Communicating Climate Change
Last Updated on September 18, 2020 by Marc-Antoni
Katharine Hayhoe: The Most Important Thing You Can Do
Spread the Word
Atmospheric scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe shares with us the importance of discussing climate change. Unfortunately, it is nowhere near getting the attention it deserves, and part of the reason for that is political bias. There are of course other explanations.
Media’s failure to cover climate change is pretty significant (The New Republic). As is the might of fossil fuel industry dollars (see Deception Dealers). But there are other aspects to consider as well. Including human psychology (see In Denial). Luckily, this is something we can overcome, and Dr. Hayhoe shares her lessons learned from years of discussing climate change.
Tearing Down Walls
Despite the grave threat to humanity and indeed all life on earth, the urgency of the message simply isn’t getting through. It certainly indicates that there are forces at work to keep the conversations from happening (see Citizen Koch).
In fact, there is substantial evidence that the oil industry has been aware of its impact on climate for decades (#ExxonKnew). It’s clear that those who are benefiting from the status quo will do what they can to divert the attention away from climate change.
The influence of the fossil fuel lobby is certainly worth deep consideration. In her TED Talk however, Dr. Hayhoe has decided to focus on another element. The resistance to scientific data.
Rather, she highlights the existence of physiological tribalism and its effect on what we are willing to accept as truth. That is essential what her talk is about. The need to break down these tribal walls, and learn how to connect and communicate with others, based upon our common values.
Connecting the Dots
This is something that comes from motivation and experience. The desire to learn from and understand, the person with who we’re speaking, and discovering what their values are. It’s been said many times before. We must know our audience when we chose to speak before others. This is particularly relevant in terms of climate change conversations. Dr. Hayhoe emphasizes the need to speak from the heart and try to connect with the listener on an emotional level.
Might sound counter-intuitive coming from a scientist, but as she explains, simply offering the facts and data doesn’t appear to connect with a vast majority of people. Instead, she recommends empathy. What do you know about the people you want to speak with. What are their concerns? Once you learn this, you can try to connect the dots for them. Offer them a path to better understand the impacts of climate change.
Dr. Hayhoe wraps up her talk with a message of optimism. She is keenly aware of the data, and has no false illusions about the impeding threat to our planet. The science is undeniable. However, to tackle the challenge collectively, we need to have hope for a better world.
As Dr. Hayhoe explains, we need to envision a fossil free world, one that can meet all our needs, sustainably and equitably. In that regard, there are already a lot of people out there working to help make that happen. Be inspired by them. Find your spark and share it with the world.