There is a rapidly closing window to transform the economy and avoid climate catastrophe.
— Professor Katrina Brown, Exeter University
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently reported an ominous fact: we have twelve years to address climate change. Will this latest report change attitudes about climate and finally cause us to take action?
It appears some people have to be directly impacted to become believers.
University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College conduct polls twice a year to determine the number of Americans who believe climate change is real. The May 2018 poll showed after experiencing the latest summer heat waves, 73% of Americans now believe climate change is real.
How do we translate belief into action?
In a January 2019 paper in Global Environmental Change journal, Professors Katrina Brown and Neil Adger from Exeter University and Professor Joshua Cinner from James Cook University addressed this issue. They said to make urgently needed progress in addressing climate change, governments need to promote it as a moral issue.
Ok, but what if our federal government isn’t willing to address climate change at all? Where does that leave us? Apparently, we have to do it ourselves.
In 2017, after the President withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement, three hundred and fifty mayors formed the Climate Mayors Coalition “…to demonstrate leadership on climate change through meaningful actions in their communities and to express and build political will for effective federal and global policy action.”
Mayors are taking action, but what about the average person? So far, scaring people hasn’t work. Nor has lecturing people to care enough to take action. So what will work?
Will changing our focus make a difference?
According to recent social science research, talking about climate change by addressing values and priorities of people with conservative and liberal views would encourage more concern and action.
Professor Katrina Brown says addressing climate change by appealing to moral arguments rather than scientific ones is more effective. She says talking about a sense of duty, respect for nature and others, and solidarity is more likely to result in people taking action.
“Doing the right thing matters to people, but not everyone agrees what the right thing is. Some people emphasize fairness, others duty and patriotism. We need to appeal to the full range of these values,” said Professor Cinner.
Now more than ever, we need to be able to talk to others who hold views different than our own. Considering how divided our country is right now, that’s a challenge. Perhaps this is an issue that will bring us together.
How to positively engage others
We’re all in this together. It is essential that we talk to each other. How can we communicate with people who don’t share our point of view? Here are some suggestions:
- be pleasant
- stay calm
- listen actively
- keep an open mind
- understand and respect other points of view
- discover what you can agree on
- use facts instead of emotions
- value the other person
What do you think? What would you add to this list? Are you willing to talk to others about climate change? Have you tried? What happened?