climate change

How To Write An Effective Speech On Climate Change

Believe it or not, climate change is real–and it’s human beings who’re responsible for a majority of it. Despite how commonly known this information is, it’s surprising how little importance people give to the lasting impact of their seemingly trivial actions.

Over the years, so many people have spoken up about climate change. These include world leaders, celebrities, politicians, and even common people like you and me. If you’ve got a speech on climate change coming up, you’re probably wondering how to make your speech stand out from all of the ones before you.

And that’s exactly what we’re going to help you with today.

To write an effective speech on climate change, you need to keep in mind a couple of things. This includes choosing your purpose, keeping your audience in mind & making it personally relevant to them, emphasizing the immediacy of the situation, incorporating humor and stories.

Before we delve into writing down the speech, let’s first understand what climate change actually means.

What is climate change?

In simple words, climate change is a global phenomenon of climate transformation. It is characterized by unusual changes in the normal climate of the planet and is especially caused by human activities.

As a result of climate change, there is a rapidly rising instability in the earth’s weather. This is detrimental to the earth’s ecosystem and the overall sustainability of the planet. Climate change also puts the future of all living things under threat–and yes, that includes you too.

The warning signs of climate change can be easily observed in our surroundings.

Temperatures are rising rapidly across the globe as a result of global warming. Glaciers are melting at a faster rate. There is a tremendous rise in sea levels, which puts multiple communities as well as marine life at risk. Droughts too are occurring more frequently–and lasting longer.

The warning signs of climate change are all around us. Whether we choose to see them or not, however, is something that depends solely on us.

Things To Keep In Mind While Writing The Speech

earth from space

1. Choose Your Purpose

Like I mentioned before, so many people have given speeches on climate change before. If you wish to stand out from them, you first need to understand your exact purpose behind delivering the speech.

What I mean is, what do you mean to achieve from delivering the speech? Is your goal to simply provide information to people? Are you trying to convince people about the urgency of climate change? Or maybe you’re participating in a debate competition and want to beat your opponent’s point of view?

The content of your speech is going to be vastly different in all three scenarios. So, before you sit down writing, make sure you’ve decided on the purpose of your speech.

2. Analyzing The Audience

Once you’ve settled your purpose, let’s move onto the next step: analyzing your audience. This is because your content will need to vary depending on what people are going to be filling the auditorium seats.

For instance, if your audience mainly consists of primary school children, then you’re going to need to significantly tone down all the complex stuff in your speech. On the other hand, if your audience consists of experts in the field, then dawdling over the basics is going to be unnecessary.

So, make sure to analyze your audience before you sit down to write your speech.

3. Understand The Occasion

Where and when, exactly, are you going to be giving the speech? Are you going to deliver it as an opening speech at a college event? Are you going to be delivering the speech for a school project? Are you a speaker at a climate change conference?

The occasion plays a vital role in determining the contents of your speech. The overall tone of your speech as well as the type of content you might want to include–or exclude– will depend on how serious or leisurely an event is.

4. Emphasize The Immediacy

A lot of people tend to believe that climate change is something that’s probably going to affect the earth in…a couple of centuries, maybe.

But that is not so. Climate change is already affecting us–and if we do nothing about it, the situation will continue to worsen over the next couple of decades.

Emphasize the immediacy of the problem. It’s when people start realizing how imminent the issue is that they’ll want to do something about it.

5. Why Should They Listen To You?

Why should the audience listen to you? What makes you different than all the other speakers before you? What will make you stand out in their eyes?

Before you sit down and start writing, answer this question to yourself.

There are many ways to be unique in the audience’s eyes. Maybe you’re someone who’s excellent with jokes. Why not structure your speech in a funny way? Or maybe you’re a puppeteer, or simply excellent with haiku. Why not include them in your speech?

6. Timing Your Speech

How long are you going to be speaking for? An hour? Thirty minutes? One minute?

If you’ve already been given a time limit, good. If not, then you need to decide how long you’re going to be speaking before you start writing. This will help you better structure your speech, as well as ensure that you don’t need to cut short your speech on the big day because you’ve run out of time.

7. Making It Resonate With Humor & Stories

As long as you do not manage to make your speech resonate with people, they’re going to forget what you said, just like they’ve forgotten countless speeches before you. So, make sure to include elements like storytelling, humor & statistics in your speech.

Is there a personal incident where you were affected by climate change? Or maybe you saw or heard a story from somewhere else and it really touched you. Well, maybe it will touch your audience too.

Adding elements such as these will increase the impact you have on people, and make it more likely that they will remember you–and your speech-even after you’ve finished speaking.

Check out our article on Guide To Use Humor In Your Speech for some inspiration on how to make your speech more light-hearted and enjoyable.

8. How Does It Personally Impact The Audience?

Almost every person in the world is aware of the negative impact of climate change. And yet, only a few are actually concerned about it–or do something to prevent it.

This is mostly because people do not feel a personal need to do anything about climate change, because they feel like if they’ve not been impacted with climate change yet, then why should they bother paying attention to it?

