This election season has been filled with reports showing the widening partisan divide in America. Opinion gaps are growing on topics such as poor and disadvantaged communities, the size of government, corporations, military, immigration or other key social issues. Climate change has been no stranger to partisanship. So, how does the topic of climate change fare in America today? Is the issue as divisive as people seem to think it is?
This month, ecoAmerica’s American Climate Perspectives Survey begins to answers these questions in the first of a two-part series called Climate as a Voting Issue. Here are a few key highlights from the survey:
Find, read and download the full report HERE.
And, return next month for Part 2 of the Climate as a Voting Issue series. In October, we will cover American awareness and attitudes on candidates’ climate stance, and whether or not they intend to vote for candidates that support climate change solutions.
And, for helpful guides on talking about climate change in your community, check ecoAmerica’s ongoing Talking Points series, where we make Starting The Conversation, discussing Clean Energy, connecting Climate and Caring for Our Children, and conversing about Climate in your Community easy and effective!
Everywhere we turn it seems we bump up against something political. The news we watch, the athletes we support and even the restaurants where we eat are all increasingly viewed through the lens of partisan politics. Climate change has been viewed similarly, but we have an opportunity to bridge the divide.
When it comes to trying to engage climate skeptics, too many scientists and advocates fall into the trap of debating the science — believing that just one more fact, one more chart, one more anecdote about the causes and consequences of climate change will persuade them. Alas, this approach falls short.
So for those who care about climate change, about creating happier and healthier communities, what is there to do?
Based on our research, we came up with 5 simple rules for climate advocacy in an era of intense political polarization. This guidance will help you feel more comfortable speaking to issues all Americans care about, while avoiding nasty debates that go nowhere.
1. Lead by Example: People are inspired when they see others taking action. Show them that climate action can come with a spectrum of benefits. Carpool, bike more often, or switch to hybrid or electric vehicles to decrease climate pollution while increasing health and dollars in the bank. There are a number of local, state, and federal programs that help lower the cost of all electric vehicles. Switch to clean energy. Weatherize. Vote. There are dozens of solutions that are accessible, affordable, and immediately beneficial.
2. Be Human, Relevant, Positive, Supportive, and Solutions Oriented: The goal of climate advocacy is to inspire others to take action. Connect with people personally, and highlight shared values and common ground. Inspire them to care by being positive, supportive, and solutions oriented. Listen as much as you speak.
3. Stick to the Basics: When it comes to climate advocacy — keep it simple and clear. We have everything we need to stop damaging the climate. Clean energy is cheaper and more available than ever. It creates good-paying jobs for Americans, saves money for families, and helps maintain cleaner, greener neighborhoods. These Clean Energy Talking Points are readily-usable, and Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans offers deeper guidance for message personalization.
4. Location Matters: When you’re talking about climate, start local. Talk about how climate and pollution affects family and friends, neighborhood, work environment, and community. People care about what affects them and their loved ones directly. Equally, if not more important, is to communicate the local benefits of solutions. Americans need to know that climate solutions benefit their health, strengthen their community, and can put more money in their pocket.
5. Offer Concrete Action to Solve the Problem: Know what you are asking for when you engage others. If you are discussing clean energy with your congregation, have a plan for action. If you’re discussing sustainable transportation, improving energy use, or water conservation with your neighbors, provide a resource that empowers them to take the action you are seeking.
The fact is, most of us are surrounded by opportunities to cut waste, save money, and benefit our communities in almost everything we do. Improving our lives and strengthening our communities — while also making a difference on climate change — is one of the few big things we can do accomplish in little steps everyday.
The more we talk about climate change with our friends, families, co-workers and communities, the more comfortable it becomes. To help you get started, ecoAmerica offers the latest research on how to talk to people about climate change, and what to do to be part of the solution. Check out these guides and start to lead on climate in your community: Climate Talking Points, Let’s Talk Climate: Messages to Motivate Americans, 15 Steps, and our Moving Forward Guide.
Throughout the country, Americans are noticing something different about the weather. The seasons feel warmer, wildfires seem worse, and floods and hurricanes are more severe.
