Calling All Millennials: Obama’s Climate Speech

June 25, 2013

Amid all the hoopla about the POTUS speech on climate today, one thing stood out: this guy is talking to the young ‘uns. From his dog-whistle mention of fossil fuel divestment to his (surprise) announcement that emissions will be taken into account in the Keystone XL decision, Obama was talking straight to the millennials among us.

And that’s a very good thing. Like so many so-called “issues” these days, climate change is really not an issue for millennials. It’s a fact, and we have to act.

That attitude is seeping up to the oldsters too, as recent polling shows (Communications tip: always smart to release your new poll when the Prez is talking about your issue, on your campus). Obama put it nicely when he said that those who are already dealing with climate change don’t have the time to deny it. And that’s a lot more Americans with each passing summer.

Out here in Colorado, the big, bad, climate change-enhanced wildfires have already started. Miami is going to run out of water like, tomorrow, as sea levels rise. And Midwestern farmers are seeing their crops wash away in record floods just after a record drought. Millennials, in particular, see all these trends as parts of a whole, and are ready to support real change.

So from a communications perspective, it’s time to stop talking about the “debate” that was ginned up by Big Oil in the first place. The debate is over, especially for younger people leading the climate movement, and open to that movement’s messaging. Now is the time to talk American ingenuity and innovation, as Obama did today, and to make good use of “offense as defense” messaging.

Obama called out the likely reactionary response to his new EPA clean air regs, and lo and behold, those very words soon appeared on Fox News. That’s a smart way to defuse fear-mongering. Our hope is that the Prez can at least start to deliver on this most important promise to millennials: “I refuse to condemn your generation, and future generations, to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”


Belinda Griswold