The first step is converting climate skeptics or agnostics, but once you have their attention, they’ll need some help in their transition to concern and action. In this Huffington Post article, Mike Sandler offers six sensible tips on how to handle a “new” understanding of climate change and what reasonable steps can be taken by individuals to address it.
Six Tips for Newly Climate-Concerned Americans
Cross-post from The Huffington Post
By Mike Sandler
Articles about climate change should find a receptive and growing audience in August 2012. Surrounded by heat waves and droughts, it is harder than ever to deny that something ominous is happening. NASA climate scientist James Hansen summarized his team’s latest paper in the Washington Post. The paper concludes that human-induced climate change, and not natural variability, is the cause of the extreme heat waves and greater weather variability after 1980.
Bill McKibben’s recent article in Rolling Stone describes a “New Math” that consists of more fossil fuels in the ground and on the balance sheets of the oil and coal companies than the atmosphere can safely absorb. That excess supply needs to stay in the ground and not be mined or burned for the climate to have a chance. This puts the fossil fuel companies and the Earth’s ecosystems on a collision course, unless an apartheid-style divestment campaign by institutions, universities, and pension funds can cause those companies to recalibrate their business plans to live within the means of the global atmospheric carbon sink.
Any communications specialist will tell you that what is said and what is heard can be two different things. Hansen’s and McKibben’s papers are being received by six different categories of Americans, according to “Global Warming’s Six Americas,” a study by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. These categories are:
1. Alarmed (about climate change; this is the “climate activist” category)
2. Concerned (nervous, hopes someone does something about it)
3. Cautious (think there may be a problem, but not sure)
4. Disengaged (have given little thought to the issue, don’t know enough about it to have an opinion one way or another)
5. Doubtful (that climate change is happening or that humans are causing it)
6. Dismissive (of evidence that climate change is happening; this is the “climate denier” category)
Direct experience with heat waves and drought may be moving some Cautious and Disengaged people into the Concerned category. These individuals may benefit from a few tips for dealing with their new worries about climate change:
1. Build Community — it helps. If your existing community watches Fox News, or listens to Rush Limbaugh, then your new concern about climate change will cause some cognitive dissonance. That’s OK, you’ll be facing cognitive dissonance quite a bit at first, like every time you switch on a light or drive your car. Joining a community that recognizes the paradoxes that climate change brings to modern Americans can help during those first troubling weeks, months, and years.
2. Listen to upbeat messages. Upbeat, positive messages about humanity, or about our ability to change, adapt, survive, and help each other through tough times can be helpful in countering anxiety after reading several depressing articles about the coming climate-pocalypse. A good example is a lyric from Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”: “Every little thing, gonna be alright.”