How would you persuade your audience about the reality of the climate crisis?

Tatiana – Year 11 Student

Editor’s note: Year 11 student Tatiana entered this essay into the annual Immerse Education Essay Competition. Tatiana chose the title from a list of over 20 different options provided as part of the competition brief. CPD

‘Winning slowly is the same thing as losing’[1]. American author, Alex Steffen, embodies the urgency needed to act during the climate crisis. Societies’ most powerful are proposing great new movements to propel us into a sustainable future, while laughably continuing to be the worst contributors to anthropogenic atmospheric carbon emission levels. Every inhabitant of planet Earth is a stakeholder in this ongoing debate. The detrimental impacts of climate change affect all, some significantly more than others. Universally, the most effective way to persuade the audience is persuasion through language; it is moral, rather than using shock tactics; it is the building block for education.

Winning slowly is the same thing as losing

Alex Steffen, author

The big picture: there is a plethora of undeniable scientific proof regarding the catastrophic impacts of climate change. However, it seems insufficient; it is necessary to use language as a tool to strengthen our argument. The most significant moments in history can be pinpointed with language masters who have delivered hope and inspired people through speech. It is imperative to discuss Greta Thunberg’s impact, a success model, on environmental activism. Thunberg utilises speech, bringing power to the people, she makes us question those who we blindly follow, and challenges the status quo. She uses techniques such as pathos[2] to ignite anger in her audience, particularly evident in her speech, “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words”.[3] This clever rhetoric symbolises the poignancy of language. The metaphor connotes images of the innocent experience of youth, which Greta should be entitled to, torn away by thieves who feign to lead. Societal reformation will only happen if leaders like her, who personally care and understand the situation use language to initiate action. Societal change has begun: youth partake in Thunberg’s “Fridays For Future” campaign which spans over 7500 cities.[4]

You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words

Greta Thunberg, climate activist

Others propose contrasting methods to persuade peers; i.e. using shock tactics. This could involve sensationalised media content, to escalate fear and pressurise people into action. Is it morally right to use shock tactics to urge people to become climate-focussed? To answer we must consider the powerful objections to utilising the ‘doom and gloom frame[5] and its effectiveness. Studies show that more than 80 percent of news articles relating to the IPCC[6] assessment reports primarily employed the catastrophe frame.[7] It is not morally right: over-use of fear-inducing imagery causes guiltiness and fear that can stem into a nihilistic and fatalistic attitude. Consequently, society becomes desensitised leading to passive engagement, counteracting climate change activism.

The most imperative item on our agenda should be a long-term solution; the only way is by engraining climate change education into the school system. By establishing this, we are preventing the problem rather than confronting the after-effects. Utilising language successfully means instead of having to persuade the youth of the impacts of climate change they will already believe it. They will be ‘climate focussed’. Instead of protesting against leaders who do not believe in the severity of climate change, our future ‘game-changers’, will already understand the impacts. It will be at the forefront of their minds.

We must change the school of thought to enable a comprehensive, moral discussion that educates a wider mass of people. Scientific facts can be limiting and not elicit the spark needed for change. The power of language is accessible to all.

Bibliography

Farnsworth, W. Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric. New Hampshire. David R. Godine. 2011.

Fridays For Future [https://fridaysforfuture.org/  last accessed: 2nd January 2023]

Jones, S. Greta Thunberg: A Rhetorical Analysis, 18 Nov. 2019. [https://prezi.com/p/euunlzwmxkef/greta-thunberg/#:~:text=Throughout%20her%20speeches%2C%20Greta%20utilizes,thoughts%20on%20climate%20change%20are. last accessed: 2nd January 2023]

Schiffman, R. How Can We Make People Care about Climate Change? 9  Jul. 2015. [https://e360.yale.edu/features/how_can_we_make_people_care_about_climate_change  last accessed: 2nd January 2023]

Steffen, A. Twitter. 12 Sept. 2017. [https://twitter.com/alexsteffen/status/907460481769725955?lang=en-GB last accessed: 2nd January 2023].

Thunberg, G. The Climate Book. UK. Penguin Random House. 2022.

Thunberg, G. Transcript: Greta Thunberg’s Speech At The U.N. Climate Action Summit,  23 Sept. 2019. [https://www.npr.org/2019/09/23/763452863/transcript-greta-thunbergs-speech-at-the-u-n-climate-action-summit last accessed: 2nd January 2023]


[1] A. Steffen, Twitter, 12 Sept. 2017. [https://twitter.com/alexsteffen/status/907460481769725955?lang=en-GB last accessed: 2nd January 2023]

[2]S. Jones, Greta Thunberg: A Rhetorical Analysis, 18 Nov. 2019. [https://prezi.com/p/euunlzwmxkef/greta-thunberg/#:~:text=Throughout%20her%20speeches%2C%20Greta%20utilizes,thoughts%20on%20climate%20change%20are. last accessed: 2nd January 2023]

[3] G. Thunberg, Transcript: Greta Thunberg’s Speech At The U.N. Climate Action Summit, 23 Sept. 2019. [https://www.npr.org/2019/09/23/763452863/transcript-greta-thunbergs-speech-at-the-u-n-climate-action-summit last accessed: 2nd January 2023]

[4] Fridays For Future [https://fridaysforfuture.org/ last accessed: 2nd January 2023]

[5] R. Schiffman, How Can We Make People Care about Climate Change? 9 Jul. 2015. [https://e360.yale.edu/features/how_can_we_make_people_care_about_climate_change  last accessed: 2nd January 2023]

[6] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change run by the U.N.

[7] R. Schiffman, How Can We Make People Care about Climate Change? 9 Jul. 2015. [https://e360.yale.edu/features/how_can_we_make_people_care_about_climate_change  last accessed: 2nd January 2023]

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