Futures Forum: Climate change: "Conservatives don’t hate climate science. They hate the left’s climate solutions"
But it does seem that your political outlook determines your attitude to climate change:
Futures Forum: Climate change: perceptions and solutions: a summary
The debate needs to be 'framed' in such a way as to depoliticize it:
Futures Forum: Climate change: the language of framing... "Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change"
Here is Jonathan Freedland writing as part of the Guardian's new series on climate change:
Climate activism is doomed if it remains a left-only issue
Faced with collective catatonia, environmentalists need to learn from successful political campaigns
In all those sci-fi horror stories foretelling the end of the world, the imagined reaction was never boredom. Panic and hysteria, yes. Sex with strangers, most certainly. We could picture all that at the moment doomsday loomed. But inertia, inattention and a shrugging desire to turn over to the other channel – well, HG Wells never foresaw that.
Yet that is the collective reaction of our species to the warnings that we are frying our planet. People barely discuss climate change. Research shows that most have never mentioned it outside their immediate family; one in three have never talked about it at all. When asked to list the issues that matter most, voters put global warming at or near the bottom of the league – and that’s only if prompted. Most wouldn’t even think of it. Faced with a climate catastrophe, our response is catatonia.
When candid, news editors and TV producers admit they presume their audience files climate change under “worthy but dull”. They know they should care, but they struggle. It’s this torpor thatthose marching in London on Saturday are trying to break through – and which the Guardian is trying to puncture with its new series today.
But it is an uphill struggle. For the media, climate change is Kryptonite. It fails to tick almost every one of the boxes that defines a story. For one thing, it’s not new: it’s a perennial part of the background noise of 21st-century life. If John F Kennedy had two in-trays on his desk, one marked “urgent,” the other “important”, climate change falls into what the media regard as the wrong category. It’s important but doesn’t feel urgent.
It lacks a hard deadline: there’s a Paris summit in December but there have been summits before. The climate crisis lacks a specific location. What places there are – those that will be hit first by, say, rising water levels – are far away. It’s long on technical details, stats and numbers, and short on human narrative – it lacks a clearly defined, single villain. Above all, it’s a bit of a downer. Plenty of news is depressing – Isis, child abuse, austerity – but a world rendered uninhabitable to human beings? Faced with that, who wouldn’t rather talk about the boy who turned up at school dressed as Christian Grey?
True, the press don’t do much to challenge this, but the cast of mind goes far beyond journalists. Cognitive psychologists speak of “loss aversion”: when presented with a choice between a relatively small sacrifice now and an uncertain but larger loss a generation from now, human beings rarely make the apparently obvious and rational move, to make the sacrifice. Add to that our “optimism bias”: the tendency to assume that all will be well in the end – that “they” will think of some whizzy technical fix to keep the world’s temperature stable, and humanity will dodge the bullet.
What makes all this harder is not only the absence of a villain, but the fact that the most obvious culprit is us. As George Marshall, author of Don’t Even Think About It: Why our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, puts it: “There is no outsider to blame. We are just living our lives – driving the kids to school, heating our homes, putting food on the table.”
That can induce a sentiment terminal to any campaign: fatalism. If nothing less than total transformation is required, then we might as well give up. Climate catastrophe soon occupies the same psychological space we reserve for death itself: an awful, inevitable fact of life that we shove to the margins, where we won’t have to contemplate it. In the words of one cognitive theorist, “A psychologist could barely dream up a better scenario for paralysis.”
If this is the mountain in humanity’s way, how can we hope to get around it? First, campaigners have to present their case as a simple, compelling story that everyone can understand. This argument, like any political argument, won’t be won with data and graphs but with a narrative. It has to address our hearts, not our heads.
The appeal of the phrase that animates the Guardian’s campaign – “Keep it in the ground” – is that it is simple and intelligible. We can’t burn the coal, oil and gas that’s in the ground without torching our precious planet, so let’s keep it in the ground. But that’s only a start.
Next, the case for the climate has to be at least as much about remedy as diagnosis. If climate campaigners are heard as constant purveyors of gloom, they won’t be heeded. Even the medieval preachers forever reminding their flocks death was coming tempered the message with the promise of salvation. In this regard Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, is a good example of how it should be done, offering a solution to every problem.
But that still leaves what may be the largest political challenge. Right now, climate change has become an issue of the left. One look at the speakers lined up for today’s London rally confirms it: trade union leaders, the Labour MP John McDonnell and Russell Brand. In the US, climate scepticism has become one of the defining traits of the right, a more reliable marker even than attitudes to abortion or gun control.
This is a disaster. If the threat to our planet is a preoccupation confined to only one half of the political spectrum, meaningful action will never come. This has to be the cause of all humanity. That means a new, additional climate case has to be made, one that will appeal to the right – and come from the right. That’s hardly an impossibility. Who was the first world leader to dedicate a speech to climate change, but Margaret Thatcher in 1989? Angela Merkel is as sound as any left politician on the subject. Had John McCain beaten Barack Obama in 2008, the US would still have had a president who understands the climate crisis.
A climate campaign of the right would appeal to values and identity over data. It might, says Marshall, use the vocabulary of “pollution”, and frame climate change as a matter of inter-generational debt: yet another burden we are unjustly passing on to our children and grandchildren. It would talk less of protecting the abstract global “environment” and more of conserving the visible, local “landscape”.
Some greens would experience this as a painful compromise. But it is unavoidable. The alternative is a noisy chapel where the preacher stirs the converted – while outside there is only the rustling silence of a world that would rather look the other way.
Climate activism is doomed if it remains a left-only issue | Jonathan Freedland | Comment is free | The Guardian