Want Support for Action on Climate? Start by Asking Americans to Prepare [Research]

by Meighen Speiser

For most Americans, the connection between weather events and climate change has been vague — portrayed as an abstract, scientific issue with distant consequences. As visible impacts accelerate, climate change is increasingly our reality. Last week Americans experienced Sandy-induced flooding, power outages, business closures, and deaths. With science showing Sandy was exacerbated by climate change, we have the unfortunate opportunity to tie climate change to the very personal devastations that millions across the east coast are facing. The microphone is temporarily in our hands as Americans are asking how and why Sandy happened, and we must get our message right. But, how do we inspire our nation to do the kind of change necessary to effectively address the issue and help prevent the risk of future catastrophes?

We need to harness the palpable manifestations of climate change to better connect with Americans – before the impacts become the new normal and society gets desensitized to the issue.

To do this, we must first understand the connections Americans make between weather and climate change, and what sparks their motivation for solutions. We must then find ways to speak with Americans to increase issue saliency and urgency for action. In March 2012 (prior to the extreme summer and Superstorm Sandy), with Lake Research Partners and support from The MacArthur Foundation, ecoAmerica conducted research on Americans to learn:

    1. Awareness and attitudes on the impacts of climate change amongst likely American voters (focused on the pattern change impacts of changes in volatile weather and seasonal weather patterns)
    2. Whether “adaptation” is a compelling frame for which to engage Americans (and lead them to mitigation)
    3. Which message frame(s) are the most salient, which elicit urgency and motivation to act.

Climate Impacts: Take Care and Prepare

The research results, shared in our Climate Impacts: Take Care and Prepare report, show new potential message frames that may be effective to increase action and urgency on climate. We must remove “adaptation” from our messaging, allowing ambivalence, and focus on:

  • Preparing for changes in climate and weather that seem to be already happening.
  • Taking steps to prevent changes from causing further damage.
  • Trying to prevent changes and prepare for those that we can’t to help protect our safety.


Download the full Climate Impacts report for free here.

We look forward to further insights from our colleagues in the movement, and to continuing this research to find the answers that will help America prepare for the impacts of climate change in a way that leads quickly to effective mitigation.

Meighen Speiser
Chief Engagement Officer, ecoAmerica

No Responses to “Want Support for Action on Climate? Start by Asking Americans to Prepare [Research]”

  1. It seems like a lot of organizations now are moving away from the concept of “adaptation” and going to “preparedness”. Except, of course, the oil and coal companies…

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