It’s that time of year again. Pumpkins are being carved, meals are being prepared, and most importantly, families are gathering. Thanksgiving is a time to catch up with loved ones, feast, and be thankful.
Throughout the country, Americans are noticing something different about the weather. The seasons feel warmer, wildfires seem worse, and floods and hurricanes are more severe.
But when they turn on the news or pick up their newspapers, there is little mention of climate change. There is talk of more intense wildfires coupled with historic droughts and dry conditions, but silence about why. Reporters discuss never-before-seen damage from hurricanes, freakish fire tornados, record breaking temperatures, and increasingly severe storms — but do not mention what is fueling them.
While the media fail to link our changing climate with extreme weather, scientists are quick to draw the connection. But how do Americans understand this relationship? Are they connecting the dots?
To find out, ecoAmerica surveyed a national sample of Americans to identify if and how they connect the weather outside their window to climate change. The following are highlights of the findings. The full report is HERE.
While the media isn’t making the connection between extreme weather events and climate change, Americans are beginning to make that connection on their own. However, there is room to grow to help key constituencies make the connection, and this starts with communication.
For many, starting this conversation can be a difficult first step to take. To help, ecoAmerica’s Talking Points Series this month offers some quick, simple ways to get the conversation about Extreme Weather and Climate Change going, and to jumpstart climate action in your community.
Whether Americans are looking out their windows or turning on the local news, we are increasingly confronted by severe weather events — unprecedented droughts, storms, floods, and heatwaves are being seen and felt nationwide and around the world. The impact of this “new normal” is changing our lives. Destruction of property from ferocious weather, threats to health and safety, and increased costs to cool homes and workplaces are all realities now facing every American.
But for many, questions about the connection between climate change and extreme weather remain. Can we really attribute every weather event to climate change? Is there anything we can do?
While scientists are now able to more accurately make the connection between single extreme weather events and climate change, we don’t seem to be able to rely on our news to make this connection for the rest of us. To help, ecoAmerica has dedicated our August 2018 Talking Points to making the connection between extreme weather and climate, titled The New Normal: Changing Seasons, Changing Lives.
Communicating about the connection between a warming world and the weather should begin and end personally and locally, within communities, and with what Americans can see with their own eyes. It must be empowering and include positive, benefits-oriented actions we can all take to participate in the solution. These talking points will help!
Let’s not wait for a better time to have this conversation – now is that better time. With these talking points, you will be able to have productive conversations, and make the weather and climate connection, friends and family, colleagues, coworkers, and others in your community.
And, take a look at prior talking points to help you open the climate conversation, talk about clean energy, discuss the impacts on and the need for solutions for the sake of our children, and communicate with community, faith, and health professionals. Stay tuned for our next talking points, which will publish in October.
Everywhere we turn it seems we bump up against something political. The news we watch, the athletes we support and even the restaurants where we eat are all increasingly viewed through the lens of partisan politics. Climate change has been viewed similarly, but we have an opportunity to bridge the divide.
When it comes to trying to engage climate skeptics, too many scientists and advocates fall into the trap of debating the science — believing that just one more fact, one more chart, one more anecdote about the causes and consequences of climate change will persuade them. Alas, this approach falls short.
So for those who care about climate change, about creating happier and healthier communities, what is there to do?
Based on our research, we came up with 5 simple rules for climate advocacy in an era of intense political polarization. This guidance will help you feel more comfortable speaking to issues all Americans care about, while avoiding nasty debates that go nowhere.
1: Lead by Example: People are inspired when they see others taking action. Show them that climate action can come with a spectrum of benefits. Carpool, bike more often, or switch to hybrid or electric vehicles to decrease climate pollution while increasing health and dollars in the bank. There are a number of local, state, and federal programs that help lower the cost of all electric vehicles. Switch to clean energy. Weatherize. Vote. There are dozens of solutions that are accessible, affordable, and immediately beneficial.
