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.
Sport analogies may be clichés, but the greatest comeback in history does show us how to attack the climate challenge.
You’d have to live under a rock not to know what happened on the San Francisco Bay these past few weeks. In what some are calling the greatest comeback in the history of international sport, Oracle Team USA defied overwhelming odds, learned how to win and ultimately sailed away from Emirates Team New Zealand with the 34th America’s Cup.
Oracle’s owner, billionaire Larry Ellison, said afterward, “This regatta has changed sailing forever.”
That’s an understatement. For the first time, the America’s Cup—a play thing for the super rich and a footnote on the sports page—became something else.
A tiny nation vs. a superpower’s corporate wealth, grace under pressure vs. over-the-top bravado, ingenuity vs. impossible odds; thrills and chills at
the extreme edge; call it what you will, the series captured the imagination of sailors and non-sailors around the world.
The outcome isn’t what counts in the end. It’s what the process proves about us.
Tom Bowman talks with science educators Tamara Ledley and Mark McCaffrey about the grassroots Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network.
“How Are Educators Improving Climate Literacy?”
Sometimes you have to look differently to see the obvious.
I’ve always been a little bit perplexed when well-intentioned friends act as though solving the climate change challenge is someone else’s problem. I don’t dispute that governments and businesses need to reduce carbon emissions. Unfortunately, they are dragging their feet.
Another simple piece of arithmetic that says that each of us has a role to play because the average American generates more than twice the carbon emissions of the average citizen of China. We’re not the dirtiest citizens in the world, but we’re very far from being the cleanest.
Which means that if the developing world is going to continue developing, Americans are going to have to find ways to reduce—even eliminate—greenhouse gas emissions very, very rapidly.
While this sounds like bad news to many people, I don’t think it is.
I say this because I conducted a simple experiment with my small company and found that we could eliminate two-thirds of our annual carbon emissions by taking extraordinarily simple steps. Our steps have saved the company money year after year without any sacrifice productivity or quality of life.
We discovered that a tremendous amount of waste is built into the ways we use energy. Eliminating the waste is easy and cost-effective.
The fact that my small business wins awards for being a pioneer means this fairly obvious reality is one of our nation’s best-kept secrets.
Tom Bowman talks with economist Chris Hope and oceanographer Peter Wadhams about how rapid changes in the Arctic could have devastating impacts on the rest of the world.
“Climate Change: Is the Unthinkable Now Possible?”
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.