Communicating with the Public about Climate Change: Understanding Global Warming s Six Americas

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1 Communicating with the Public about Climate Change: Understanding Global Warming s Six Americas Ohio Sea Grant Webinar November 8, 2012 Teresa Myers, PhD

2 Identify your Audience

3 Meet Global Warming s Six Americas The size of the bubbles shows the proportion of Americans that belonged to each group in the summer of Source: Yale & George Mason, June, 2011

4 Don t differ much in demographically (age, sex, race, or income)

5 Don t differ much in demographically (age, sex, race, or income) But have very different beliefs about global warming

6 The Six Americas differ dramatically on four key beliefs that are associated with important communication outcomes KEY BELIEFS: 1. IT S REAL 2. IT S HUMAN CAUSED 3. IT S BAD FOR PEOPLE 4. IT S SOLVABLE OUTCOMES: A. BELIEF THAT VARIOUS SOCIETAL ACTORS SHOULD DO MORE TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE B. SUPPORT FOR VARIOUS CLIMATE POLICIES Source: Ding, Maibach et al (2011) Support for climate policy and societal action are linked to perceptions about scientific agreement. Nature Climate Change, DOI:10:1038/NCLIMATE1295

7 1. IT S REAL: Do you think global warming is happening? How certain are you? Source: Yale & George Mason, June, 2009

8 2. IT S HUMAN CAUSED: What s causing global warming? Human activities ( ) Both (vol.) Natural changes in the environment None of the above because global warming isn t happening Don't know/other Dismissive (11%) Cautious (23%) Source: Yale & George Mason, July 2010

9 3. IT S BAD FOR PEOPLE: When do you think global warming will start to harm people in the U.S.? Source: Yale & George Mason, June, 2009

10 4. IT S SOLVABLE: Which of the following comes closest to your view? Humans could reduce global warming, but it s unclear if we will Humans can reduce global warming, and we will Fall 2008 Source: Yale & George Mason, June, 2009

11 Recommended Objectives

12 What should be our communication objective with each of these audiences? Activate Us. We are ready to take action, but don t know what to do.

13 Activate the Alarmed as Citizens Source: Yale & George Mason, June, 2009

14 Activate the Concerned as Consumers Source: Yale & George Mason, June, 2009

15 What should be our communication objective with each of these audiences? Activate Us. We are ready to take action, but don t know what to do. Show us (climate change). Make it emotional and experiential (not analytical). And make it local, not global.

16

17

18 If climate change continues as predicted, corn and soybean yields in Great Lake states like Ohio and Indiana could decrease 20-30% by 2049 and 40-80% by Impacts to Ohio Increased precipitation and temperature could change what types of trees grow in the Great Lakes region, potentially causing great losses to these states timber industries. Source: Investigating the Impacts of Climate Change on Ohio Agriculture and Forests, By Christina Dierkes

19 What should be our communication objective with each of these audiences? Activate Us. We are ready to take action, but don t know what to do. Don t make me mad! Show us (climate change). Make it experiential (not analytical). And make it local, not global.

20 Advice for Talking with People who are Dismissive in a Public Forum When speaking to a group & a skeptic myths is brought up He or She is unlikely to be persuaded by the evidence. Others, however, will hear how you respond. Read the following for a useful summary of refutations to eight common skeptical arguments: Raymond L. Orbach (Nov. 2011). Our sustainable earth. Reports on Progress in Physics, v. 74 (11). Be respectful, brief, and avoid getting into a prolonged discussion offer to discuss more post event if necessary.

21 Identify your Key Messages (and Messengers)

22 Message #1: Expert consensus More than 95% of the experts are convinced that climate change is real and human caused To Scientists: Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures? Source: Doran & Zimmerman (2009). Examining the scientific consensus on climate change, Eos 90: 3

23

24 Perception of Expert Consensus Influences Beliefs I believe: I understand the experts have reached consensus + It s real Human caused Bad for people Solvable + I support: Climate policies More action on everyone s part In May 2011: Only 39% of American adults believed Most scientists think global warming is happening And only 13% believed % of climate scientists think global warming is happening. Source: Ding, Maibach et al (2011) Support for climate policy and societal action are linked to perceptions about scientific agreement. Nature Climate Change, DOI:10:1038/NCLIMATE1295

25 Message #2: Public health risk & benefits Climate change is bad for people too. We need to convince the world that humanity really is the most important species endangered by climate change. Margaret Chan, MD, Director-General, World Health Organization Climate change is one of the most serious public health threats facing our nation. Yet few Americans are aware of the very real consequences of climate change on the health of our communities, our families and our children. Georges Benjamin, MD, Executive Director American Public Health Association

26

27

28 Instead of this

29 Instead of this We get this

30 Message #3: Our weather is getting worse, and climate change is the reason Source: Yale & George Mason, June, 20012

31

32 Messengers: America s weathercasters can use extreme weather events to help viewers understand the abstraction of climate change in a concrete and personally experienced manner.

