Tom Bowman talks with glaciologist Richard Alley about a new report on abrupt climate change.
“How Could Our World Change Suddenly?”
Tom Bowman talks with the director of Climate Resolve about greening America’s second largest city.
“How Can LA Become a Model for Global Action?”
The doors opened for new ways to engage the public on the climate issue.
This has been a year for new opportunities. The overwhelming evidence that our climate is changing quickly seemed to hit home everywhere. According to Jon Krosnick’s research, majorities in every state are now convinced they are witnessing some of those changes first hand.
Yale’s Anthony Leiserowitz notes that people’s first-hand experience with extreme weather seems to be driving increased concern.
While our national leadership remains hogtied, rising public awareness seems to be paving the way for local and regional action.
This suggests that the time has finally come to pivot away from the senseless debate about the reality of human caused climate change. If nothing else, the IPCC’s latest climate science assessment effectively shut the door on the reality question.
Let’s recognize that we are falling short of our goal.
The time has come to fix a problem with the hard line drawn by the science and science education communities’ between climate science education and policy advocacy.
The trouble lies not in preserving the integrity of the scientific enterprise from political manipulation. Rather, it lies in our collective acceptance that advocacy picks up where science leaves off. This false choice blinds us to a crucial missing step in public education that should be addressed with the same rigor shown for climate science.
That step involves “solutions literacy.”
Sometimes climate engagement happens where you least expect it.
You can’t expect everybody to seek out the science behind the climate change headlines. Meeting folks exactly where they are—both physically and psychologically—is savvy communication practice 101. It can be the best way to raise awareness and get a message across.
Taking climate science to the streets is a critical step in bringing helpful information out of museums, aquariums and classrooms and into everyday life.
That’s the premise behind a campaign funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation to a group of educators and researchers, along with their communications team, including me.
The goal is to engage people as they travel through the city. Some 500,000 Boston T subway riders will see cards inside their subway cars and posters on their station platforms over the course of the twelve-month campaign.
From a psychological perspective, the first crucial step is always to find ways to be engaging. Complex science lessons or scary headlines are simply non-starters. But art is often a mirror that reflects our foibles, as well as our most noble attributes, our fears as well as our aspirations.
Tom Bowman talks with design educator Joel Towers about interrupting some of our most troubling assumptions.
“How Can We Design a Better Climate Future?”
Tom Bowman talks with meteorologist Eric Holthaus about his sudden awakening to urgent action.
“What Triggers A Climate Epiphany?”
When scientists are certain, what’s the next challenge for the public?
The debate over whether humans are causing climate change is over.
In late September, the international body of scientists and governments that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007—the IPCC—put it this way: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
“Dominant cause” is pretty straightforward, but the term “extremely likely” isn’t. In IPCC lingo, “extremely likely” means a greater than 95% probability that the statement is correct.
“Extremely likely” is one step down from absolute certainty, and it means that the quantity and quality of the evidence has reached an extraordinarily high standard. The world’s experts are telling us that global warming is “unequivocal” and that there is virtually no doubt as to the cause.
So, what does this mean for the future of the climate debate?
We may already be seeing a glimpse of what comes next. The public focus on personal experience is shifting attitudes. Recent reports from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication show more than 70% of Americans in California, Colorado, Ohio and Texas believing that global warming is happening.
Witnessing extreme storms, drought, intense and frequent wildfires, heat waves and dramatic flooding changes minds. But Americans are still divided in their beliefs about the cause. This is why the new IPCC statement on causality is so meaningful.
The record-breaking damage and costs of “outlier” events are becoming our new normal. Once labeled “extreme risks,” these extremes are becoming familiar experiences, if not annual expectations.
With this new normal comes our next big challenge: understanding what the word “risk” really means.
Tom Bowman is a social entrepreneur and small business owner who has walked the talk on carbon emissions and earned the respect of climate change experts from many disciplines.