2: Be Human, Relevant, Positive, Supportive, and Solutions Oriented: The goal of climate advocacy is to inspire others to take action. Connect with people personally, and highlight shared values and common ground. Inspire them to care by being positive, supportive, and solutions oriented. Listen as much as you speak.
3: Stick to the Basics: When it comes to climate advocacy — keep it simple and clear. We have everything we need to stop damaging the climate. Clean energy is cheaper and more available than ever. It creates good-paying jobs for Americans, saves money for families, and helps maintain cleaner, greener neighborhoods.
These Clean Energy Talking Points are readily-usable, and Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans offers deeper guidance for message personalization.
4: Location Matters: When you’re talking about climate, start local. Talk about how climate and pollution affects family and friends, neighborhood, work environment, and community. People care about what affects them and their loved ones directly. Equally, if not more important, is to communicate the local benefits of solutions. Americans need to know that climate solutions benefit their health, strengthen their community, and can put more money in their pocket.
5: Offer Concrete Action to Solve the Problem: Know what you are asking for when you engage others. If you are discussing clean energy with your congregation, have a plan for action. If you’re discussing sustainable transportation, improving energy use, or water conservation with your neighbors, provide a resource that empowers them to take the action you are seeking.
The fact is, most of us are surrounded by opportunities to cut waste, save money, and benefit our communities in almost everything we do. Improving our lives and strengthening our communities — while also making a difference on climate change — is one of the few big things we can do accomplish in little steps everyday.
The more we talk about climate change with our friends, families, co-workers and communities, the more comfortable it becomes. To help you get started, ecoAmerica offers the latest research on how to talk to people about climate change, and what to do to be part of the solution. Check out these guides and start to lead on climate in your community: Climate Talking Points, Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans, 15 Steps, and our Moving Forward Guide.
Within the climate community, one of the greatest areas of debate is the role of nuclear energy in the mix of climate solutions. Nuclear power already accounts for nearly 20% of America’s power supply, and there are growing voices of support for researching, developing, and building greater nuclear power capacity as part of a broader strategy for mitigating the causes of a changing climate. However, the topic is controversial.
Calls for growth are meeting stiff resistance. Indeed, some of our partners have made firm commitments against nuclear power, while others are undergoing a process of discernment. Questions about whether the risks of nuclear power outweigh the opportunities; whether it’s “clean” or “green”; or whether it is a necessity given the urgency of the climate challenge fill the debate.
It’s no wonder then that the public, too, has an uncertain perspective on whether nuclear energy, old or new, is a path that they support moving forward. While ecoAmerica does not have a formal position, these are important questions to discuss. To better understand where the American public stands on nuclear energy, ecoAmerica conducted our American Climate Perspective Survey in July, which sheds light on this issue:
The findings of the American Climate Perspective Survey show that concern about nuclear power readily exceeds support. What remains true is that there is robust and lasting support for renewable energy from across all polled sectors of American society.
To learn more about the of results of the survey, view it HERE. And be sure to follow our Talking Points series, where we provide quick, simple, and effective tips and tricks about translating climate perspectives into climate action!
Americans’ attitudes on climate are changing, and the change is in a positive direction. To better understand how these views are evolving, and what that may mean, ecoAmerica has pulled together the most recent public opinion survey data from some of the country’s most prominent polling firms.
The data is encouraging. Americans are increasingly aware that climate change is having real, concrete impacts that affect their lives right now. They want to take action individually, in their neighborhoods, and across the nation — and there is growing support for a clean energy future from across the political spectrum. These are the key takeaways from the 2018 June American Climate Perspectives Mid-Year Summary:
1. A growing number of Americans report seeing and feeling the impacts of climate change.
2. Americans are concerned about global warming, and that concern is increasing.
3. Americans want to do something personally, and collectively, to reduce our contributions to climate change. And they want to start now.
4. Americans support producing more clean energy and less dirty energy
5. Recent efforts to rollback climate action by the Trump Administration have little support.
6. Overwhelmingly, Americans from across the political spectrum find common ground on clean energy, grid modernization, and a carbon tax.
