Update 1/18:This was probably one of the dumber posts I’ve written. I’ve been regretting it ever since I hit “publish,” but I’m going to leave it up anyway in order to take one more crack at explaining what I was trying to do. Here goes:
Climate change has dire consequences. It affects humans, ecosystems and economies in alarming ways. But there are some ways of describing the problem that simply don’t sound scary. One example of that is “trees are blooming earlier”—it sounds nice. I was trying to suggest that if you have a choice between talking about wearing sandals more often or about unhealthful heatwaves, maybe you should go with the heatwaves. I didn’t do a very good job of getting that across.
In any case, to go beyond my post, a huge amount of opinion research shows that talking about the consequences of climate change is ineffective. It paralyzes and overwhelms people. Instead, it’s better to talk about solutions.
Says a leading presidential candidate:*
As a result of climate change, glaciers are melting faster; the polar ice caps are shrinking; trees are blooming earlier; more people are dying in heat waves; species are migrating, and eventually many will become extinct. [my emphasis]
The trees are blooming earlier? Panic!
I mean, I spend most of my waking hours thinking about climate policy, but “the trees are blooming earlier” sounds about as alarming as Christmas being held twice a year, or bunnies getting fuzzier.
Whatever we do, we must stop the trees from blooming earlier!
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And look, before you jump all over me, I get the point: like many ecological systems, pollinators are being thrown off by climate change.The consequences are hugely important. But it also struck me as sort of unintentionally hilarious—and maybe not the canniest framing I’ve ever seen.
Am I wrong? Is this just further evidence that I should stick to research and keep my nose out of communications?
* I’m not saying who it is—you can figure it out easily enough—because I like much of this person’s policy substance. Anyway, I still have no idea who I’m voting for and we never endorse candidates.