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Testifying before policymakers

People at a public meeting testifying: Source: NRELPeople testifying at a public meeting: Source: NREL

A controversy over climate change education may involve a public hearing before policymakers — a meeting of a local school board or of a legislative committee, for example. Following are a few time-tested principles for effectively testifying before policymakers.

  • Show up, stand up, and speak up. Elected officials respond to numbers, so try to get as many people as possible to attend the meeting. Scatter yourself throughout the audience and (if appropriate) applaud those on your side.
  • Plan ahead. There is usually little time available for testifying. Avoid redundancy and ensure that all of your essential points are presented by deciding which members of your group will discuss which topics.
  • Be brief. Not only will there be little time devoted to hearing testimony, but also each testifier will be limited to a short amount of time: three minutes is typical. Make your points concisely; emphasize one or two main points.
  • Be civil. In addressing the policymakers, you want to be perceived as friendly advisors, not as hostile critics. Avoid personal attacks on the opposition; that will only decrease your credibility with the policymakers and provide the opposition with ammunition.
  • Say why you care. Parents want their children to have the best possible education; teachers, as professionals, want to teach accepted state-of-the-art science; scientists want to see their disciplines correctly presented; employers want to have scientifically literate employees; and so on.
  • Bring copies of your testimony. Distribute copies of your testimony to policymakers, so that it will be available for their future reference, to any journalists who may be in attendance, and to any fellow supporters of climate change education.
  • And remember to challenge the pillars of climate change denial. Explain that climate change is good science, that acceptance of climate science isn’t about ideology, and that it’s unfair to disregard the scientific consensus on climate change.