The climate ostrich, known for burying its head in the sand to avoid information, is a curious beast. It can be found in a variety of colours, and its behaviour can sometimes seem strange and erratic. Though a few prefer to keep their heads buried in sand for the whole day, there are many whose curiosity brings them close to the waters of climate science for a glimpse. With enough time, some feel comfortable to dip their beaks in and take a drink.
And that paragraph, dear reader, is a good example of all that’s wrong with climate communication.
Sceptics are not a different species; just because they often sit across a political divide, that doesn’t mean we should treat them as The Other. Or worse – as ignorant, ill-educated, anti-scientific fools who just don’t get it. Many have compared this struggle to keep our world in a liveable state to a battle, but if we’re going down that road we have to be clear about where the lines are drawn between Us and Them.
Us is everyone who cares about the world, about passing on a liveable climate to our children and grandchildren. Us is the group of human beings who want our species to have a home next century – and I’m pretty sure that’s a significant portion of the people living on this planet.
Them is the small group of people who directly profit from keeping the status quo. Them is the 0.01% that have made vast profits by selling natural resources that should belong to everyone.
The folks who disagree with us on important questions of politics or economics or future energy policy – they’re still Us, we just haven’t spent enough time on common ground yet. If that seems a little too naive – “group hug, energy brothers of the world!” – consider the facts:
- % of people support more renewable power
- % are worried about pollution levels
- Lastly, climate change affects everyone – is affecting everyone, everywhere. Ideology won’t save anyone from flooding, and denial is no haven when the place you live is fast becoming a dustbowl
This is why we need a more inclusive conversation on climate, one that acknowledges what we share instead of obsessing over what divides us. That’s what this chapter is, at its core: a guide to expanding the conversation to those who walk the other way when there’s talk of polar bears and planting trees.
Instead of bedraggled bears, we’re going to talk about the science of solutions, and the great benefits a greener world will bring.