But when they turn on the news or pick up their newspapers, there is little mention of climate change. There is talk of more intense wildfires coupled with historic droughts and dry conditions, but silence about why. Reporters discuss never-before-seen damage from hurricanes, freakish fire tornados, record breaking temperatures, and increasingly severe storms — but do not mention what is fueling them.
While the media fail to link our changing climate with extreme weather, scientists are quick to draw the connection. But how do Americans understand this relationship? Are they connecting the dots?
To find out, ecoAmerica surveyed a national sample of Americans to identify if and how they connect the weather outside their window to climate change. The following are highlights of the findings. The full report is HERE.
1. Americans who notice severe weather are more likely to attribute it to climate change.
These results were most pronounced when Americans experience heat waves (80%). A majority connected an increase in severity of wildfires (75%), floods (73%), hurricanes (69%) and tornados (66%) to climate change.
2. Women and Democrats are more likely than other groups to notice weather and correlate it to climate change.
For all of the five types of weather events included in the survey, noticing severe weather, and attributing it to climate change approached or were in majority levels. However, there were notable partisan and gender variations — with women and Democrats by far the most likely to notice more severe weather, and attribute it to a changing climate.
3. Americans see shared responsibility for preparing for extreme weather and climate change. While a majority of
Americans feel prepared for a changing climate and more extreme weather, only half are confident that their community is ready. Climate action is about communities — the health and safety of families and friends, and Americans think both local and national leaders bear responsibility.
4. There is a wide range of emotions about severe weather events.
People don’t just notice the effects of a changing climate, we experience emotional responses — especially when we hear about how climate is causing others their lives and livelihoods. While some Americans feel hopeless (11%) when they hear these stories, nearly twice as many feel motivated to help (20%).
While the media isn’t making the connection between extreme weather events and climate change, Americans are beginning to make that connection on their own. However, there is room to grow to help key constituencies make the connection, and this starts with communication.
For many, starting this conversation can be a difficult first step to take. To help, ecoAmerica’s Talking Points Series this month offers some quick, simple ways to get the conversation about Extreme Weather and Climate Change going, and to jumpstart climate action in your community.
Whether Americans are looking out their windows, or turning on the local news, we are increasingly confronted by severe weather events — unprecedented droughts, storms, floods and heatwaves are being seen and felt nationwide and around the world. The impact of this “new normal” is changing our lives. Destruction of property from ferocious weather, threats to health and safety, and increased costs to cool homes and workplaces are all realities now facing every American.
But for many, questions about the connection between climate change and extreme weather remain. Can we really attribute every weather event to climate change? Is there anything we can do?
While scientists are now able to more accurately make the connection between single extreme weather events and climate change, we don’t seem to be able to rely on our news to make this connection for the rest of us.
Communicating about the connection between a warming world and the weather should begin and end personally and locally, within communities, and with what Americans can see with their own eyes. It must be empowering and include positive, benefits-oriented actions we can all take to participate in the solution. These talking points will help!
Let’s not wait for a better time to have this conversation – now is that better time. With these talking points, you will be able to have productive conversations, and make the weather and climate connection, friends and family, colleagues, coworkers, and others in your community.
And, take a look at prior talking points to help you open the climate conversation, talk about clean energy, discuss the impacts on and the need for solutions for the sake of our children, and communicate with community, faith, and health professionals. Stay tuned for our next talking points, which will publish in October.
Within the climate community, one of the greatest areas of debate is the role of nuclear energy in the mix of climate solutions. Nuclear power already accounts for nearly 20% of America’s power supply, and there are growing voices of support for researching, developing, and building greater nuclear power capacity as part of a broader strategy for mitigating the causes of a changing climate. However, the topic is controversial.
Calls for growth are meeting stiff resistance. Questions about whether the risks of nuclear power outweigh the opportunities; whether it’s “clean” or “green”; or whether it is a necessity given the urgency of the climate challenge fill the debate.
It’s no wonder then that the public, too, has an uncertain perspective on whether nuclear energy, old or new, is a path that they support moving forward. To better understand where the American public stands on nuclear energy, ecoAmerica conducted our American Climate Perspective Survey in July, which sheds light on this issue:
The findings of the American Climate Perspective Survey show that concern about nuclear power readily exceeds support. What remains true is that there is robust and lasting support from across the aisle for renewable energy.