The results are clear: the American public is feeling the effects of climate change, and ready to start taking action. But for many, that next step is the most difficult one — what is one to do about this global problem?
To help get started, ecoAmerica’s Talking Points Series lays the groundwork for climate action in your community. The first in the series, Opening the Discussion, is a helpful guide for reaching out to others in your community, and building local momentum for action. The subsequent topics in the series delve into more specific spheres, and include: Climate Change: A Matter of Faith; Clean Energy; and Caring for Our Climate and Our Children.
Together, we can make a real difference in advancing climate solutions. But we must start today. To dig into the full details of the report, click HERE, or have a look at ecoAmerica’s latest research — and become the best climate communicator in your community!
The discourse around a warming world often gets hung up on politics, but what Americans really care about — and want to hear about— are the challenges and opportunities that climate change has for their families and communities. Strip away the science, politics, and technology, and remaining are people, their families, how climate change impacts their health, wealth, and wellbeing, and how solutions can benefit all three.
As we move into summer, families will spend more time outdoors, and whether at the ballpark or a national park, being outdoors can provide profound benefits for a child’s physical and psychological health. However, a changing climate may present new and potentially harmful health consequences, which shouldn’t be taken lightly. While different people may have different opinions about the causes of climate change, we are seeing extreme weather impact our health, and that of our children, in multiple ways. And, every parent wants to do what’s best to keep their child as happy and healthy as possible.
To help navigate the sometimes tricky nexus between climate change and child health, ecoAmerica has dedicated our June 2018 Talking Points to Caring for Our Climate and Our Children.
Research shows that climate change disproportionately affects children, who are estimated to bear 88% of the burden of climate change-related diseases globally. Children living in low income families are exposed to greater levels of air pollution, community instability, and conflict. Fortunately, by acting now, we have the power to address climate change, and to protect the well-being of our children at the same time.
But we must start now. The climate that our children will learn, develop, and grow in is dependent on the actions we take today. In our April Talking Points, we explored how a clean energy future is well within our grasp. With smart investments in clean energy, Americans can create well-paying, stable jobs, decrease energy bills and put more money in their wallets. And, perhaps most importantly, we can leave our children and future generations an America where the air is clean and the water is safe, where families can have happy and healthy summers, now and for years to come. After all, caring for our climate is caring for our children.
A clean energy future is within our grasp. We can have locally-made energy from the wind and the sun that ensures our air is clean and our water is healthy. Communities across America are learning that smart investments in clean energy protect our health, attract new business, create jobs, and build stronger communities for our families. Hundreds of corporations have either committed to or are using 100% clean energy. And, the momentum for electric cars is gaining, with multiple car manufacturers in a race to compete for market share.
On top of this, Americans want clean energy. Just as Americans view clean air and water as a personal right, they may also start to view clean energy in the same light.
But, is transitioning to 100% clean energy possible? How do we get there? What are the costs, and what are the benefits? What is holding us back? These are the questions that are on Americans’ minds.
To help answer these questions, ecoAmerica has pulled together a handful of helpful resources, and is dedicating our April 2018 Talking Points to clean energy.
Because, despite the fact that oil and coal companies are trying to hold onto their power and profits, and doing what they can to slow the transition to clean energy, there are many in these industries that know the markets for these fuels are waning.
Clean energy is both possible and practical, and the pace at which we achieve 100% clean energy depends on us. The more we support clean energy (with our votes as well as our pocketbooks), the more available and cheaper it will become, and the faster the transition.
America has always been a yes-we-can kind of place. We led the way into space and onto cell phones and the internet. Today, the next big thing is clean energy: affordable, local, wind and solar power made here and now, all across America, in every state and territory in our great nation. Clean energy to power our lives at home and work, create high wage work in America, and free us from the outdated fuels that pollute our air and water and change our climate. America can lead again in the new energy future, with innovations that will fuel a cleaner, safer, and better world for our families. The choice is ours to make.
