

Feel free to use variations like “our changing climate” or “a warming world” along with “climate change” and “global warming.”

Scarlet Tanager, a bird that could disappear from Ohio by the end of the century because of climate change

Scarlet Tanager - Photo Earl Harrison