Why aren't the latest climate reports being read? For the most part, people don't understand what they and secondly, they do not go far enough in explaining what to do about climate change. While many officials may explain the science, citizens of cities such as New Orleans and Seattle need someone to tell them specifically why they should act on climate change and how to do it.
According to Popular Science, "A well-tailored assessment could communicate the scope of climate change in meaningful ways so that communities may better work adaptation into their planning..." But what are some ways to better communicate the urgency of climate change without frightening people into paralysis? Here are three potential areas for growth in climate communications that need immediate attention.
- Pinpointing Immediate Risk: Most Americans view climate change as an abstraction, something happening in the future. For Robyn Wilson, an associate professor of risk analysis and decision science at Ohio State University, understands that 'People are motivated by risks that are psychologically near in space and time,' may be what climate engagement needs.
- Engaging Vulnerable Communities: Examining the impacts of climate change on a vulnerable community requires more than merely stating the facts. To remain effective, engagement must remain approachable as well as in a format with which an audience is familiar. For top officials of the Obama administration, this included, 'hiring filmmakers for video storytelling, or writers and artists to craft a version of the assessment released in a graphic novel-type format.'
- People Are Flying Blind: "“What should I be doing? What should I plan for? What do I need to know?” shared Alice Hill, the National Security Council’s senior director for resilience policy, told scientists. "Climate change is a dire threat to the prosperity and safety of the American people," and most have no idea what to do about it.
As leaders of faith and otherwise, motivating people through approachable climate messages that speak to their immediate concerns must also give them a way forward to build solutions that are feasible and impactful. For more of the latest climate messages that work, visit Let Talk Climate.
Erika Bolstad | Scientific America
In New Orleans, the city’s planners would love to see block-by-block estimates of how sea-level rise might affect neighborhoods and critical infrastructure. In Seattle, they want to know how to shape their municipal culture so that even basic budgeting decisions factor in evolving climate patterns, and not just the past weather patterns that planners have relied on for decades.
Everyone is looking for something different from the next National Climate Assessment, including the scientists and decisionmakers who put together the current guiding document for climate policy in this country. And as they discuss how to put together the next blueprint, they worry about how to best get their message to the people who need most to hear and heed it.
Is anyone reading the assessment? Will anyone read the next one? And how can they make sure that people do?
“If we want to tell the nation the risk, we need to [do it] in plain English,” Alice Hill, the National Security Council’s senior director for resilience policy, told scientists at a gathering in Washington, D.C., last week. As her boss, Susan Rice, often notes, Hill said, “climate change is a dire threat to the prosperity and safety of the American people.”
The discussions played out at a two-day meeting of a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine panel advising the group that puts out the assessment: the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Work is beginning on the fourth assessment, a congressionally mandated review of climate change impacts on the United States. The third report, a multiagency effort released in 2014, found increased evidence of human-caused warming and warned of heavier precipitation events and more frequent extreme heat events, including severe droughts.
The climate assessment is intended to guide risk planning for federal, state and local agencies and tribal governments, as well as businesses, and the aim of last week’s meeting was to help shape how the next assessment will characterize and communicate risk given the state of current science, including sea-level rise projections.
A well-tailored assessment could communicate the scope of climate change in meaningful ways so that communities can better work adaptation into their planning—whether it’s reservoir managers trying to adjust to uncertain rainfall, ski resort operators assessing snowpack, or cities determining how high to build new pumping stations or how to manage other climate-related risks.
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