To learn more about the of results of the survey, view it HERE. And be sure to follow our Talking Points series, where we provide quick, simple, and effective tips and tricks about translating climate perspectives into climate action!
Americans’ attitudes on climate are changing, and the change is in a positive direction. To better understand how these views are evolving, and what that may mean, ecoAmerica has pulled together the most recent public opinion survey data from some of the country’s most prominent polling firms.
The data is encouraging. Americans are increasingly aware that climate change is having real, concrete impacts that affect their lives right now. They want to take action individually, in their neighborhoods, and across the nation — and there is growing support for a clean energy future from across the political spectrum. These are the key takeaways from the 2018 June American Climate Perspectives Mid-Year Summary:
The results are clear: the American public is feeling the effects of climate change, and ready to start taking action. But for many, that next step is the most difficult one — what is one to do about this global problem?
To help get started, ecoAmerica’s Talking Points Series lays the groundwork for climate action in your community. The first in the series, Opening the Discussion, is a helpful guide for reaching out to others in your community, and building local momentum for action. The subsequent topics in the series delve into more specific spheres, and include: Our Biggest Health Challenge; Clean Energy; and Caring for Our Climate and Our Children.
Together, we can make a real difference in advancing climate solutions. But we must start today. To dig into the full details of the report, click HERE, or have a look at ecoAmerica’s latest research — and become the best climate communicator in your community!
The discourse around a warming world often gets hung up on politics, but what Americans really care about — and want to hear about— are the challenges and opportunities that climate change has for their families and communities. Strip away the science, politics, and technology, and remaining are people, their families, how climate change impacts their health, wealth, and wellbeing, and how solutions can benefit all three.
As we move into summer, families will spend more time outdoors, and whether at the ballpark or a national park, being outdoors can provide profound benefits for a child’s physical and psychological health. However, a changing climate may present new and potentially harmful health consequences, which shouldn’t be taken lightly. While different people may have different opinions about the causes of climate change, we are seeing extreme weather impact our health, and that of our children, in multiple ways. And, every parent wants to do what’s best to keep their child as happy and healthy as possible.
But how does climate change specifically impact children? What can be done to address the health of our climate and the well-being of our children? And can our actions really make a difference?
To help navigate the sometimes tricky nexus between climate change and child health, ecoAmerica has dedicated our June 2018 Talking Points to Caring for Our Climate and Our Children.
Research shows that climate change disproportionately affects children, who are estimated to bear 88% of the burden of climate change-related diseases globally. Children living in low income families are exposed to greater levels of air pollution, community instability, and conflict. Fortunately, by acting now, we have the power to address climate change, and to protect the well-being of our children at the same time.
But we must start now. The climate that our children will learn, develop, and grow in is dependent on the actions we take today. In our April Talking Points, we explored how a clean energy future is well within our grasp. With smart investments in clean energy, Americans can create well-paying, stable jobs, decrease energy bills and put more money in their wallets. And, perhaps most importantly, we can leave our children and future generations an America where the air is clean and the water is safe, where families can have happy and healthy summers, now and for years to come. After all, caring for our climate is caring for our children.
Are Americans looking to leaders outside of the political arena for guidance on climate change? ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners set out to find this answer in the May 2018 American Climate Perspective Survey (ACPS). The ACPS found that there is increasing opportunity for faith leaders and health professionals to lend their leadership to climate.
And the good news is that both are taking up the mantle. In addition to American Public Health Association making 2017 the year of climate and health, other associations have increased their climate advocacy, including the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) who recently hosted Climate, Health, and Nursing: A Call to Action conference, bringing nurses together to discuss climate impacts on health and strategize protecting vulnerable communities. And, in addition to Pope Francis’ climate encyclical, Laudato Si, a diversity of faith leaders are elevating climate as a visible national issue. American Baptist Churches USA’s Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer recently announced its recommitment to care for God’s creation, including a call for clergy, congregations, and individual disciples to advocate for climate issues and solutions.
