Taking Action on Climate Change: Tone Down the Hysteria

Posted April 10, 2014 at 5:00am

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger make the case that real progress on climate change is in danger of being stymied by hysterical rhetoric.  

“More than a decade’s worth of research suggests that fear-based appeals about climate change inspire denial, fatalism and polarization.”  

“A frequently cited 2009 study in the journal Science Communication summed up the scholarly consensus. ‘Although shocking, catastrophic, and large-scale representations of the impacts of climate change may well act as an initial hook for people’s attention and concern … They clearly do not motivate a sense of personal engagement with the issue and indeed may act to trigger barriers to engagement such as denial.’”  

“Many climate advocates ignore these findings, arguing that they have an obligation to convey the alarming facts.”  

“What works, say environmental pollsters and researchers, is focusing on popular solutions.”  

Andrew Revkin concurs, citing a recent article by Columbia University’s Earth Institute director Steven Cohen, to make his case.  

“The piece appropriately decries caricatured, baseless attacks on climate science by conservative ideologues and those seeking to delay a shift away from fossil fuels. But Cohen also criticizes climate campaigners and some in the media for responding with oversimplified predictions of environmental doom.”  

Cohen stresses “the importance of government policies that can drive the development and dissemination of low-carbon energy technologies.”  

Crossposted at Wonk Wire.