If you tune in to your car radio at rush hour, you just might hear a segment written and produced by affiliates of the Yale Center for Environmental Communication.
Covering everything from snowshoe hare populations to the Winter Olympics, the Yale Climate Connections radio show is expanding its audience and educating the public about climate change.
Since 2014, the radio show, which began as an initiative of the Yale Center for Environment Communication at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, has distributed pieces each month to radio stations across the country, said Bud Ward, editor of the show. The show broadcasts short segments — just 90 seconds long — five days a week. He added that these short climate change–related stories have frequently featured on major shows like National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition” during rush hour, a time when radio stations see the most traffic.
“Americans know that climate change is a problem for polar bears and a problem in the Arctic, but we want to show them climate change in their own neighborhoods,” said Sara Peach, associate editor of Yale Climate Connections. She added that the radio show tries to select stories that will resonate with the American public, for example, stories about how the warming of the Arctic could be driving extreme winters on the East Coast.
The process for selecting and developing the segments has many steps, according to Ward. Pitches come from a team of a dozen contributors — from professors to scientists — scattered around the country. The contributors’ diverse backgrounds allow for more interesting segments, according Sam Harrington, a contributor based in Madison, Wisconsin.
“I spend a lot of time searching on Twitter [for] sources that are relatable and human,” she said. “People respond a lot better to the voices of their neighbors than the data from scientists.”
Every four weeks, contributors all offer up a few climate change stories from their respective regions to the show’s leadership board, some of which are selected to be developed into segments.
Once the board has made its selections, the chosen segments are sent to a ChavoBart Digital Media, a company that writes and edits the segments and converts them into radio scripts. The segments are then read and recorded by Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Finally, they are distributed to public radio stations across the nation.
Beyond serving as director of YPCCC, Leiserowitz conducts research on the psychological, cultural and political factors that influence environmental beliefs, attitudes, policy support and behavior, according to his profile on the F&ES website. The radio show’s board uses his research to determine the best means of reaching the American public and selects pitches and stories accordingly, Ward said. Peach added that Leiserowitz’s research is what makes the program unique.
“[Leiserowitz] is the voice of the program, and his research is focused on understanding what the American public knows about climate change and what their attitudes are,” Peach said. “He has this extraordinary knowledge of what Americans know about climate change and what kinds of stories they’re attuned to.”
Through Leiserowitz’s research, program leaders worked to determine which demographics they should appeal to next, according to Ward. Leiserowitz’s metrics recently indicated that, in the United States, the Latino audience is the most concerned about climate change. Contributors from regions with higher Latino populations are trying to identify issues that “vibrate and are relevant” to that demographic, according to Ward.
“One of our standout stories was about a woman living in Miami Beach who has had issues in recent years with flooding in her garage due to high tides,” Peach said. “The story is memorable because she was engaging and really communicated that climate change isn’t science fiction. She talked about wading into her garage in rain boots — listeners can imagine that and see how climate change affects real people.”
The Yale Climate Connections program is currently broadcast on more than 380 radio stations across America, according to its website.
Madison Mahoney | firstname.lastname@example.org