Despite all of this promising momentum, there is still work to do to fill the climate leadership gap. As the ACPS found, relatively few Americans are currently hearing information from faith or health leaders.
ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners found that Health professionals are the second most trusted messengers for information on climate change (62% nationally), just after scientists (70%), with a 5-point increase since 2015. But, unfortunately, only 20% of Americans report hearing about the climate from health professionals. As the report shows, Americans are increasingly feeling the impact of climate change on their health, and a majority are increasingly correlating climate solutions with the benefit of better health. All considered, the opportunity for health leadership on climate is simultaneously great and unfulfilled.
Hope in Faith
Although currently only 10% of Americans nationwide are hearing about climate change from faith leaders, four times as many people trust faith leaders as messengers on the topic. Nearly one in four (24%) Americans are talking about climate change at their place of worship already. As the report shows, the increase in both trust and climate conversation among people of faith is trending rapidly upward over the past few years. These results signal hope that faith leadership on climate is ascending with increasing growth potential.
The climate movement is faced with a profound opportunity to accelerate health and faith leadership on climate. Americans seek guidance, and their trust in health and faith leaders on climate is growing. As we move into election season, and as climate impacts accelerate, we must inspire and empower health and faith leaders to become more visible on solutions. Missing this opportunity misses the mark for ensuring a healthy, thriving, habitable world.
ecoAmerica is doing all we can to meet this challenge, offering the Climate for Health program for health institutions and professionals, and Blessed Tomorrow, empowering a coalition of faith denominations and leaders to take up the mantle on climate solutions.
Read additional findings on the opportunity for faith and health leadership on climate by downloading the May 2018 American Climate Perspectives Survey here.
A clean energy future is within our grasp. We can have locally-made energy from the wind and the sun that ensures our air is clean and our water is healthy. Communities across America are learning that smart investments in clean energy protect our health, attract new business, create jobs, and build stronger communities for our families. Hundreds of corporations have either committed to or are using 100% clean energy. The momentum for electric cars is gaining, with multiple car manufacturers in a race to compete for market share.
On top of this, Americans want clean energy. Just as Americans view clean air and water as a personal right, they may also start to view clean energy in the same light.
But, is transitioning to 100% clean energy possible? How do we get there? What are the costs, and what are the benefits? What is holding us back? These are the questions that are on Americans’ minds.
To help answer these questions, ecoAmerica has pulled together a handful of helpful resources, and is dedicating our April 2018 Talking Points to clean energy.
Because, despite the fact that oil and coal companies are trying to hold onto their power and profits, and doing what they can to slow the transition to clean energy, there are many in these industries that know the markets for these fuels are waning.
Clean energy is both possible and practical, and the pace at which we achieve 100% clean energy depends on us. The more we support clean energy (with our votes as well as our pocketbooks), the more available and cheaper it will become, and the faster the transition.
America has always been a yes-we-can kind of place. We led the way into space and onto cell phones and the internet. Today, the next big thing is clean energy: affordable, local, wind and solar power made here and now, all across America, in every state and territory in our great nation. Clean energy to power our lives at home and work, create high wage work in America, and free us from the outdated fuels that pollute our air and water and change our climate. America can lead again in the new energy future, with innovations that will fuel a cleaner, safer, and better world for our families. The choice is ours to make.
Note: Clean energy refers to wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass, and next-generation nuclear energies. ecoAmerica is mindful that all of these energies need to be pursued in ways that protect nature and the health and safety of humans, wildlife, and habitats.
Health professionals have always been on the front lines of caring for their patients and advocating for solutions to America’s most pressing public health concerns. Today, as climate change delivers record-breaking storms, droughts, and increased pollution, health leaders are stepping forward to lead.
If we can inspire and empower health professionals to lead on climate, we can reach every city and county in the nation with a new climate message, and new reasons to support solutions. We know that Americans are not very motivated when we speak about climate change using environmental jargon. And, it simply isn’t authentic or inspiring for health professionals to talk about GHGs or Market Based Mechanisms. But it IS both authentic and motivating for them to talk about air pollution, asthma, and the health benefits of solutions.
The health and wellbeing of our children, families and future generations is at stake. We can make a difference.
These talking points provide a starting point. Tailor and use them in your conversations and writing to build support for climate solutions.
