When it comes to climate change, it’s interesting how the public discourse has been derailed, and especially in the US.
It’s been derailed in a couple of different ways. First, through confusion about the science. And then, through framing it in terms of cost.
To me, another approach makes much more sense:
We need to align with ecological realities anyway, climate change or no climate change. We need to restructure our systems – in economy, production, energy, food, transportation and more – so they reflect ecological realities. And the sooner we do it, the easier the transition will be, and the less it will cost us. (Waiting costs us in terms of health, quality of life, natural disasters, ecological degradation.)
And this is an amazing opportunity. It will fuel innovation and new industries on a scale rivaling and surpassing the industrial revolution. The green revolution is an opportunity for us to intentionally redesign how we organize ourselves at all levels and in all sectors of society, in a way that improves quality of life, benefits our health, is deeply democratic, requires creativity and innovation, and fuels technology and industry. We have an opportunity to redesign our systems so that what’s easy and attractive to do for individuals and corporations is also what’s good for the larger social and ecological systems, nonhuman species, and future generations.
Why has the public discourse been derailed? There may be several reasons.
The petroleum industry is intentionally muddling the water. One example is paying scientists from non-climate fields to pose as climate experts.
The topics may appear as a threat to those with a strong free-market ideology. They fear, perhaps rightly so, that the necessary changes will require strong political leadership and public institutions.
The topic may trigger anti-authoritarian or anti-elitist responses.
More generally, the topic doesn’t fit some people’s identity. They associate it with earlier generation environmentalists and hippies, and they don’t want to be like them.
There is a general misperception in several areas. There is a perception of….. (a) Disagreement among scientists, where in reality 99% agree it’s happening, it’s human caused, and the sooner we do something the better. (b) There being more climate deniers than there actually is. The reality is typically 8-5% or less. (c) It costing us and being a drawback, instead of an amazing and unique opportunity.
The topic may seem distant. It may seem overwhelming. It may trigger fear and guilt.
For me, climate change has been two things since I first heard about it. (a) A focal point for the changes we need to make anyway, for those concerned with climate change. And (b) an irrelevant distraction since we need to make the changes anyway. Which one I emphasize depends on the situation and audience.
– public discourse, derailed – (a) climate deniers + (b) cost framing
– instead: need to make the changes anyway + an opportunity
– derailed for several reasons…. petroleum industry, doesn’t fit identity, fear/guilt, cost framing
A couple of things about climate change:
It can be used as a focal point for the changes we need to make anyway. By talking about climate change, we can highlight the value in aligning our lives and society with ecological realities, and the many attractive solutions that are part of such a shift.
It can be set aside as a potentially distracting topic. We need to make these changes anyway, so why get distracted by controversies that – in the big picture – are irrelevant?
When it comes to the science, 99% of climate scientists agree it’s happening and is caused my human activities. What we see fits the models and predictions, what we know about the climate, and how it’s influenced by human-made/released gases. The ones who disagree tend to come from other sciences (sometimes on the payroll of the petroleum industry), or are laypeople who think it’s a matter of opinion – similar to liking a movie or a certain dish. There are of course disagreements and uncertainties in this as in any other field, but that doesn’t mean that the overall picture is quiet certain. In any case, when it comes to something as crucial as the survival of species – including humans, and whole ecosystem, it makes sense to use the precautionary principle.
And when it comes to the public discourse, it’s interesting to see how it has been derailed – perhaps especially in the US. The climate deniers are far fewer than most people assume, although they tend to be quite visible. And why do they disagree with the vast majority of the people who are most knowledgeable on the topic? It may come from general skepticism to authority, that it doesn’t fit their identity (don’t want to be associated with environmentalists and hippies), a perceived threat to their free-market views (partly justified and partly misguided), or that it feels overwhelming or trigger guilt.
The topic is also typically framed in terms of cost, which is misleading. It’s as much – or more – an amazing opportunity, especially if we make it one. We have the opportunity to reorganize ourselves – including our economy, production, energy, transportation, food systems and more – to be aligned with ecological realities, and in the process innovate, create new jobs, improve our quality of life, and flourish in the way we all would like our society to flourish.
It’s not about climate change or no climate change, or particular views on economy or politics. It’s about an opportunity to create a flourishing society, and one that recognizes that a flourishing society is dependent on a flourishing planet.
– strategy 1, use as focal point since is a “hot” topic these days
– strategy 2, set aside bc need to make the changes anyway
– aside from that, 99% climate scientists agree, fits the models/predictions/what we know about the climate etc., the reasons people deny it may be varied (general authority skepticism, doesn’t fit their identity, libertarian views, overwhelming, guilt etc.)
A few things about climate change:
It can be used as a focal point for the changes we need to make anyway. It’s a “hot” topic these days, and we need to reorganize ourselves at all levels so we live more aligned with ecological realities.
It can be set aside as a potentially distracting topic, since we need to make those changes anyway.