The Challenge of Climate Communications

At a recent meeting of The Global Friends, a consortium of preeminent Chinese and American philanthropists leading the effort to address climate change, Fenton Communications founder, David Fenton, spoke about the challenges of communicating about this crucial issue in a politically divided America where the perception is that only the Democratic party believes humans are causing climate change.

“I’m a communicator by trade, and I have a simple way of explaining this. I say, ‘well, you know, if we trap heat on earth, it gets hotter.”

“Our communication as a climate movement is way too complicated,” he said, “and here’s the result of it: only 12% of the American people know that there is scientific consensus on climate change.” Fenton explained further that while 70% of Americans are aware the climate is changing, only 18% believe that it’s an urgent threat. “This is a failure of ours,” he said. “We cannot expect the level of mobilization that we need to transform the economy, change markets, get government policy changed if the American public is not with us. And they are not.”

“It’s as if Paul Revere has not made his ride. People do not know what’s coming.”

Fenton noted that while philanthropists have invested a lot in developing policy to address climate change, they must now invest in creating the demand for those policies. “It’s within our reach to do something about this,” he says. “It wouldn’t even cost that much.”

He offered two ideas for philanthropic investments:

  • Amplify the voices of respected Republicans like Jerry Taylor (Niskanen Center) and Katharine Hayhoe ( who believe the climate science but do not have the budgets to spread their messages;
  • Invest in cost-effective, comprehensive media buys in the DC market and micro-targeting conservatives on social media with simple, repetitive messages for an extended period of time.

Fenton also announced that he and partner Alex Matheson (Endeavour Capital) have recently launched The Paul Revere Project, a large-scale strategic communications campaign on climate change.

For more information about The Global Friends, the Paul Revere Project, or to work with us to build demand for better climate policies, contact us at