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Climate | Communication | Environmental Studies | Sociology


Several studies have found that relational climate conversations can be an effective method of increasing conversational participants’ concern about the climate crisis and encouraging them to take collective action. However, little work has yet examined how such conversations are practiced by climate activists, a group with expertise in relational organizing. Drawing on surveys and semi-structured interviews with climate activists across the USA, this analysis finds that activists frequently have climate conversations with friends and family, most of whom are politically progressive and somewhat to very concerned about the climate crisis. These findings might seem to suggest that climate activists only have climate conversations with like-minded others, producing an echo chamber effect that could entrench the political polarization of the issue. However, climate activists report strategic reasons for choosing like-minded audiences, such as personal response efficacy. Additionally, they report that one of their primary conversational goals is to move people who are already concerned about the climate crisis to take collective action in accordance with values of climate justice. The results identify obstacles to collective climate action even among concerned audiences and suggest that relational climate conversations can be useful in overcoming these obstacles.