Motivating people to act on Climate Change

Joe Romm of Climate Progress recently compiled a good quick guide:  Here’s what Science has to say about Convincing People to do Something about Climate Change   .  Romm references a core academic article, “Improving Public Engagement with Climate Change: Five ‘Best Practice’ Insights from Psychological Science” (2015)   and there have been many others.  The Washington Post has been following the issue and summarizing other academic papers :   “The vicious cycle that makes people afraid to talk about climate change” (May 12) in the Washington Post summarizes “Climate of Silence: Pluralistic ignorance as a barrier to climate change discussion” in Journal of Environmental Psychology , which states that people avoid talking about climate change if they feel that others  are sceptical, for fear of being judged as “less competent”. This leads to a vicious cycle, where no one is talking about climate change, so no one wants to be the first to raise the issue.

Why even people who are very alarmed about climate change often take little action” in the Washington Post is based on “Social norms and efficacy beliefs drive the Alarmed segment’s public-sphere climate actions” , which appeared in Nature Climate Change in May .  This paper shows that people’s willingness to vote, donate, volunteer, contact government officials, and protest about climate change can be encouraged if “alarmed individuals” (those already concerned about climate change) act as public role models and communicate their views.  However, raising awareness without providing a path for action does not drive behaviour change amongst potential followers.

In practical terms, a recent paper published by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Foundation contrasts the arguments used to advocate for clean energy – ecological arguments, job creation, self-sufficiency and community empowerment-  in Germany vs. the United States.  Read Building Political Support for a Clean Energy Transition — How Arguments on Solar Power Affect Public Support in Germany and the US  here .

In Canada,  a book to be launched in Vancouver on May 25, I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: the Toxic state of Public Discourse and How to Clean it Up   examines the broader issue of misinformation campaigns, including climate change, and offers suggestions on how to improve communications and advocacy strategies.  Two encouraging recent examples of clear, factual public statements to counter fear-mongering by climate sceptics:  “Setting The Record Straight on Ontario’s Green Energy Plan” by Keith Brooks in the Huffington Post, which refutes “Coming soon: Ontario’s green energy fiasco, the sequel”, an OpEd in the Globe and Mail (April 29)   and “ What does the carbon levy really mean for me?”   published by the Pembina Institute (May 19), which sets the record straight on the benefits of Alberta’s new policy.

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