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Students talk climate webinar and research report launch

July 5, 2023

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our time, and understanding the perspectives of students is crucial for effective action. As future leaders, students’ perspectives on this critical issue are very important. On June 20th2023, we conducted a webinar titled ‘Students talk climate: developing an evidence base for engaging students on climate change’ where we delved into varying student perspectives on climate change and the key findings from our new ‘Students talk climate’ research.

The webinar covered:

  • Information about the research approach and our key findings based on research using the ‘Golden questions and calculator tool’ from Britain Talks Climate
  • How to use insights from this research to engage with students on climate change
  • SOS-UK’s work and the seven British segments- a values-based segmentation which is based off of More in Common’s Core Beliefs model - and featured in Britain Talks Climate

About the research

The research was carried out by SOS-UK with students to understand the varying perspectives of students on climate change and use this understanding to better engage with students and share our learnings with our networks.

We used the 16 ‘golden questions’ and calculator tool from Britain Talks Climate, to categorise students into the seven segments based on their values and beliefs.

Britain Talks Climate is based on joint research by More in Common, ECF, YouGov and Climate Outreach conducted with the general British population in 2020 and is an evidence-based toolkit to engage the British public on climate change hosted on the Climate Outreach website. Climate Outreach was not involved in our ‘Students talk climate’ research.

Key findings

Out of the seven segments below, students are mostly common categorised as Progressive Activists, Civic Pragmatists, Loyal Nationals and Established Liberals. This means that there is a lot of variation in how students think about climate change. Read more about the seven segments on the Climate Outreach website or read our full research report to see more information about the values and beliefs of students in each of the segments.

Using insights from Britain Talks Climate

When trying to engage with students on climate change issues, it’s useful to know what they think about it. The Britain Talks Climate research shows that all segments are worried about climate change, to an extent, and believe that it’s real. However, there is some variation in how optimistic each of the segments are, how much they trust in elites, their local to global outlook and their trust in environmental campaigners. So, tailoring messaging to engage with each of the groups is key:

Picture credit: Climate Outreach - Engagement opportunities for each of the 7 British segments (not developed specifically for students)

 It can sometimes be difficult to engage with all these segments but there are some narratives that can appeal across all 7 segments:

  • Nature – people across the segments are worried about harm to nature and care about their local parks, wildlife, litter and air pollution
  • Health and wellbeing – this sense of a better life, being outdoors and living well with your family, as long as the message is framed positively
  • Britain ‘getting on with it’ – highlighting British success stories, appealing to common sense and doing the right thing
  • Shared connection – the idea of connecting with nature and family and communities looking after one another

Read more about engaging with the different segments on the Climate Outreach website.

Engaging students across the segments in our work

We have multiple entry points for students to engage in our sustainability work, from campaigns involving individual behaviour change action within halls of residence to lobbying politicians on curriculum reform and systemic change. Our programmes and campaigns cover a range of sustainability issues from energy and waste to ethical finance and biodiversity.

  • Our Invest for Change campaign engages Progressive Activists by emphasising climate justice, acknowledging pessimism and encouraging them to channel their anger into taking action
  • Our Student Switch Off programme engages Civic Pragmatists, Loyal Nationals and Established Liberals by building their confidence in advocating for their community, emphasising the logical aspects and making the issue local and relevant

For more detailed findings from our research with students, check out the research report and for more information on Britain Talks Climate, the 7 segments and engaging with the different segments, check out the Climate Outreach website. Learn more about how SOS-UK works to engage students in different ways here.