Woman smiling

From floods to wildfires, the impacts of climate change are no laughing matter. But humor can be an effective way to motivate young people to get engaged.

Skurka: “Young adults by and large believe that climate change is happening, they believe it’s human caused, and yet in spite of this, they’re not necessarily the most politically engaged generation.”

To study how to reach this audience, Chris Skurka at Cornell University worked with comedians from Second City Chicago. They created a series of short videos about climate change. All featured a weatherman, but the tone of his report was different in each video. In one, he appears a bit … confused.

Video: “Moving now to our nation’s panhandle where coastal flooding poses a potential threat … causing this weatherman to wonder if perhaps there are just too many boats in the harbor? Because I’ve noticed that when I put too much stuff in my pool, the water starts to overflow.”

As the weatherman bumbles through his ridiculous report, text on the screen corrects him and cracks jokes at his expense.

The study found that the humorous video increased viewers’ willingness to take action – especially among those under the age of 25. So Skurka says if you want youth to act on climate, a simple laugh can be a powerful ally.

Reporting credit: Rachel Gulbraa/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Erika Street Hopman is co-founder of ChavoBart Digital Media, an audio and video production firm with a focus on scientific and environmental media. ChavoBart Digital Media contributes original reporting,...