And this is exactly what you need to change. You need to make them realize that climate change does, in fact, impact them directly. In fact, it probably already has in the past.

This can be done in many ways.

For example: Ask them about their summer, and tell them about rising temperatures in their own city. Ask them if they’ve been under the weather recently, and then tell them how there is a global rise in infectious disease as a consequence of climate change.

Structuring The Speech

droughts because of climate change

The structure of a speech on climate change is pretty similar to any other speech that you might give. That is, it consists of three main parts…

1. The Opening

The opening of a speech is perhaps its most important component. Unless and until you grab your audience’s attention right off of the bat, chances are that you’ve lost it for the rest of your speech.

So, it’s imperative to have an excellent speech opening. There are many ways in which you can customize an attention-grabbing opening for a speech on climate change.

You could start off with a shocking statistic, for one. Or you could include beginning with a story. You could also start with a joke. Another great opening would be using a prop: maybe a model of what the earth will look like fifty years from now.

2. The Content

Your content is going to comprise the majority of your speech. It should include all of your most important points and those points must be lined up in a logical sequence.

Your content shouldn’t go on for seemingly forever. Keep it to the point, and discard anything that you feel you can do without.

If you’ve managed to grab the audience’s attention in the beginning, they’ll be intrigued enough to listen to your actual message.

However, presenting your main content in such a manner that it continues to sustain their interest is your responsibility.

To do so, make sure to incorporate elements like humor, stories, jokes, and games. Make sure you’re using proper body language and appropriate visuals and cues like photos, videos, etc  Mix things up and figure out what works best for you.

3. The Conclusion

Finally, you get to the conclusion. While it might sound like a good idea to quickly thank the audience and get off of the stage, it’s not so.

Your conclusion needs to be as impactful as your speech. This will ensure that your speech remains in the audience’s mind. It will also make it likely that they will want to hear you speak again.

There are many ways to conclude a speech. Having a call to action is a must. You can also end with an impactful quote. Or, you could circle back to something that you said in your speech–maybe finish a story you left off in the beginning.

4. Post-Conclusion

Wait, wait…So it’s not over after the conclusion? I mean, isn’t that the entire POINT of a conclusion? To CONCLUDE?

Well, yes.

A conclusion wraps up your speech, sure. But if you truly want to make a lasting impact on your audience’s mind and actually make them take climate change–or any other topic–seriously, then what you do after your speech ends is just as important.

Think of it as an added bonus, like Marvel’s post-credits scenes.

There are many ways to go about having an awesome post-conclusion. Networking is a must. Now that you’re off the stage, it’s time to move around the room. Meet the people in the audience & talk to them. Ask them questions, and answer any they might have for you.

You can also make presentation handouts and give them to the audience. This will help them remember your speech. You could even give them a reference list so that they can look in-depth into your topic.

You could also give them a list of steps that they can take to reduce their own harmful impact on the environment. Or, you could even make a funny handout–maybe a couple of memorable lines from your speech–and give it to them.

Whatever you do, the end goal should be to make them remember you–and to actually do something about what you said.

Sample Climate Change Speech

The Sci-Fi Reality of Climate Change

Indonesia’s capital is sinking.

Yes, you heard it right.

In 2019, Indonesia announced its plans to shift its capital city from Jatarka, largely because the city is struggling to shoulder a giant environmental burden that keeps getting bigger and bigger every year.

Air quality in the city has plunged to new lows–the air in the city is now reported to be even more polluted than cities like Delhi and Beijing. And of course, parts of Jatarka–which is home to over ten million people, almost the same as the city of Los Angeles–are sinking as much as 25 centimeters per year.

Climate change is making Indonesia shift its capital. Imagine what will it do to your city or town.

Because Indonesia is not the only city on the cusp of being ravaged by climate change.

Extreme weather fueled by climate change struck every corner of the globe–from Africa to Australia to Asia–in 2020, leaving in its wake a devastating trail of floods, storms, fires and destruction.

While for those of us who are sitting in the comfort of our own homes, climate change might feel like a distant dream, for many people, climate change has already ravaged their fragile reality. John Smith, a farmer from Nevada, is one of them.

“It was like hell had shifted to earth.”

The Smith family has been growing apples in the foothills of Nevada since the 1950s. However, a couple of weeks ago, a seemingly unstoppable camp fire engulfed the forest near their farm–as well as all the three buildings on their property.

They managed to escape with their livestock and what little possessions they could gather. Their dog, Hero, suffered third-degree burns while saving their five-year-old daughter from a collapsing roof.

The family had to spend the next twelve months in a trailer near their friends’ property. Three years later, and they’ve managed to patch together bits of their old life. And yet, the threat of another careless camper–and another devastating fire–still looms.

In the United States, climate change has been a leading factor for a rapid increase in the frequency & extent of wildfires. Rising temperatures, which is a key component of climate change, is the culprit.

