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Monday, November 8, 2010

Global Warming: The Frameworks Institute on Why the Deniers are Winning the Argument

Why are the Deniers of global warming winning the battle, while those who think that we have to take steps to save the earth (the Believers) are in retreat? One reason is that the Believers don't know how to tell the story of global warming in a way that wins the hearts and minds ordinary people.
They are using the wrong people to spread the wrong message in the wrong way, and are getting their butts kicked as a result. And until they learn how to do it properly, the Deniers will continue to run rings around them, especially in the USA.
David Suzuki
What are the Believers doing that is wrong, and can they change their ways and start winning the discussion of the issue of climate change?
What do we mean when we say "win"? One test is whether the Believers can convince tens of millions of people around the world to participate in steps to reduce their own and their community's carbon footprint.
The Foundation of David Suzuki, one of our Heroes in the fight against global warming, asked the Frameworks Institute to do some research in Canada to find out what the Believers were doing that wasn't working, and what changes were needed to win over tens  of millions of ordinary people. The report by Susan Nall Bales spells out some of the critical mistakes the Believers are making, and suggests what must be done to change things.
Anybody concerned about the impact of global warming on our earth would do well to read that report by Susan, and to think about how to apply the recommendations made by Frameworks to their own groups. There is a lot of good red meat in that report – the research methods used seem sound, and the recommendations are very practical.
Susan Nall Bales
But also very far reaching.
One thing is clear from the Frameworks 2007 report: for Believers to continue doing business as usual means the Deniers will continue to block progress towards the effective and timely reduction of global warming.
Frameworks used in-depth interviews with individuals, focus groups, talkback-testing, and a survey to examine what Canadians knew about global warming, and how best to communicate with ordinary people about climate change.
They found that:
There are holes in the public’s understanding of global warming that prohibit this compelling issue from moving higher on the public “to do” list. And ... habits of presentation associated with global warming further impede its evolution on the public agenda.
The message is clear: there is a need to "break the frame" which people use to think about global warming, and to make drastic changes in the values used in discussions with ordinary people, the tone used, and in the messengers used.
 Frameworks also recommend dispensing with the "global warming is a crisis" frame and using instead an artful new one – the "heat trapping blanket" model.

Some of their interesting recommendations – in point form – follow (dive into their report and Susan's article for the fascinating details of these matters):
• Do not invoke the Crisis Frame
• Start with the value of Innovation and Canada Can Do
• Explain how global warming works, using the Heat Trapping Blanket model
• Introduce solutions at the top of the communication
• Adopt a tone of practical problem-solving
• Don’t spend time on a list of effects
• Don’t express the timeline for global warming beyond recorded history
• State a role that Canada can play; don’t stress global consensus needed for meaningful
impact
• Pair messengers and values strategically, playing to their expertise and their power as
unlikely allies
• Invite ordinary people into the discussion, and certify that Canadians are solidly behind
addressing this issue, and
• Point to progress being made by other countries and political actors who have
demonstrated leadership.
Some of their findings jolted me. Talking about greenhouse gases is not effective; talking about the heat trapping blanket is far more effective.
Talking about the crisis makes people lose hope; talking about innovation to solve the problem inspires people to action.
The effectiveness of the messenger you use depends a lot on the values the messenger uses in the presentation – examples are given of the best messengers and best matching values – a great example of horses for courses!
One thing is clear: this study deserves to become the eco-bible of Believers if they hope to save the earth.
And we are very pleased that our hero in Obelisk Seven – Nick – in his quest to do something about the global warming threat, came up with many innovative solutions which meet many of the tests in the Framework report recommendations!
Way to go, Nick!

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