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Climate change communication framing in action

Friday, November 6th, 2009


A story today in the Washington Post, Environmental groups at odds over new tack in climate fight, highlights the framing battle different environmental groups are engaging as well as some assumptions about what environmental literacy and communication alone can do.

An introductory excerpt:

At the heart of this intra-green disagreement is a behemoth of an unanswered question. Even after years of apocalyptic warnings about climate change, how much will Americans really sacrifice to fight it?

An excerpt about framing:

On Tuesday night, climate activist Nancy Jackson was speaking to one of the most climate-skeptical audiences in the country: Kansans. She was speaking to college students here in Manhattan — a town where one religious leader was able to draw congregants to screenings of “An Inconvenient Truth” only by passing out Nerf balls, so they could hurl them at the image of Al Gore.

“Take climate change off the table, okay?” Jackson said, after reciting evidence that the climate really is changing. “You don’t have to buy it for everything I’m about to say, because everything we do [to combat climate change] is a good idea for at least three other reasons.”

She told the students that Kansas has an abundance of wind, sun and crops like corn and prairie grasses — all potential sources of renewable power. The message worked, at least on 21 year-old student Matthew Brandt. He said he doesn’t believe in climate change, but — after hearing Jackson’s talk — he was interested in windmills.

“I plan to have a wind turbine on my property” after graduation, Brandt said. “I figure it’s a good investment.”

And an alternate view:

“It’s a lack of faith in the American public,” said Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona nonprofit organization, talking about the light-on-climate ads used by bigger groups. “If the scientists, the environmentalists in our country do their jobs, and explain the test of climate change, the public will come along.”

“Instead of doing that job,” Suckling said, “we’re running away from it.”

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