1. I became a health professional because I care about health – the health of
everyone in our community. I want to heal people, but it’s also important to prevent
the causes of illness and injury.
2. Each breath we take should be a healthy one, and caring for ourselves means
caring for our climate. We can prevent further climate change and protect our health
– and that of future generations – at the same time.
3. Fossil fuels damage our climate and are dangerously unhealthy. We know these
dirty fuels pollute our air and water. And, the toxic pollution we’re adding to the
atmosphere is steadily building up to dangerous levels.
4. Some people are more vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change,
including children, the elderly, the sick, low-income, and some communities of
color. Our efforts to stop pollution help all of these groups live longer, healthier lives.
5. If we stop pollution from fossil fuels, we can slow climate change and improve
our health, now and for future generations. We reduce diseases and illness brought
on by pollution – and – we slow the rising temperatures that are changing weather
patterns and causing more intense storms and severe weather conditions, all of which
threaten our health.
6. It is up to us, as respected community leaders, to lead on climate and leave a
legacy of health. We can speak with authority on the climate and health connection,
and convey the myriad of health benefits of stopping climate pollution.
7. Of all the things we’d love to leave our children and future generations, a
healthy place for them to raise children of their own may be the most important.
Access the full guide here: Download
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope….”– A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens, 1859, p. 1)
Charles Dickens’ opening to A Tale of Two Cities seems uncannily relevant this January. It’s been a cold and dark month; it’s been warm and bright. It’s been rife with setbacks; it’s been filled with progress. Our darkest shadows have been revealed, our greatest potential uncovered. For those of us working in America to protect and heal our climate, the present period strains for comparison.
Rather than turn fatalistic – or rest on our laurels – it’s time to reset, apply learnings, and manifest new goals. It’s time to shift the storyline of climate change to solutions and success.
President Trump has been in office for just over one year, and according to ecoAmerica’s recent American Climate Perspectives Survey (Fery, Speiser, Lake, & Voss, 2018), some worrying signs are emerging. More than 1 in 3 Americans believe there’s nothing we can do to stop climate change – an 8 point increase (from 28% to 36%) from last year – and 1 in 4 believe the costs and sacrifices of solutions are too high, a 9 point increase (from 34% to 43%). Not only that, more Americans support oil and coal than a year ago – up by 5 points for oil (from 42% to 47%) and up 7 points for coal (from 30% to 37%).
We have experienced a series of setbacks in 2017, including opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, removing climate change as a national security threat, and more than 30 federal environmental policy rollbacks.
And all the while our climate is changing, fast. Last year was particularly tragic with climate change-exacerbated extreme weather – storms, floods, fires, droughts and freezes – that pummeled countries, states, cities, and people’s health, wealth, and wellbeing globally.
America is waking up to climate action. Local governments nationwide, along with major corporations and large institutions are pledging to honor the United States’ commitment to the Paris Agreement, despite the United States withdrawal. From We Are Still In, to America’s Pledge, Ready for 100, and others, many American leaders are committing to climate action.
Clean energy deployment is rapidly accelerating. Solar power was the largest contributor to new electricity generation last year, contributing 47% of the newly installed renewable power capacity. Wind power is accelerating just as fast, and together, wind and solar have gone from virtually nothing to 10% of America’s electricity supply according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The cost to produce solar energy has fallen below the cost to produce coal and gas, making solar the fiscally attractive option. Automobile manufacturers have begun competing for electric car market share. And China, the UK, France, Norway, and others have all announced bans on new fossil fuel vehicles in their countries by 2030 or 2040.
Americans want climate action, and to act on climate. Despite the uptick in support for coal and oil in 2017, support for clean energy tops the list, by a large margin. According to ecoAmerica’s 2017 American Climate Metrics Survey, a burgeoning constituency of Americans are taking action on climate, and want their local and our federal government to do the same. Majorities are also seeing the personal benefits solutions will bring to their health (67%, up from 58% in 2015), the economy (64%, up from 53% in 2015), and jobs (61%, up from 53% in 2015).
