“CliMate” coaches users to have more productive conversations about climate change

VANCOUVER — Today, the David Suzuki Foundation released Canada’s first climate change conversation chatbot: CliMate, the conversation coach.

“Talking to friends and family about climate change can be really hard,” David Suzuki Foundation public engagement specialist Jodi Stark said. “People’s perspectives can be so different and deeply ingrained. Conversations can become polarized and divisive, even hurtful, very quickly. But to effectively address the climate emergency, we must stop fighting about it and start finding common ground. This chatbot is a contribution to that journey.”

Users engage with CliMate, the conversation coach on the Facebook Messenger app. In a guided practice conversation, users choose responses from a set of options, and CliMate provides insight on the reaction users’ responses might elicit. Users can choose to practise as someone who is concerned about climate change speaking to someone who is skeptical or vice versa.

“Regardless of whether you’re a fervent activist or a climate skeptic, if you’ve had a conversation with someone who passionately disagrees with you about climate change, the chatbot’s coaching can help you have less-divisive conversations,” Stark said. “With the holiday season upon us, we hope this tool will help people have empathetic and productive conversations at social events with family, friends and neighbours.”

The science behind CliMate is based on the work of Karin Tamerius of Smart Politics, who released the Angry Uncle Bot in partnership with the New York Times in advance of American Thanksgiving to reduce the deep polarization developing in U.S. politics. Drawing on expertise in social and political psychology and extensive experience with online dialogues, Tamerius has developed a five-step method to help people have better conversations.

“The overwhelming majority of Canadians understand the gravity of the climate crisis and know that we have to take bold action now,” Stark said. “So why is this issue still so divisive? We clearly have a serious communication problem. Improving our ability to talk about climate change and find shared values with those who hold different perspectives is key to moving forward together with solutions. We hope CliMate can help.”

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Brendan Glauser, bglauser@davidsuzuki.org, 604-356-8829