There are many ways we can help people to understand how human activities are directly related to rising global temperatures. Research studies can offer numerous suggestions, but, as a general rule, research is really hard to read — not written in a way that is meaningful to a lay audience. Let’s boil down some recent research into anthropogenic climate change; by drawing upon what scholars have determined, we can learn more about communicating important climate information to others.
“When informed about climate change causes, impacts, and solutions, most people in the US will update their own climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, and policy support.” — Thinking and Reasoning, July, 2022
The most significant cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation. Of these factors, transportation in the form of cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes emits the largest percentage of CO2 — speeding up global warming and remains a significant cause of climate change. Extreme weather is an impact of climate change and includes stronger storms and hurricanes, heatwaves, wildfires, more flooding, and longer droughts. Some practical ways that climate change can be mitigated include halting the use of fossil fuels, electrifying everything, stopping deforestation, adopting a plant based diet, and eliminating plastic purchases whenever possible.
“This new ‘adaptive frame’ focuses on adapting to climate change impacts without cueing deeply held beliefs by discussing causes.” — Communication Research, May, 2022
In order to help others “without cueing deeply help beliefs by discussing causes,” we would focus on “adapting to climate change impacts.” Adapting to life in a changing climate requires adjustment to a current or expected future climate. That involves reducing risks from the harmful effects of climate change like sea level rise, more intense extreme weather events, or food insecurity. It means identifying potential beneficial opportunities associated with climate change such growing different crops, building flood defenses, planning for heat waves and higher temperatures, installing better draining pavements to deal with floods and stormwater, and improving water storage and use.
“The recommendation from this research would be to use ‘positive reinforcement + ethos’ as an incentive to motivate the general population…” — Sustainability, May, 2022
Ethos is an ethical appeal to right and wrong and builds authority with an audience by offering reliability, honesty, and credibility. Celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Fonda, Greta Thunberg, Mark Ruffalo, and Prince Harry are some of the most outspoken advocates of climate change who are constantly using their status and reach to support climate actions, combat the issues of climate change, and improve the planet’s status for future use. Moreover, when elite conservative leaders cue their rhetoric toward adopting more climate-friendly stances for the good of their citizens, their supporters tend to follow the lead.
“Videos about the reality and risks of climate change to people … designed to appeal to Republicans … were targeted to this audience via online advertisements. The study finds that, within the targeted congressional districts, the campaign increased Republicans’ understanding of the existence, causes, and harms of climate change by several percentage points.” — Nature Climate Change, June, 2021
We are a visual information society in the 21st century. Visual literacy involves awareness of and reflection on what we experience when we view images, video, and other forms of multimedia. New Climate Voices, a group of conservatives advocating for climate action on Facebook and YouTube, has increased Republicans’ understanding of climate change through significant use of video narratives.
“Participants were presented with four principles which explain how individual actions can have aggregate effects at the collective level: social norms, consumer pressure, political pressure, and snowball effects… revealed promising effects of the intervention in terms of individual efficacy and pro-environmental intentions.” — Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, November, 2021
Yes, Big Oil is the greatest culprit of climate change. Yet each of us can help limit global warming and take care of our planet, which can persuade legislators to support renewable energy. By taking individual actions that have less harmful effects on the environment, we can be part of the solution and influence change. Here are a few of the many organizations that help individuals take climate action:
- ActNow is the United Nations campaign for individual action on climate change and sustainability.
- 350.org is building a global grassroots movement to take on the entire fossil fuel industry.
- The YEARS project is led by a group of journalists, strategists, filmmakers, artists and social media experts who are committed to using their skills to lift up and support the work of others in the movement. By joining, individuals receive weekly editions of an action toolkit for the climate movement.
- The Citizens Climate Lobby empowers everyday people to work together on climate policy.
- The Climate Reality Movement is catalyzing a global solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity across every sector of society.
“Finding routes to inspire political conservatives’ support for climate change mitigation is crucial in the United States. These results suggest that the private sector initiatives may be a way to bolster support for climate action across the U.S. political spectrum.” — Energy Research and Social Science, March, 2021
The private sector has an enormous role in providing solutions to climate change. In fact, projects financed by blended finance programs are on track to achieve emission reductions of over 18 million tons of carbon each year. This is roughly equivalent to 5.5 million cars off the road every year. US climate envoy John Kerry has stated that the private sector has the ability to find solutions to climate change by funding the trillions needed for a global clean energy transition. Kerry points to methods such as battery storage, direct air carbon capture, and solar and wind technology to provide extraordinary amounts of energy to countries across the world.
Final Thoughts about Research & Rising Global Temperatures
According to an ongoing temperature analysis led by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature on Earth has increased by at least 1.1° Celsius (1.9° Fahrenheit) since 1880. The majority of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15 to 0.20°C per decade.
The easiest route for climate activists to convey this information is to drill down and rely on repetition to emphasize how meaningful improvements for working people will increase exponentially with the transition to renewable energy. Yet cognitive linguist George Lakoff argues that it’s important to reframe environment issues on the climate message front. Such reframing means we need to constantly revisit and reinvent methods to help everyone in the world to understand the existential crisis we face through rising global temperatures.
To do so well requires a foundation of tested scientific research. It takes close reading to cull out what’s important to share with everyday audiences from such academic resources. It’s really important that we take the time to comprehend peer-reviewed climate research so we have the most precise and efficient understanding of climate messaging and persuasion.
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