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Climate Change

January 23, 2013 10:20 am ET
President Obama vowed action on climate change in his historic inaugural speech, warning that "the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations." Here's how to make the case for why and how we can tackle one of the most pressing challenges facing humanity.

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LEAD WITH COMMON SENSE & VALUES

Our children will ask us what we did on climate change. What's our answer?

Connect: We see the weather getting weirder with our own eyes. We see more frequent and destructive droughts, floods, wildfires, and storms.

Explain: There's no longer any doubt we have a serious problem. Climate disruption is happening right here, right now, and it's making weather disasters and record-breaking heat waves worse.

Analogize: The threat of climate change is accepted science. If 97 out of 100 engineers warned you to not drive on a crumbling bridge, would you still drive on it? If 97 out of 100 doctors warned you to not eat tainted food, would you still eat it?

Aspire: If we want to protect our kids and grandkids, we have to deal with climate change before it gets out of control. Anyone who doubts whether we're up to the task is ignoring what America is capable of.

Illustrate: American businesses are starting to use the amazing energy technologies that our engineers have developed -- including panels that harness power from the sun and turbines that capture energy from the wind.

Lead: We need to speed up the use of these technologies and spur more innovation. America should be leading the world in clean energy solutions, not getting left behind by Europe and China.


DEFINE THE OPPOSITION & DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY

Oil companies are rigging the system against our energy future.

Connect: We see the problem and know the solution. So who's trying to stop us?

Define: Dirty energy companies are holding back progress to protect their profits.

Explain: Oil and coal companies pay off politicians to protect wasteful taxpayer subsidies and keep out the competition by blocking clean energy innovation.

Illustrate: They keep our political system rigged by spending millions to influence our elections, lobby politicians, and spread doubts about accepted science that hurts their bottom line.

Lead: It's time to break Big Oil's grip on Washington and put people instead of corporations back in charge of our democracy.

Values: Our grandchildren will ask us what we did on climate change. What's our answer?


ATTACKS AND RESPONSES

ATTACK: "Snowstorm Nemo casts doubt on climate change."
RESPONSE:

[If you are talking to friends & family, relate to past conversations and use validators.]

  • Only a few months ago we were worried about the heat waves, droughts, and hotter weather all year long. Last year was even the hottest year on record ever -- by a lot. 
  • It's weird we're getting this big snowstorm after all that heat. In fact, it fits into what scientists understand about climate science.
  • They're telling us that disrupting our climate is making storms like winter blizzards bigger and heavier. Global warming doesn't mean no more winters or the same weather everywhere, only a little warmer. It's about the kinds of snowstorms we're going to get.
  • If 97 out of 100 engineers warned you not to drive on a crumbling bridge, would you still do it? If 97 out of 100 doctors warned you not to eat tainted food, would you still eat it?


[If you have limited airtime, answer the question you want to answer.]

  • The storm fits into what we know about climate science -- they're not at odds at all. There's no question the weather is getting weirder and more destructive.
  • Here, we know that climate change disrupts weather patterns and puts more moisture in the air. It doesn't mean no more winters or the same weather everywhere, only a little warmer. So the snowstorms we're going to get during winter will be bigger and worse.
  • If we want to protect our kids and grandkids, we have to deal with climate change before it gets out of control.


[If you are up against climate change deniers, discredit them and pivot.]

  • Are you really trying to use a single winter storm to question an entire body of science? That's like trying to defend the entire tobacco industry with a single elderly smoker.
  • The storm fits into what we know about climate science -- they're not at odds at all.
    • Climate change is about the kinds of snowstorms we're more likely to get during winter -- heavier and worse storms. It doesn't mean no more winters.
    • Global warming means all weather events now happen with more moisture and warmer conditions over the oceans. It doesn't mean the same weather, only a little warmer. That's why storms like winter blizzards are bigger and more dangerous.
  • Climate change has been understood for decades and it's backed up by overwhelming research. The reality is that over the decades, weather trends are showing more heat extremes. In fact, the 10 hottest years on record all happened in the past 15 years.
  • All around the world, people are getting hit with worse weather disasters right here, right now. There is no question that climate change is happening.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

GLOBAL WARMING

  • In climate science, a single degree in temperature changes is an enormous deal. In fact, raising the temperature of the planet one degree Celsius requires about 5 exaJoules (5 with 18 zeros after it) of energy -- or the entire energy consumption of the United States for 4 million years.
  • 2012 was the hottest year on record in the United States ever-- by a lot. Last year's temperature average demolished the previous record by a full degree Fahrenheit. (Remember that with people, even a few degrees increase in body temperature can kill a patient.)
  • Last year, more than 34,000 high temperature records were set at weather stations across the country, or more than five times the number of record temperature lows (fewer than 6,700). 
  • Globally, the 10 warmest years on record all happened in the past 15 years. Nobody who is younger than 28 has ever experienced a colder-than-average month because the last such month was February 1985.
  • Carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere is the highest it's been in at least 650,000 years overall and at least 800,000 years in some regions.

EXTREME WEATHER


RESOURCES

Climate Solutions for a Stronger America: A Guide for Engaging and Winning on Climate Change & Clean Energy [Breakthrough Strategies; link]

Connecting the Dots: A Communications Guide to Climate Change and Extreme Weather [Climate Nexus; link]

Right Here, Right Now: A Communications Guide to Climate Change Impacts [Climate Nexus; link]

Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University [link]

Climate Access: Sharing What Works [link]

Climate Central [link]

Creationcare.org [link]; Good Steward Campaign [link]; and Interfaith Power & Light [link]

Media Matters' Coverage of Climate Change in the Media [link]

Skeptical Science: Getting Skeptical About Global Warming Skepticism [link]

Yale Project on Climate Change Communication [link]

350.org [link]

We develop messaging by aggregating, analyzing and distilling polling, tested messaging, and expert recommendations, and monitoring the media to identify what is and isn't working. See here for some of the experts and organizations we draw on.


 


Posted in - Energy - Economy - Environment

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