Colloquium in Advanced Management with Cynthia Scharf

Changing the Narrative to Fight Climate Change

Colloquium in Advanced Management

“Changing the narrative is one of the most important drivers for changing attitudes and perceptions of climate change,” Cynthia Scharf, chief speechwriter and strategic communications manager for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, told Master of Advanced Management students on February 25.

Speaking as part of the Colloquium in Advanced Management, Scharf said that communications about climate change can help change the way that leaders think about the problem, to convince them to think beyond the immediate future and have a longer-term vision.

“The human species is hard-wired to think about short-term threats. We often aren’t considering how what we are doing now might have long-term implications,” she said. “What we are doing now will have an impact on the future.” Scharf noted that a recent report found that the effects of fossil fuel emissions already released into the atmosphere as a result of human activities will have impacts 10,000 years from now.

A new narrative about climate change, Scharf said, is one way to unite leaders around the effort to slow climate change; another is to show them how it impacts their own countries, citizens, and business communities.

“We link it to other issues: how is it connected to what CEOs care about? What are the health implications? How does poor air quality lead to political instability?” she said.

Prior to her time at the UN, Scharf worked as a journalist and at humanitarian organizations in the United States, Europe, and Africa. Since 2009, she has worked for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who, she said, has prioritized climate change as a global issue from his first days in office, making the most of his unique position to convene all parts of society to address the issue and elevating climate change to a head of state agenda item.

“His ability to be able to pick up the phone and reach any head of state is unparalleled,” Scharf said. “He has legitimacy. He’s perceived as a neutral broker among all countries involved, so his decision to elevate this topic to the high.”

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About the Event

Cynthia Scharf, chief speechwriter and strategic communications manager for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, will speak to Master of Advanced Management students on February 25.