Since there are no currently active contests, we have switched Climate CoLab to read-only mode.
Learn more at
Skip navigation
Share via:


Jumpstart talk of climate change in the media by injecting public voices asking climate related questions.



       Climate change is not getting the attention it requires!  

The public has to view every issue through the lens of climate change:  

        We hear about the economy constantly.

        We hear about safety constantly.

        We need to hear about Climate Change constantly! 

        And we need to hear about progress constantly!        

The problem:

  • Fewer than half of Americans hear about global warming in the media or from people they know at least once a month.
  • About one in five Americans say they hear about global warming in the media at least once a week (22%), and another one in five say they hear about it at least once a month (22%).
  • About one in six (15%) say they hear about global warming in the media no more often than once a year, if ever.
  • Most Americans (68%) say they hear people they know talking about global warming no more often than several times a year if ever.

   Ref:  Climate Change in the American Mind: March, 2016

We need to tie climate change into conversations about commuting, housing, urban planning, biodiversity, national security, the election and more!  This begins with asking the right questions.  We will gather members of the public to inject questions and comments to broaden the public conversation.

We aim to jumpstart climate talk in the media. 

For example: A standard report on low gas prices revels in the consumer savings. Cut to another story about problems on public transit (the MBTA) in Boston and fare hikes.  Never do the two issues overlap and neither is tied to climate.  We connect these issues to illustrate how the solution to climate change must address both. 

We propose to:

  1. Establish a group to monitor selected media sources and inject connections between climate change and broader issues.
  2. Create questions and comments specific to particular stories.  
  3. Call, comment, tweet and blog to get the questions out to the public, the media and policy makers. 
  4. Choose key data items and areas of progress to enter into the public conversation. 

What actions do you propose?


By broadening the public conversation to include commuting, housing, land use, biodiversity, national security and more, we also broaden the range of solutions.  As we build the public understanding of the problem it pressures policy makers to respond. 

Individual citizens get overwhelmed with the vastness of the issue.  By both normalizing the conversation and adding information about climate progress people will start to feel part of a larger movement.   

We will take the following actions: 

1.  Determine what media to target.  Talk radio is a natural starting point because there is a natural place for public input.  We will choose 2 to 4 "media sources" to focus on initially.

      *  Possible programs are On Point on WBUR and Boston Public Radio on WGBH, or MarketPlace, also a public radio program.  

2.  Gather a group of individuals (the "monitors") to monitor the specific media sources.  They will study stories produced by the media sources to see if they could address climate change more broadly.  Acting as a rapid response team they will respond directly to the specific story. They will: 

      * Draw up a bullet list of 1-3 key questions relevant to the specific story.   

     * Phone into ongoing discussions.

      * Submit online comments as available, ie on Facebook.

      * Join related Twitter conversations whenever possible   

      * Be prepared with resource information to address the questions raised.   

       * Use the  “Best Practice” Insights From Psychological Science to hone our approach to avoid some of the negative responses climate issues often elicit. 

3.  An manager will oversee the monitors to provide a framework and consistency.  

It will take time and doggedness to penetrate conventional thinking.

Example of reporting on the development of Tesla, an electronic vehicle: 

I reviewed approximately  45 stories from Marketplace from 2009-2015 looking at how they reported on Tesla, developer of an electronic vehicle.  The following are typical reports: 

      5/5/2013    First profit from selling vehicle emission credits.     

      5/31/2013  Does Tesla pass the "road trip test" of 200 miles per 30 minute charge? 

      7/3/2013    Tesla wants to bypass dealerships.   

      7/13/2013  Tesla joins the NASDAQ-100.  

      8/30/2013  Tesla gets safety approval from Feds.   

      5/02/2014  Tesla plans to build a giga-factory for batteries.  

      3/20/2015  Tesla announcing release of autopilot version.   

      5/1/2015     Economic possibility of Tesla battery for home.    

I did not see probing questions addressing whether mass adoption of electronic vehicles would be sustainable.   

Missing questions:

       A. What is the true cost of the battery, from mining the raw materials to dismantling or recycling parts?  This is known as life-cycle assessment (LCA).

