J4.1 A Conservative Approach to Communicating Climate Change

Wednesday, 21 June 2017: 3:30 PM
Salon III (InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza)
Paul Douglas, Aeris Weather, Eden Prairie, MN

Psychologists tell us people often dismiss or deny a problem until there’s a viable solution. The topic of climate volatility and weather disruption often elicits a sense of dread and paralysis among the general public. But the solution is increasingly obvious. The energy industry is being disrupted – the cost of solar and wind power now less than traditional fossil fuels. Moving from a centralized, command and control energy-grid paradigm to clean, local and renewable energy sources is already creating more jobs and energy security. Framing the climate challenge in terms of competition, choice and energy freedom resonates with more conservative audiences. Research shows emphasizing conservationism (preservation of the gifts America has been given) vs. environmentalism (excessive regulation) can be effective. Explaining both threat and opportunity in ways that underscore personal responsibility, free market solutions, stewardship and Creation Care can engage Americans who are wary of big government solutions.

There’s a growing belief that decarbonization will be driven by economics (lower prices for clean renewables) and energy security, not politics. A clean energy revolution may be the (tail) that ultimately wags the climate change (dog). In an effort to bridge a frustrating partisan divide I wrote a book with Methodist minister Mitch Hescox, weaving faith and traditionally conservative values into the narrative. Meteorologists have an opportunity to tailor messaging for their intended audience. Explaining the science in a way that localizes the impact of climate change is critical – but so is framing the challenge in a way that resonates with conservative beliefs. Convincing a majority of conservatives that climate change is real and solvable won’t be easy, but iteration and experimentation is critical as we explain the science in a way that hit home across the entire political and ideological spectrum.

-        Paul Douglas, CBM Meteorologist, Founder of Aeris Weather. Author “Caring for Creation”: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment.”

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