Note: Clean energy refers to wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass, and next-generation nuclear energies. ecoAmerica is mindful that all of these energies need to be pursued in ways that protect nature and the health and safety of humans, wildlife, and habitats.
Over the past decade, Americans have placed climate change at the bottom of the list of public policy priorities. But, according to Pew’s January 2018 Public Policy Priorities survey, climate change is on the rise. Pew found that close to half, 46% of Americans, believe that dealing with climate change should be a top policy priority, a jump of 18 points since 2010, up 8 points in the last year alone, and the highest level since Pew started asking this question in 2007*.
Pew does not track nor report on the deeper rationale for this shift, but the answers may be self evident. Our changing climate is more visible, causing costly damage in lives, livelihoods, and communities. Federal actions to rollback progress, policies and commitments may have caused a boomerang effect among the American populace. And, last but not least, there is a formidable rising electorate placing much higher priority on addressing climate change.
While the political divide on climate remains, there are signs of hope. Democrats and Republicans have both placed a higher priority on “dealing with climate change” over the past several years. A much higher percentage of Democrats versus Republicans prioritize climate (68% Democrats vs. 18% Republicans), but there has been a notable leap in Republican priority since 2010, when the results hovered at 11%.
This is a promising trajectory, however there is work to do to inspire Republicans on the issue. Nearly half of Republicans (48%) say that dealing with climate change is either “not too important” or “should not be done.” The climate movement faces a pressing opportunity to show Republicans that addressing climate change also addresses many other priorities at the top of their list, such as defending against terrorism, strengthening the economy, and strengthening the U.S. military.
ecoAmerica’s March 2018 American Climate Perspectives Survey found that a strong majority of Millennials (87%) are personally concerned about climate change, surpassing the national average by over 10 points. Pew’s results corroborated the report’s conclusion that Millennials are both a formidable rising electorate and also an importantly burgeoning climate constituency.
Addressing global climate change is the only issue, among 19 included in the survey, which is viewed by significantly more people under 30 (56%) than those 65 and older (37%) as a top policy priority.
This year’s midterm elections may prove to be the most dynamic in recent history. Out of the 435 open seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 36 Republican and 16 Democrat incumbents will be retiring. In the U.S. Senate, out of the 33 seats in contention, only 3 include retiring incumbents, all of whom are Republican. More than 2,000 candidates have filed or declared their congressional ambitions.
An enormous opportunity exists to ensure that climate change rises as a key election issue. In addition to motivating deeper engagement by the traditional environmental voter, the climate movement must harness and nurture the climate priorities of millennials, who are showing the highest interest-to-date for mid-term voting (at 62%, up from 39% in 2010).
Alongside bridging the political divide and engaging millennials, in order to achieve effective climate solutions we need to expand American climate constituency. Politicians and political candidates need a diversity of Americans to apply political pressure, beyond the traditional climate movement. ecoAmerica offers Blessed Tomorrow, Climate for Health, and Path to Positive Communities to this end. Through these programs we are forming coalitions for climate mitigation and advocacy to inspire, empower, and activate tens of millions of Americans for climate solutions. We hope you will join us in making climate change a personal priority, and climate solutions a personal right for all Americans.
*From 2007 – 2015, Pew used the language “global warming” in this question, and transitioned to “climate change” in 2015 – 2018.
Throughout American history, people of faith have been at the forefront in addressing injustice. They have transformed hearts, minds, and the course of our country. Today, religious communities are called to a new moral challenge — climate change.
If we can inspire and empower people of faith to lead on climate, we can reach every city and county in the nation with a new climate message, and new reasons to support solutions. We know that Americans are not very motivated when we speak about climate change using environmental jargon. And, why would a pastor talk about polar ice extent and RPS when he or she can be far more effective preaching about the moral imperative to care for our brothers and sisters, caring for creation, and walking gently on God’s earth?
For the sake of our neighbors and for all of God’s creation, faith communities can provide a prophetic voice and powerful examples to inspire others to join them in leaving the legacy of a healthier, safer world for future generations.