       B. How does this compare to combustion engine vehicles?

       C. What will actually power the electric car?  Coal, natural gas, solar?     

       D.  How do electric vehicles compare to mass transit development and costs?

       Finally:    Electric vehicles are supported by tax credits.  Is this the best use of tax money?

4.   Develop relationships with experts such as:

      * Climate Central : "An independent organization of leading scientists and journalists researching and reporting the facts about our changing climate and its impact on the American public."

      * Union of Concerned Scientists :  "Mission: The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future."

       * Climates Nexus : "We aim to move the conversation from a debate to a robust search for solutions. "


5.  Highlight Data:  There is an unbelievable amount of publicly available data out there.  What data should be highlighted monthly just as we do the "jobs report" or the Consumer Confidence Index?  We will develop a consensus about what information needs to be reported on a regular basis and speak out, asking for relevant data to be highlighted.  

Possible sources of data are:

Scientific data

  • The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is a biennial ranking of how well countries perform on high-priority environmental issues.
  • NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information  "Our mission is to monitor and assess the state of the Earth's climate in near real-time, providing decision-makers at all levels of the public and private sectors with data and information on climate trends and variability including perspectives on how the climate of today compares to the past."
  • NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI
  • CarbonTracker is a CO2 measurement and modeling system developed by NOAA to keep track of sources (emissions to the atmosphere) and sinks (removal from the atmosphere) of carbon dioxide around the world.   


Paris Agreement updates:

  • Track pledges to address climate change: NAZCA = Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action. 
  • NAZCA is a global platform that brings together the commitments to action by companies, cities, subnational regions, investors and civil society organizations to address climate change. And yes, many businesses are doing a lot! Let's get that information out there.


Energy use:

  • The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) provides data on energy production and consumption by state and by energy sector  "to promote sound policymaking, efficient markets, and public understanding of energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment." 
  • The government Census page has information on new housing, the size, heating type and such. 

Who will take these actions?

  • Editor/Director   S/he must be on top of all the content and will oversee the monitors to provide a framework and consistency.
  • Monitors   will cover targeted shows or media outlets.  They will compile a list of 1-3 questions with suggestions for experts on the topic.  They will blog and tweet about the questions.
  •  Media outlets 

     Just 2 of the possible media outlets include:

     Marketplace, produced and distributed by American Public Media (APM), in association with the University of Southern California.  Marketplace is noted for its timely, relevant and accessible coverage of business, economics and personal finance.

      OnPoint at WBUR, hosted by Tom Ashbrook:  There are 10 broadcasts a week.  They cover climate change but use a "stove-pipe" approach.  There is the opportunity to participate via comments and tweets during the live show.  

One can question whether one would be "preaching to the choir" by starting with public radio. This is just the beginning.  Within the first 6 months we will expand to media with different view points.

  • Experts and collaborative organizations.  There are groups already doing the legwork.  For example:  

     Ceres "Our mission is to mobilize investor and business leadership to build a thriving, sustainable global economy.  Changing capital market practices to incorporate long-term environmental and social risks as a measure of economic health is a key component of our work."

     Environment & Energy Publishing "The leading source for comprehensive, daily coverage of environmental and energy policy and markets."

Where will these actions be taken?

The initial focus of the proposal is the Boston area media yet many of the programs have nationwide, even international audiences.   It is anticipated that the program will be easily replicated in other major markets nation-wide.



How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?

"Despite the consensus opinion of experts that climate change will be one of the most important and urgent challenges of the 21st century, polls show that most Americans consistently rank it as a low priority, well below the economy, terrorism, health care, and a myriad of other issues. This has led policymakers to put off making critical decisions about how to mitigate and adapt to it. "   By S. van der Linden, E. Maibach, and A. Leiserowitz, Psychology Today

By broadening the conversation about climate change and by highlighting progress we aim for 2 goals.  First, greater understanding by the public of both the problem and the solutions will help create pressure on policy makers.  Secondly, hearing about progress being made, individuals will begin to feel more like part of a collective process.   As a result they will see that their own actions matter and be more likely to take positive steps.

