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Monday, November 8, 2010

Global Warming: The Social Capital Project on Why Deniers are Winning the Argument

Cara Pike of Social Capital Project
What do you do if public opinion shifts from concern about global warming, even if you believe that the earth is facing a crisis from climate change which endangers our civilization?
Clara Pike was asked this question: What are the best themes, frames and messages that can help promote climate policies and programs during such uncertain political times?
Cara Pike is a reframer, who wants to change behavior and fill gaps in understanding. She is a founder and director of the Social Capital Project:
We’re rethinking what it means to be “green.” ...  Our global warming research offers new insights on how to reframe the issue to promote behavior change and fill the gaps in the public’s understanding of global warming and its impacts.
The Social Capital Project has produced some of the largest studies on Americans and their attitudes toward the environment.
With public opinion showing significant drops in concern about global warming compared to 2008, she believes there is a need to better anticipate efforts to undermine climate science and policies, as  there are systematic efforts to discredit climate change legislation.
She writes that:
Most Americans fail to see global warming as an urgent issue that impacts their lives in the near term. Similarly, there is a growing insistence among Americans that other countries need to take actions equivalent to what the United States is willing to do.
The challenge is to get people to change, and this needs three things – having a sense of tension, results and benefits.
The need for tension means that people need to see global warming as more relevant and more immediate to their own lives.
Need for solutions now - People need to see that global warming can be fought, or they will wash their hands and step away from the problem. To do this, the emphasis must be on solutions that can be used (by individuals or governments), and used now (because most Americans see global warming as a long-term challenge, not today's.
President Obama
Big payoff - If you want people to change behaviors, they need to see a 2-to-1 benefit compared to downsides if they act, and any messages to them need to show tangible improvements in their lives. If you promise green jobs, the promise must be very specific and tangible.
She touches on the need to fill information gaps; the use of energy and economic frames with a vision of prosperity from a carbon-free economy; investments and incentives to drive behavior; decide how to disarm misinformation campaigns; leverage national security concerns by reducing dependence on foreign oil; and how to engage people at a younger age and to move them through higher levels of engagement, with an emphasis on how individuals can make a difference.
You will note some similarities with the recommendations of the Frameworks Institute.
President Obama, having seen the Democrat majority in the House of Representatives disappear, changed tack slightly and seemed to talk less about fighting global warming and more about America gaining energy independence – which is in line with the views of the Social Capital Project.

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