How To Have Conversations About Climate Change – Without Getting Into A Screaming Match

Olivia Burton

If there’s anything that the last few years have taught us, it’s that people are becoming increasingly divided on common topics.

Whether it’s caused by an increase in fake news across social media sites, or that our environment is getting increasingly hostile (climate crisis / COVID-19).

Either way, we (I am including myself in this) have to learn how to effectively talk to each other about important topics, without getting into a screaming match.

It’s crucial to have these conversations with friends, family, co-workers and anyone that will listen, to find solutions, discuss our fears, guilt and just talk!

How to have conversation about climate change

People are more likely to trust their peers, family and loved ones over experts or politicians. Conversations are powerful, and climate change is an urgent global issue that requires personal, collective, and governmental action

“We have to go out and look for the hope we need to inspire us to act – and that hope begins with a conversation, today”- Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe

Start small (talk)

Apparently, 82% of Aussie’s worry about climate-driven bushfires and four out of five of us agree that climate change is happening.

Even if we are all aware of the basics, a recent scientific study showed that discussing the climate crisis with your inner circle in small talk can lead to greater awareness, concern and trust in science (the researchers call it a pro-climate social feedback loop).

Maybe start by asking questions around the climate crisis…you know casually*. It also doesn’t need to be direct facts or negative stories; it can be around the news that is interesting.

Below are some stories that I find interesting

*It’s not my fault if you are not invited back to your friend’s dinner parties. 


It is crucial in a conversation, especially with friends and family, to listen and really listen.

It is important to be aware that everyone’s voices should be heard, and these conversations are not about telling people what to believe, it’s about listening and sharing. Maybe someone has been impacted by the recent bushfires or has a different opinion on coal. Let’s hear it.

Be vulnerable

Everyone has a story to tell and a reason for believing something, therefore finding a shared value through sharing personal understandings, fears and stories, is crucial for engagement and learning.

Reflection, finding a shared value to agree on and sharing, are vital steps in having genuine climate conversations. I agree that it is worrying for the younger generations, I am scared about having any children and should I even contribute more people into this mess?

Be creative

Take your friends and family out and learn together!

Go for a bush-walk, get involved in a local beach clean-up (try Strawkle in Sydney), go op-shopping or to the markets! These environments are all perfect opportunities to learn together about climate change or conservation or plastic pollution or fast fashion. It’s better than showing your grandma the video of a turtle with a straw stuck in its nose.

Don’t push it

I know we are running out of time, but these conversations don’t need to happen all in one go. Pushing it on your friends and family may also shut down the conversation stream entirely. They don’t need to happen in one sitting, and just opening up the conversation is a good start.

The above steps are loosely based on a five-step conversation starter by Karin Tamerius of Smart Politics, which was formed on expertise in social and political psychology. 

Olivia Burton

Olivia is an eco-writer, producer, science graduate & ocean enthusiast. After moving from London to Sydney, she found her love for the outdoors and recycled textiles, which led her to start writing about science and sustainable fashion. Olivia is really passionate about brands using fashion for good and innovation in the industry. She now splits her time between several not-for-profit organisations in communication roles. Olivia is also a Centre for Sustainability Leadership alumni and sits on the Fashion Revolution committee for Australia & New Zealand.