The climate ostrich, known for burying its head in the sand to avoid new information, is a curious beast. 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, perhaps even a drink.
And that paragraph, dear reader, is a good example of all that’s wrong with climate communication.
Climate 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 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 sounds a little too naive (“group hug, energy brothers of the world!”), consider a few facts:
- 61% of people worldwide see climate change as a major threat
- Support for more renewables in the US is near universal; 83% of Americans support expanding wind power, and a whopping 89% are in favour of more solar
- Similar numbers (79%) support renewables in the UK
We don’t need a sea change in public opinion: we need to stop talking about polar bears.
This is a chapter about expanding the conversation to those who walk the other way when there’s talk of polar bears and planting trees. We’ll meet a former denier turned climate communicator with some advice for converting sceptics, learn why talking to your friend Colin in the pub is among the most important climate actions you can take, and why you should never, ever, use a snowball as part of a mic drop.
Instead of bedraggled bears, we’re going to talk about the science of solutions and the benefits a greener world will bring – beginning with our power supply.