Today’s Solutions: December 03, 2023

Carbon literacy training is essential for making climate information accessible to everyone. This is the focus of the Carbon Literacy Project. Founded in Manchester a decade ago, it has trained more than 21,000 people from distinct communities, schools, and workplaces with a one-day training course that covers the science of the climate crisis and potential solutions, as well as encourages them to commit to taking two actions to reduce emissions: one in their personal lives and one that includes those around them.

“We were talking to people and thinking: wouldn’t it be great if people just got it on climate change? If people instinctively just knew what was good and bad, and these are the kinds of things we need to do,” said Dave Coleman, the managing director of the Carbon Literacy Project. “We ran 15 pilot courses at first, and the more people did it the more enthusiastic they got and the more people started to help us. It started to build momentum and after about two years, 1,000 people had been through the process.”

For instance, British television network ITV recently introduced carbon literacy training for its staff, which has influenced the plotlines and scripts of some of their major shows such as the nation’s longest-running soap opera Coronation Street.

The inclusion of climate issues can be small, such as having characters discuss climate change over dinner, or it could be a crucial event, like when 10-year-old Liam Connor collapses on the street because of an asthma attack brought on by air pollution.

“Climate action just falls front and center of what we do now, it’s part of our culture,” says Lee Rayner, the head of the production at Coronation Street.

“We recycle all our sets now. I have tasked someone in our editorial team to make sure that when we commission every four weeks, there is something on climate change in there,” he continues. “We are not a public information film, but we need to reflect society, and the green agenda is part of society now.”

According to research from the University of Leeds, carbon literacy training makes people much more knowledgeable about climate change, which then makes it more likely for them to intentionally make changes to reduce their emissions at work and at home.

“It’s about organizational culture, I think, the impact of social norms on what other people around you do,” says Dr. Milena Buchs, the report’s lead author and associate professor in sustainability. “But we recommend that it’s implemented on a whole-organization level. It’s no good to just train a handful of champions who then try to convince their colleagues to make changes.”

The Carbon Literacy Project has ensured that all their courses educate participants on all the basics, however, once they complete the course, people should feel empowered to deliver the training themselves, customize it to their audience, and further extend its reach.

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