33 All 4C reports can be downloaded at: Climatechangecommunication.org

34 Teresa Myers Edward W. Maibach Connie Roser-Renouf George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication Anthony Leiserowitz Yale Project on Climate Change Communication Many thanks to the generous funders who make this research possible, including the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, the Surdna Foundation, and the 11 th Hour Project.

35 Supplementary Slides The following slides show the demographic distribution among the Six Americas

36 Gender Distribution among the Six Americas Alarmed Concerned Cautious Disengaged Doubtful Dismissive Total Female 55% 56% 51% 69% 43% 43% 52% Male 45% 44% 49% 31% 57% 57% 48% Yale/George Mason, May 2011; n=1,010

37 Education Distribution among the Six Americas Alarmed Concerned Cautious Disengaged Doubtful Dismissive Total Bachelor's degree or 36% 31% 27% 12% 25% 36% 29% higher Some college 24% 32% 34% 26% 35% 29% 31% High school 30% 30% 29% 40% 30% 29% 31% Less than high school 9% 7% 9% 21% 10% 5% 10% Yale/George Mason, May 2011; n=1,010

38 Race/Ethnicity Distribution among the Six Americas Alarmed Concerned Cautious Disengaged Doubtful Dismissive Total 2+ Races, Non-Hispanic 2% 3% 2% 1% 2% 4% 2% Hispanic 14% 11% 11% 11% 7% 6% 10% Other, Non- Hispanic 4% 4% 5% 1% 2% 2% 3% Black, Non- Hispanic 9% 9% 12% 20% 7% 3% 10% White, Non- Hispanic 71% 73% 70% 66% 81% 86% 74% Yale/George Mason, May 2011; n=1,010

39 Age Distribution among the Six Americas Alarmed Concerned Cautious Disengaged Doubtful Dismissive Total 75+ 3% 4% 4% 6% 9% 6% 5% % 13% 9% 15% 17% 22% 14% % 23% 24% 26% 23% 21% 24% % 20% 17% 16% 18% 21% 19% % 16% 15% 16% 14% 13% 15% % 13% 15% 13% 9% 10% 12% % 12% 17% 9% 11% 6% 12% Yale/George Mason, May 2011; n=1,010

40 Myth Refutation Example Myth no. 4. There have been big climate changes in the past, such as the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period, so why can t recent climate changes just be explained by natural variability? Response: Those prior changes weren t simply random there were reasons for them that we understand. For example, the Medieval Warm Period was caused by an increase in solar radiation and a decrease in volcanic activity, both of which promoted warming. There were also shifts in ocean currents that brought more warm seawater into the North Pacific. We re not seeing any of those changes now to explain the current warming. The one thing that has changed is the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Orbach, 2011

41 Global Warming or Climate Change? Global warming: the increase in Earth s average surface temperature due to rising levels of greenhouse gases. Climate change: a long-term change in the Earth s climate, or of a region on Earth. Sample Total Alarmed (n = 113) Concerned (n = 220) Cautious (n = 126) Disengaged (n = 96) Doubtful (n = 83) Dismissive (n = 77) Global warming 18.00% 46.90% 26.40% 8.70% 5.20% 4.80% 2.60% Climate change 20.50% 14.20% 21.40% 26.20% 24.00% 16.90% 14.30% Global climate change 12.90% 20.40% 15.90% 14.30% 7.30% 8.40% 3.90% Other 8.30% 0.90% 0.90% 4.80% 4.20% 16.90% 41.60% No preference 40.20% 17.70% 35.50% 46.00% 59.40% 53.00% 37.70% Source: Akerlof & Maibach (2011) A rose by any other name?: What members of the general public prefer to call climate change. Climatic Change, DOI:106: /s

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