We aim to boost climate change up to the top of concerns of the American public.


What are other key benefits?

In seeking to increase discussions of all facets of climate change and to encourage deeper questioning regarding climate change, far more reporters, bloggers and the public will become attuned to, and educated on, the issue of climate change.  

We aim to affect the way people think about choices they make in the light of climate change. 

Ultimately people may learn that in addressing climate change you address many related issues.  In solving climate change you even out the economic disparity between people.  And in the climate change-adapted world of the future life is actually better for many.  In consuming less Americans actually gain time to enjoy life.  

What are the proposal’s costs?

  • It is possible to begin the program on a shoestring, gain merit and finally bring in funds.  We can also pursue collaboration with other organizations such as Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN) and Mothers Out Front.  By tracking outreach to the media - airtime, comments and tweets and the responses - we can gauge our progress and make a fundraising case.  Ultimately, it would be best to hire a Manager to facilitate the monitors.  
  • Manager    $65k
  • Monitors - will be volunteer
  • Office expenses and news subscriptions  $10k
  • Total of $75k / year


Subsequent years will depend on the rate of expansion to more media sources.  A proposed additional position is Community Organizer to both recruit volunteers and to disseminate information to volunteers them.

Where does the funding come from?  

Were this proposal to reach the finalist phase, a presentation at MIT’s Solve conference or another Climate CoLab sponsored forum could bring in collaborators or sponsors.  And again, tracking our numbers of outreach we can make a case for fundraising.

Time line

The true success of this proposal would be to make it irrelevant.  Once climate issues permeate conversations and data is readily available this project will no longer be necessary.  A pipe-dream!

In the meantime:

First 3 months:  Initial hiring, research and planning.  Choose 2-4 media outlets for immediate focus.  

3-6 months:  Intensive training for monitors.  Begin blogging and commenting on media coverage of climate change. 

6-12 months:  Build relationships with initial media sources.  A year-end evaluation will detail the success rate: contacts made, reports submitted, in-depth questions asked in media.  During the year we will build blogs, establish a presence on Twitter and gain an audience of followers for both.  Gather, evaluate and coordinate monthly data reporting relevant to climate change in all areas.

2nd year:  Increase the number of media sources contacted.  Increase number of direct contacts with sources, increase output in social media.  Gather, evaluate and coordinate weekly data reporting relevant to climate change in all areas.

3-5 years:  Consider reaching new media sources by focusing on the success of businesses reaching environmental goals.  Strengthen collaboration with scientific and business communities. Consider working with business, engineering and design schools to address climate issues more comprehensively in their programs.

5-15 years:  Continue to monitor and address public information on climate relevant data.  We will be flexible and open to reevaluating the project as it develops.


Related proposals

Both of the following proposals attach the idea of changing attitudes and experiences with the idea of climate change.  Both work on a local level.  They could dovetail nicely with the Break Climate Change out of its Shell! 

  • Want to get people involved? Go local
  • Summary:  The idea is to foster local initiatives. To do so, we need people to start in their hometown monthly meetings which involve both talks on climate on a global scale but also on a local scale to explain them what they can do at their level to make a change. More than just listening and then forgetting the importance of acting the next day, we want them to act with their communities.


  • Preaching to the choir or the "echo chamber effect
  • IEA.ORG  Global energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide stalled in 2014:  "Preliminary data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicate that global emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector stalled in 2014, marking the first time in 40 years in which there was a halt or reduction in emissions of the greenhouse gas that was not tied to an economic downturn."  
  • :   A Better City develops solutions and influences policy in three critical areas central to the Boston region’s economic competitiveness and growth — transportation and infrastructure, land use and development, and environment and energy.     
  • States at Risk: America’s Preparedness Report Card is the first-ever quantitative assessment that summarizes the changing nature of key threats, including extreme heat, drought, wildfires, inland flooding, and coastal flooding, and the corresponding levels of preparedness in each of the 50 states.
  • Progress after Paris: Track pledges to address climate change: NAZCA = Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action.