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Why don't people engage climate change  

This post was editted by Scott Carley on Mar, 2010
Interesting series of recent posts from the Global Change blog

This discussion started on the CLN listserv with this comment from David McConville on February 17, 2010 6:53 AM PST

[A] very interesting series of recent posts from the Global Change blog:

Why don't people engage climate change?
http://www.globalchangeblog.com/2009/11/why-dont-people-engage-climate-change-part-5-a-perfect-storm-of-climate-change-denial/

Also, here's the direct link to the abstract of the article I sent previously (with full text available):

Communicating climate change: history, challenges, process and future directions
by Susanne Moser
http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/123222289/abstract


Both of these point to the framing issue as a major consideration, as well as the need to work in across disciplines. It still seems that the biggest bang for our buck will be *leading* with inspiring solutions and facilitation processes that are focused empowering communities to understand how ecological principles must be applied to address the underlying problems.

From David McConville on February 17, 2010 8:12 AM PST

Here's a summary of the main points for anyone interested in scanning (details available in the respective links):

Why don’t people engage climate change?

Problem 1: Environmental Literacy

http://www.globalchangeblog.com/2009/11/why-dont-people-seem-to-get-climate-change-problem-1-environmental-literacy/

Challenge 1: People don’t know enough about how human and environmental systems work and interact.
Challenge 2: Personal actions don’t match required solutions.
Challenge 3: Bad mental models facilitate underestimation of the problem and the time scale to deal with it.
Challenge 4: Environmental literacy is affected by how we structure disciplines in higher education

Problem 2: Communication

http://www.globalchangeblog.com/2009/11/why-dont-people-engage-climate-change-problem-2-communication/

Challenge 1: Traditional media balancing of competing claims adds to the perception of uncertainty
Challenge 2: Polarized debates turn people off
Challenge 3: Specific warming impacts and solutions are seldom conveyed clearly
Challenge 4: Messaging might backfire
Challenge 5: The outcome of “nothing different” from now is hard to chalk up as a reward in response to inconvenient behavior modifications
Challenge 6: Fear can change perception but not willingness to take action and can lead to counterintuitive behaviors (like the “SUV effect”)
Challenge 7: Not knowing what to do in the face of complexity and uncertainty, people do nothing
Challenge 8: Issues are often not framed effectively for a particular audience

Problem 3: Personal perception, values, and behavior

http://www.globalchangeblog.com/2009/11/why-dont-people-engage-climate-change-problem-3-personal-perception-values-and-behavior/

Challenge 1: Problems that are global in nature and distant in the future are not considered urgent
Challenge 2: Cultural identity shapes perceptions and responses to environmental issues
Challenge 3: People don’t see personal harm arising from climate change within their lifetimes
Challenge 4: Some climate-impacting behaviors are easier to change than others

Problem 4: Political-economic context

http://www.globalchangeblog.com/2009/11/why-don%E2%80%99t-people-engage-climate-change-problem-4-political-economic-context/
Bottom line:

Engaging climate warming is not simply a matter of education (problem 1), finding better messaging (problem 2), or convincing people to change their behaviors or values (problem 3). Even with all of that, change is incredibly difficult because it requires more than shifts in individual lifestyles—in some cases, we’re demanding that the entire TIC change. There are few historical precedents for doing this.
Part of this challenge arises because of the complexity and interdependency of our social-political-economic institutions.
However, some of the challenge also comes from immense amounts of money and power that flow between deeply entrenched politicians and special interests.

Problem 5: A perfect storm of climate change denial

http://www.globalchangeblog.com/2009/11/why-dont-people-engage-climate-change-part-5-a-perfect-storm-of-climate-change-denial/

From Frank Niepold on February 17, 2010 8:09 AM PST

David,
I can't wait to read these!
Thanks,
Frank


From Scott Carley on February 17, 2010 10:04 AM PST
David, this is absolutely great.

What we would be interesting to do now is to develop the rationale for these findings (there is a lot of good work referenced in the blog) and look at how we use this to promote climate / environmental literacy (and beyond to action). I can even see these being transformed into criteria for the selection of climate change / sustainability learning resources (in the CLEAN Pathway, CAMEL, etc. projects).

Thanks for encouraging us to read and use these materials.

Scott

From Gary Braasch on February 17, 2010 1:52 PM PST

Thanks, David.

Some of this is a useful elaboration of the caveman view of danger:
It is recognizable, has a face -- a sabertooth tiger
It's clearly dangerous to me -- the sabertooth tiger over there.
It's coming this way -- the tiger is running toward me
It will affect me directly -- the tiger is running toward me with fangs out, ready to eat me
There is something I can and must do immediately --- RUN!!! Get the kids into the cave!!! Throw rocks and spears!!
There is a chance that that action will succeed .. if I am successful, the tiger will pass on or be deterred.

Climate change has none of these immediacy cues which everyone still employs most days (the bus is bearing down on me as I cross the street; the rent is overdue...)

Gary

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