When it comes to communication and engagement, every issue has its own unique set of opportunities and obstacles.
Communicating Climate Change
Most Americans can explain the ozone hole problem. Not so for global warming, despite decades of news coverage that uses the simplifying idea of a “greenhouse effect.” Most people don’t have direct experience with greenhouses and even if they do, the model doesn’t help frame people’s understanding in a way that pushes them to think about the kinds of policies advocates would want. Without an understanding of what causes climate change, the public has been vulnerable to confusion and inaction.
Giving people an appropriate “Simplifying Model” makes people smarter about the issue. For instance, people can think about climate change with the metaphor of a Carbon Dioxide blanket. Suddenly it makes sense that as humans make the blanket thicker by adding CO2, the earth becomes uncomfortably warm. It also makes sense that taking away CO2 thins the blanket and diminishes the problem. This kind of basic conceptual foundation enables people to interpret the information and arguments that advocates have been trying to convey.
Our recent work on communicating about climate change has been done in partnership with many of the most active advocacy groups including the Environmental Defense Fund, Earthjustice, Greenpeace, 350.org, Sierra Club, Ocean Conservancy and others.