Moving Climate Justice Forward Through Stories 

A person holds a sign that reads "Climate Justice Now!"

As my time with Minerva Strategies comes to an end, I’ve admired seeing how communications can make a difference. Bringing positive change to the world can be a difficult and long journey–but the work that our clients do, and that Minerva supports, helps to build the world we want to live in.  

Communications helps create bridges between people. It connects people with each other, helps our stories reach wider audiences, and moves people to action. How we choose to communicate—the words we use, the people we highlight, the tactics we implement—impacts whose stories we tell, who hears them, and who gets left out of the entire conversation. This was what sparked my interest in focusing on climate justice communications for my intern project.  

As a Pasifika woman, the issue of climate change holds a special place for me. Climate change continues to threaten the world, and island nations are faced with the unbearable challenge of losing the place they call home. It’s a truth that is hard to swallow. And it’s harder to see that communities like my own aren’t centered in the conversations around climate change.  

Media has largely centered scientists and researchers as “climate experts” for their role in gathering information and data about the climate crisis. This has led to jargon-filled communications that only a few people can confidently understand. But communities experiencing the climate crisis firsthand are also experts. They live the reality of climate change daily, and they have also made remarkable strides in addressing the crisis. But without centering the voices of Indigenous people and communities most impacted by climate change, we miss out on their stories and insights that could help us navigate the issue. 

So, how can communicators better understand and approach the climate space, so we include and uplift community voices?  


An aerial view of a rocky beach.
How we speak about climate change—and who is speaking—matters.

Be curious.  

There are many resources and stories that exist around the issue of climate change. Especially ones that center people and communities who are experiencing the climate issue up close. Exploring these stories and the climate space can help you understand the different perspectives that exist and how to incorporate them into your communications strategies.   

  • To Hell With Drowning – In the Pacific, people are realizing that the conversations around climate change involve more than science and data. It also includes telling the stories of those who are combatting it. Read this article from The Atlantic. 
  • Tuvalu – The First Digital Nation – Tuvalu will be the first digital nation. As they face the disappearance of their islets, they’ve chosen a way to continue in this world–check out their website for more information. 

Listen to stories that center people. The communities experiencing climate change firsthand are facing erasure within communications and in the world. The moment we turn away from their stories, we turn away from these communities.  

Words matter.  

Language and framing make a difference. Language around climate change needs to be accessible and approachable. It should be digestible for the public and include hopeful and encouraging messages. The language that we use to discuss climate change can help address other issues that intersect with it, like housing displacement, food insecurity, and racial equity. 

For example, the term negative emissions. In scientific terms, “negative” correlates to reduction or less than there was before. But, outside of scientific spaces, someone might interpret “negative” as bad and that emissions are getting worse. But in reality, that’s not the case. Another way to convey this term is by saying CO2 removal, or a decrease in emissions.   

A chart depicts climate change terms in three columns: scientific term, public meaning, and better choice.
Image credit: Susan Joy Hassol, styled by Scientific American 

It’s important to explore more accessible ways to explain information and data, so people understand our message and how to move forward. Relying on scientific language can create a disconnect between people and the climate issue—people cannot feel responsible for an issue they do not feel they fully understand. Reimagining the way we talk about climate change can help address this disconnect.  

Be open.  

Be open to dialogue around climate change and the possibility of shifting your mindset.  

Climate change has immediate and long-term impacts on us and those around us. Naturally, everyone has an opinion on the issue. Remember to empathize where possible. Taking on the role of learner in these discussions, especially where Indigenous, Black and brown communities are present, can spark productive and positive conversations. Climate change is a complex issue; engaging in new conversations can help ensure your communications strategies account for these complexities. This can lead to new insights and ideas for communicating about climate justice.  

The conversations around climate change are beyond the existing narratives dominated by scientists. Everyone is experiencing climate change in a different way. Centering science and data at the exclusion of people’s stories will not solve the climate crisis. It’s only through involving people, especially communities most impacted by climate change in these conversations, that we can move forward productively. 

How we choose to navigate communications can lead to exclusionary framing and storytelling, if we are not careful. Taking a moment to reflect on how we can be intentional and inclusive can bring in more positive conversations and generate collaborative solutions. Continue learning from communities and the people around you—we all have a climate justice story to share. Uplift community leaders and voices by sharing their stories. Build community and be in community. That’s how we build the world we want to live in—together. 

About The Author

Falisha Hola

Communication Intern