These talking points provide a starting point. Tailor them to accommodate the values and beliefs of your faith tradition or that of your audience.
1. Creation is a reflection of the glory of God. We are grateful for the gifts we’ve been
given, and must fulfill our God-given responsibility to be good stewards of God’s
creation, which includes all of us who live within it.
2. We have always stood for justice and helping our neighbors. Whether it be civil
rights, poverty, children or creation, our basic sense of right and wrong guides us to
protect people and our shared home.
3. Climate change is a spiritual challenge. Some may see climate change as a political,
economic, or scientific issue, but we recognize it, first and foremost, as an ethical issue.
Leading on climate is part of how we live our faith.
4. We have a responsibility to care for the least of us. The poorest amongst us bear
the greatest burden and risk of climate change. We witness this firsthand as we restore
communities in the wake of unprecedented storms, droughts, and disasters.
5. We are called to respond to what we see around us. We are moral messengers for
the common good, and must translate our compassion into action.
6. When we lead on climate, we strengthen our congregation and our
communities. Climate solutions create fellowship, inspire our youth, enrich our faith,
and reduce our costs, freeing up money for mission.
7. We can make a difference in our hopes, our place of worship, and for people all
over the world. The actions we take serve as witness to our commitment and our
power to instill hope and provides a powerful example of how to drive positive change.
8. We can pass down a safer, healthier, more vibrant world to our children. One of
our most important missions is to protect the home of future generations.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope….“
– A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens, 1859, p. 1)
Charles Dickens’ opening to A Tale of Two Cities seems uncannily relevant this January. It’s been a cold and dark month; it’s been warm and bright. It’s been rife with setbacks; it’s been filled with progress. Our darkest shadows have been revealed, our greatest potential uncovered. For those of us working in America to protect and heal our climate, the present period strains for comparison.
Rather than turn fatalistic – or rest on our laurels – it’s time to reset, apply lessons learned, and manifest new goals. It’s time to shift the storyline of climate change to solutions and success.
President Trump has been in office for just over one year, and according to ecoAmerica’s recent American Climate Perspectives survey (Fery, Speiser, Lake, & Voss, 2018), some worrying signs are emerging. More than 1 in 3 Americans believe there’s nothing we can do to stop climate change – an 8 point increase (from 28% to 36%) from last year – and 1 in 4 believe the costs and sacrifices of solutions are too high, a 9 point increase (from 34% to 43%). Not only that, more Americans support oil and coal than a year ago – up by 5 points for oil (from 42% to 47%) and up 7 points for coal (from 30% to 37%).
We have experienced a series of setbacks in 2017, including opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, removing climate change as a national security threat, and more than 30 federal environmental policy rollbacks.
And all the while our climate is changing, fast. Last year was particularly tragic with climate change-exacerbated extreme weather – storms, floods, fires, droughts and freezes – that pummeled countries, states, cities, and people’s health, wealth, and wellbeing globally.
America is waking up to climate action. Local governments nationwide, along with major corporations and large institutions are pledging to honor the United States’ commitment to the Paris Agreement, despite the United States withdrawal. From We Are Still In, to America’s Pledge, Ready for 100, and others, many American leaders are committing to climate action.
Clean energy deployment is rapidly accelerating. Solar power was the largest contributor to new electricity generation last year, contributing 47% of the newly installed renewable power capacity. Wind power is accelerating just as fast, and together, wind and solar have gone from virtually nothing to 10% of America’s electricity supply according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The cost to produce solar energy has fallen below the cost to produce coal and gas, making solar the fiscally attractive option. Automobile manufacturers have begun competing for electric car market share. And China, the UK, France, Norway, and others have all announced bans on new fossil fuel vehicles in their countries by 2030 or 2040.
