Climate change discussions don't just roll off the tongue. Not if you don't want to pick an argument or depress someone, that is. So how are health professionals going to manage to talk about one of the biggest issues of our time? Recently, two university professors conducted a series of experiments in which participants randomly received different messages regarding climate change. It turns out that certain climate frames make people feel hopeless, and therefore hesitant to take any form of action at all. The individual health issues that make climate personally relevant for people may just encourage them to turn inward. Rather, as the two professors write in their Huffington Post article below, "Focusing on the moral imperative of climate change, or linking climate advocacy with important identities (like what groups such as Mothers Out Front are doing) are two alternatives." It's important to keep this in mind as we move forward in trying to tackle solve the climate crisis. Also, make sure to check out ecoAmerica's latest research report, Let's Talk Climate, on how to motivate Americans to act on climate.
Despite mounting evidence about the threats posed by climate change, most Americans do not consider it to be a very important problem facing the country, nor are they engaged in large-scale advocacy efforts to address it.
What might be done? An increasingly common argument, backed both by intuition and social science research, is that rhetoric should highlight how climate change will personally affect Americans' lives. Among the most common "personal relevance" frames are those that focus on how it might impact personal health or make it more difficult for people to obtain the food that they need.
It turns out that these personal relevance messages have the opposite effect from what we might expect: Although they do increase people's concern about climate change, they actually reduce their willingness to advocate on the issue.
Framing climate change in terms of its effect on either personal health or food security reminds people that very important personal goals (staying healthy and eating well) will be difficult to achieve. It puts them in a bad mood, and when people are in a bad mood they are less willing to engage in collective advocacy efforts.
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