Elevated temperatures seep out moisture from the ground and dry up the ground. This makes vegetation more flammable. The wildfire season now lasts approximately three and a half months longer. The number of wildfires in the West has tripled–as has the devastation it leaves in its wake.

Today, it is John. Tomorrow, it could be you.

In almost every sphere of life, change is inevitable. Students finish high school and enter universities, people switch jobs, or maybe someone moves to a new place…

Change is a part of life. And like all other changes, climate change is inevitable–at least, until we actually do something to prevent it. 

Out of all the planets in our Galaxy, Earth is–so far–the only planet with a climate capable enough to sustain human life. And yet, human beings seem to find it perfectly alright to take advantage of the Earth’s hospitality. I imagine earth to be like an exhausted host and humans those annoying guests that eat up all your food and destroy your brand new carpet with their muddy feet and just-can’t-take-a-hint and, you know, get out.

We need to understand that what actions we choose are solely our responsibility, and we are the ones who will have to bear its consequences–many of which we already are.

Global Warming and the Greenhouse Effect are the most pressing issues in the current time. And yet secondary consequences of climate change, like the impact of rising temperatures on human lifespan as well as the economic impact of having to deal with secondary damage related to climate change, often go unnoticed.

Because, you know, we’ve got more pressing issues to pay attention to. Like, Tiktok getting banned. And whether a metor is going to destroy the earth in the next decade (I’m sure the earth will thank it). Or, the flat earth theory.

If Google is to be believed, the interest in both: Flat Earth Conspiracy Theory & Climate Change Skepticism is on the rise. In fact, they’re two of the most popular conspiracy theories today.

And yet the interest in the impact of climate change–and what we can do to prevent it–has dwindled to a percentage so abysmal that I don’t find it worth mentioning.

Today, we’re on the cusp of tipping into the Sci-Fi movies that everybody loves to binge with a platoon of Doritos packets. And yet, watching a Sci-Fi and actually living in one are two different things. 

For one, there is no director or writer shaping the course of our lives behind the scenes. We cannot blame the writer for a plotline going south or a disappointing end–or even the entire show getting canceled.

There is no plot requirement or artistic freedom, either. So, just because you’re the favorite of many people doesn’t mean your contract will renew after three seasons and you won’t get killed off. 

Unlike directors and authors, nature does not discriminate. When a natural disaster strikes, it strikes everyone and not just a select few. The world has witnessed a tenfold increase in disasters since the 1960s–and unless everybody does something, this number will keep on increasing.

And if you’d rather watch a Sci-Fi from the comfort of your home rather than actually living in one, you need to get up from the sofa, step out of your house and do something. 

There is a quote from the movie ‘Interstellar’ that I really love. The movie is a Sci-Fi epic from the point of view of a family. Or, more precisely from the eyes of a father and daughter. The quote goes, “Once you’re a parent, you’re the ghost of your child’s future.” 

And yet, right now it is you who holds your child’s future in your hands. So maybe in that sense all of us are writers, too: writers of which direction the story of our children’s life will take.

Indonesia’s capital is sinking.

As is the earth’s future.

Now the choice is yours: would you rather let it sink, or will you throw it a life jacket instead?

PS: The above speech can be highlighted much better with the use of visuals and a few Slides. Keep that in mind if you are required to deliver this speech at anypoint.

Powerful Climate Change Speeches

1. Leonardo DiCaprio At The Opening Of Climate Summit 2014

Key Takeaway: As you watch the speech, notice how Leonardo starts it off. He tries to make a personal connection with the people listening to him by telling the viewers that he’s not an expert on climate change. Instead, he’s just like them.

Throughout the course of his speech, he maintains this stance and uses quotes, anecdotes, etc. to emphasize his point. He makes himself–and his speech–easily relatable to the viewer.

2. Climate Change: Simple, Serious, Solvable By James Rae

Key Takeaway: As you watch the speech, notice how James makes use of visual elements like GIFs and pictures to capture his audience’s attention. The entire speech is peppered with material relevant to his topic, and this addition of visual elements takes the speech to a whole other level. You can use it as a guideline to how to use visuals in your own speech.

3. Confessions Of A Climate Change Humorist: Jim Poyser At TedXIndianapolis

Key Takeaway: As you watch the video, keep an eye on the speaker’s body language. Also, notice how the speaker uses humor to drive forth his point. Humor is a great way to make the audience relate to the topic–and you can make note of how the speaker effectively employs it in his speech to get an idea about how to structure it into your own talk.

Conclusion

To sum up, you can easily write a speech on climate change by keeping in mind factors like making sure you have a distinct purpose, keeping your audience in mind, timing your speech in advance, figuring out what makes you unique, and incorporating humor and storytelling. Additionally, you can skim through the sample speech provided as well as watch Ted Talks to gain an idea of how to write your own speech.

Hrideep Barot is the founder and chief writer at Frantically Speaking, a portal to help people learn everything about public speaking. The purpose of franticallyspeaking.com is to showcase the lessons that he has learned (and still learning) from his numerous stage experiences and mentors over all these years.