Americans want climate action, and to act on climate. Despite the uptick in support for coal and oil in 2017, support for clean energy tops the list, by a large margin. According to ecoAmerica’s 2017 American Climate Metrics Survey, a burgeoning constituency of Americans are taking action on climate, and want their local and our federal government to do the same. Majorities are also seeing the personal benefits solutions will bring to their health (67%, up from 58% in 2015), the economy (64%, up from 53% in 2015), and jobs (61%, up from 53% in 2015).
Action taken today can change the trajectory of climate change. It can improve lives in cities and towns, nationwide and worldwide. Committing to lead on climate, to do what we can to reduce our impact, and use the power of our leadership to voice the need for – and benefits of – climate solutions is one of the most pressing opportunities of our era.
There is immense power in people coming together from all walks of life – health professionals, faith leaders, and regional and city leaders as well as individuals and corporations, people of all ethnicities and backgrounds – to take the reins on climate leadership. Major institutions in health, faith, communities, education, business, and culture are committing to reduce their climate impact and advocate for solutions. Their leadership inspires tens of millions of Americans on climate change, in counties and communities nationwide including in our heartland.
And we can do more. We can nurture new leadership and take advantage of the growing accessibility of climate solutions like efficiency, clean energy, and restoring nature. We can share our learnings, best practices and resources with each other, to help us all go farther, faster. We can make the benefits of climate solutions visible and tangible by implementing them at a local level, engaging Americans in their daily lives. Most of all, we can share loudly a new vision on climate, one that eschews cost and sacrifice and embraces investment, benefits, and a moral responsibility to our children and future generations.
ecoAmerica can help. We help by providing strategy, tools, resources and collaboration opportunities to increase climate literacy, engage constituents, and build collective action and advocacy for climate.
To that end, we have started a new Talking Points series covering key questions and topics on climate. We will continue to publish our monthly American Climate Perspectives survey. Our Recommendations Report, from the American Climate Leadership Summit, identifies dozens of opportunities and priorities for climate action and advocacy. Let’s Lead on Climate is our guide with stories and recommendations on building climate programs at a local level, and our Let’s Talk Climate series offers comprehensive guides for communicating on climate. Finally, we are and will continue to find ways to bring the best research and practical guidance forward to help us all to be more effective.
2018 Is Our Opportunity To Forge A Path To Positive On Climate.
“If our federal leadership won’t take up the mantle, the rest of us must. It’s up to us. We have to make the great transition happen now. And we can do it.”
– Bob Perkowitz, President, ecoAmerica
As a country, we’ve been approaching climate from different angles and with different goals. But all of us do it for the same reasons; to protect our families, friends, colleagues, and communities. So, it’s time to talk about climate in way that keeps everyone informed and inspires climate action.
At ecoAmerica, we work with America’s religious denominations, national health and medical associations, and communities to support their efforts to understand the implications of climate change and to develop effective strategies for them to practically address solutions with their many millions of members.
Our work starts with people, and we do a lot of listening to truly understand their values, concerns, and priorities. We’ve learned a lot and will share what we’ve learned with you in this monthly series – Climate Talking Points.
Each month we will pick a topic or theme related to climate change, provide a few positive talking points and some responses to key questions or criticisms. Our goal is to open up the conversation, focus on common values, and help us all move forward, together, on climate solutions. This guidance is grounded in ecoAmerica’s extensive research on climate communications, and our experience deploying it.
We know that effective communication on climate change might sometimes conflict with what you think is “common sense.” In the end, the truly trusted messengers are the people in your family, of your faith, in your community, from your occupation – who tend to share the same political and social values as you do.
Faith leaders – you have leverage and should use your connections, and this guidance, to reach out to your colleagues, community, and fellow congregants. You can help people reach a common ground and you can start now.
Our first month of Climate Talking Points focuses on Opening the Discussion.
How you talk about climate change is as important that the specifics of what you say. You can have a positive conversation where everyone leaves more informed and more inspired on climate solutions if you start with common values, respect differences, listen well, and truly care about people. Dive further into this month’s talking points by reading, “Welcome to Climate Talking Points.”
Blessed Tomorrow is a program of ecoAmerica
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