Action taken today can change the trajectory of climate change. It can improve lives in cities and towns, nationwide and worldwide. Committing to lead on climate, to do what we can to reduce our impact, and use the power of our leadership to voice the need for – and benefits of – climate solutions is one of the most pressing opportunities of our era.
There is immense power in people coming together from all walks of life – health professionals, faith leaders, and regional and city leaders as well as individuals and corporations, people of all ethnicities and backgrounds – to take the reins on climate leadership. Major institutions in health, faith, communities, education, business, and culture are committing to reduce their climate impact and advocate for solutions. Their leadership inspires tens of millions of Americans on climate change, in counties and communities nationwide including in our heartland.
And we can do more. We can nurture new leadership and take advantage of the growing accessibility of climate solutions like efficiency, clean energy, and restoring nature. We can share our learnings, best practices and resources with each other, to help us all go farther, faster. We can make the benefits of climate solutions visible and tangible by implementing them at a local level, engaging Americans in their daily lives. Most of all, we can share loudly a new vision on climate, one that eschews cost and sacrifice and embraces investment, benefits, and a moral responsibility to our children and future generations.
ecoAmerica can help. We help by providing strategy, tools, resources and collaboration opportunities to increase climate literacy, engage constituents, and build collective action and advocacy for climate.
To that end, we have started a new Talking Points series covering key questions and topics on climate. We will continue to publish our monthly American Climate Perspectives survey. Our Recommendations Report, from the American Climate Leadership Summit, identifies dozens of opportunities and priorities for climate action and advocacy. Let’s Lead on Climate is our guide with stories and recommendations on building climate programs at a local level, and our Let’s Talk Climate series offers comprehensive guides for communicating on climate. Finally, we are and will continue to find ways to bring the best research and practical guidance forward to help us all to be more effective.
“If our federal leadership won’t take up the mantle, the rest of us must. It’s up to us. We have to make the great transition happen now. And we can do it.”
– Bob Perkowitz, President, ecoAmerica
It can be hard to have a positive discussion on climate change. It is a complex issue. Many of us are in our ideological information bubbles or struck by seemingly conflicting information. As we enter 2018, passions are high on both sides, and the stakes even higher. If you want to move your family, colleagues, or community forward on the issue, what do you do?
Opening Up the Conversation
At Climate for Health, we work with America’s national health and medical associations and practitioners to support their efforts to understand the implications of climate change, and to develop practical, effective strategies for them to address solutions with their millions of members. As with the rest of ecoAmerica, our parent organization, our work starts with people, and involves listening to truly understand their values, concerns, and priorities. We’ve learned a lot, and will share what we’ve learned with you in ecoAmerica’s new series: Climate Talking Points.
Each month, ecoAmerica will pick a topic or theme related to climate change, providing both positive talking points and some responses to key questions or criticisms around that topic. The goal is to open up the conversation, focus on common values, and help us all move forward together on climate solutions.
This month, Climate Talking Points offers 9 tips for opening the discussion and counterpoints to common arguments related to energy. Download your copy HERE.
This guidance is grounded in ecoAmerica’s extensive research on climate communications, and experience deploying it (see list and links at the bottom of this page). This advice might sometimes conflict with what you think is “common sense.” For instance, health professionals’ work is grounded in science, and yet some may believe their profession has nothing to do with climate change, or that it’s not appropriate to talk about it in a clinical setting. So simply appealing to science may not do the job.
But the research shows that medical pros — particularly nurses– are trusted by their patients and the larger community. Who you are as an individual and the trusted role you play as a healthcare leader (including among your peers) are ultimately what will give the words you use their power. Besides living your values in an exemplary way, the leverage you have is that people in your circles tend to share your values, but may not yet be “activated” on climate change. Use your connections, and this guidance, to reach out to your colleagues and patients.
A Wealth of Resources
Also please take advantage of the wealth of climate communications reports, research guides, and webinars available for download on the ecoAmerica website. They include:
the Let’s Talk Climate research series, including:
Find common ground, and then take action. Each of us can make a big difference. Please download your Climate Talking Points today.
We welcome your thoughts and suggestions. Please contact Chief Engagement Officer Meighen Speiser at email@example.com.
Climate for Health is a program of ecoAmerica
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