Despite the urgency of the climate crisis, Americans have been reluctant to make climate action a top-tier voting priority. It is not that people are confused by the science it is that they are confounded by the politics. The politics of climate denial practised by the GOP and the Trump administration are the foremost impediments to climate action in the US.
The veracity of anthropogenic climate change is not the issue, decades of research have produced a comprehensive compilation scientific data that is almost impossible to refute. Despite the misinformation coming from deniers are not two sides to the debate. You are either on the side of science or you support political efforts to undermine the truth. The research is clear and abundant. Climate change is real and it is caused by human activity.
The only reason that some people think otherwise is due to the tribal politics of the Republican party. For many years the GOP has been putting what they perceive as their political interests ahead of the national interest. Rather than helping people to understand the facts they have manipulated people by interjecting an element of doubt into “debates” about the veracity of climate change.
As explained by Katharine Hayhoe in Macleans, “The top predictor of what people think about climate change has little to do with scientific literacy—it’s about politics.” Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist and professor at Texas Tech University. In a November 8 article, she offers some advice on how to get people to accept the facts about climate change. According to Hayhoe, it is not about publishing another study it is about speaking to the immediacy of climate impacts here and now.
When Hayhoe is asked if she believes in climate change, her answer is a resounding “no”. Hayhoe explains, “I crunch the data myself, I run the models, and the evidence is clear. I don’t believe in climate change—I know it’s real.” She points out climate change is now one of the most politically polarized topics in the US. Hayhoe suggests we need to find ways to work together and resist the urge to ridicule deniers because that is not an effective tactic.
According to Hayhoe climate denial is not about rejecting science or even the superimposition of faith. When Republicans admit to obvious climate realities, they commonly equivocate on the seriousness of the impacts. According to Hayhoe, this is the real problem. “[W]e aren’t convinced the impacts are serious and the solutions are plausible,” Hayhoe says. She points to renewable energy and electric vehicles as two examples of practical solutions to the climate crisis.
The real impediment to climate action in the US is the Republican party and their commander and chief. This is a serious issue because public support for climate-focused public policy is crucial. We need to get the people interested in a fact-based understanding of climate change so that they can pressure legislators to act, or change them if they fail to do so.
As with all marketing strategy, we need to respond to the question, “whats in it for me?” People have a wide range of issues that they vote for so we have to tailor our communications to respond that address people’s points of view. This means we must communicate climate issues from the vantage point of how a warming planet will affect their specific issues.
The obstacle to action is not climate awareness as almost all Americans (97%) are aware. Many believe that it will continue to worsen if nothing is done and they accept that it is caused by human activity. However, at present, the majority of Americans are not prepared to make this a priority at the ballot box. Thus we need to get develop evidence based narratives that communicate human stories related to climate impacts.
Climate change has been used by Republicans to divide people but the fact is it affects us all. With the right communication strategy, climate change can bridge these political divides and be a powerful unifying force.