Climate Crisis

How 42 cards encouraged more than 1 million people to engage with the climate crisis

Climate Fresk has been designed to engage people's feelings as well as their intellects to understand the climate emergency.

Climate Fresk has been designed to engage people's feelings as well as their intellects to understand the climate emergency. Image: Unsplash/Markus Spiske

Douglas Broom
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Climate Crisis

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  • Failure to mitigate climate change is the biggest risk facing the world over the next decade, according to research by the World Economic Forum.
  • But some people simply cannot face up to the climate emergency, despite the urgency of the situation.
  • Now a participatory workshop – involving 42 cards – is helping people around the world engage with the issue.

“Show me, don’t tell me” is a technique in which stories are told through actions and feelings. Now, a group of climate educators are successfully adapting the technique to help people understand the climate emergency.

Although new evidence emerges almost daily of the harm being caused by the climate crisis, surveys have found that, even when provided with evidence of climate collapse, some people simply turn off when faced with the reality.

But the problem isn’t going away. Failure to mitigate climate change is the most serious threat to the planet over the next decade, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023. In fact, the top four global risks are all climate-related.

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How is the World Economic Forum fighting the climate crisis?

So how can people be encouraged to engage? Climate Fresk, a workshop run by a French non-profit of the same name, is making some in-roads.

Participants in Climate Fresk workshops learn about the climate crisis in a highly participative way. There is no lecturer or leader. People discover the facts about the climate emergency for themselves, helped by a facilitator.

Learning about the climate emergency

It’s an immersive experience, designed to engage people’s feelings as well as their intellects. But the information it contains is solidly based on scientific data taken from the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Around a million people have already taken part in France where Climate Fresk was launched, but it’s also been translated into more than 45 languages across 130 countries, including the United States.

Illustration of the Climate fresk workshops to raise awareness of climate change.
More than a million people have already taken part in this climate workshop. Image: Climate Fresk

The workshops are based on 42 cards which players use to research the effects of the climate emergency and to learn about possible solutions. As well as public workshops in places like bars, volunteers also run them in workplaces and online.

The cards are used to create a fresco – hence the name ‘Fresk’ – to track the causes and consequences of climate change. “It’s not the fresco that challenges the political-economic paradigm,” Cédric Ringenbach, creator of the Climate Fresk, told the New York Times. “It’s the participants themselves who come to these conclusions. We’re here to pave the way. I wanted them to piece together the climate change chain by themselves.

“It’s much more powerful from an educational point of view, because you’re not just passively listening to a lecture – you’re an actor.”

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Education and the climate crisis

Similarly, research in Sweden found that interactive learning was a highly effective way of educating adults about the climate emergency. Forestry workers who took part in a participatory climate project there “valued the process, calling for multi-level, multi-stakeholder arenas for knowledge sharing and collaboration on climate change and adaptation”.

The United Nations says that education is “a critical agent” in addressing the climate emergency and it has launched the Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development programme for schools through UNESCO, its scientific and cultural organization.

Climate education will also be a key part of the Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Meetings held in New York from 18-22 September 2023, during the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Climate CrisisFuture of the Environment
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