Don’t Focus On The Problem Of Climate Change, Focus On The Solution
In a recent article on Guardian Sustainable Business Adam Corner laments that, in highlighting the uncertainties associated with climate modelling, climate scientists are hindering action on climate change. As he notes: “For fans of probability, confidence intervals and margins of error, climate change is a dream come true. For everyone else, the fact that uncertainty (inherent in any complex area of science) has gradually become one of climate change’s defining features is a constant headache. Because uncertainty – real or manufactured – is a well-rehearsed reason for inaction.”
Guilty as charged, your honour. In earlier careers in medical research and financial services I whiled away many a happy hour with means and modes, standard deviations and probabilities. I also embraced the “give ‘em enough facts and figures and people will jump on the climate action bandwagon” approach to changing hearts and minds. No prizes for guessing how that worked out.
Corner cites a paper by Antony Patt and Elke Weber which argues that “our tendency to prioritise daily personal experiences over statistical learning, and our existing political views have a far greater influence on people’s views about climate change than the error bars on scientists’ graphs.”
More intriguingly, Patt and Weber suggest that when people are inspired by solutions to climate change they are less likely to be concerned with any uncertainties surrounding the science.
So how do you inspire people and get them excited by the solutions to climate change? Particularly when, as I’ve observed before, a “green” message doesn’t help to sell products? Just stand in their shoes for a moment, because the What’s In It For Me approach is usually a pretty good place to start.
Tell them that if they put solar panels on their roofs they can produce electricity at a lower cost than buying if from a power company. Explain how wind power is a cheaper form of generation than new coal power stations. Enthuse about the lower running costs and astounding performance of electric cars or hybrids. Point out that an energy-efficient home doesn’t just have lower heating and cooling costs but is also healthier and more comfortable to live in. Talk about how plastic planks made from recycled printer cartridges or shopping bags last far longer and work out much cheaper than timber.
It’s a classic “win-win”. Climate activists get their lowering in carbon emissions and consumers gain a financial or status or health benefit. And for the consumer, “climate change” doesn’t even need to be mentioned.