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The Green Life: Talking Climate Change: Inspiration for Eco-vangelists

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June 19, 2009

Talking Climate Change: Inspiration for Eco-vangelists

We’ve all had them. Those drive-you-crazy arguments with a relative or neighbor who still thinks climate change is a farce, or at least isn’t something humans should bother with fixing.

With a climate bill struggling its way through congress, and recent poll revealing that just 42 percent of U.S. voters believe that climate change is caused by human activity, some groups have been looking for fresh ways to approach the issue.

A recent study on how to talk climate change with skeptics suggests ditching worn-out vocabulary and framing the issues in terms of our common ground and shared ideals.

Phrases like “global warming” and “cap-and-trade” have gathered a liberal stigma that turn a lot of folks off, the nonprofit PR group ecoAmerica found through a series of focus groups and surveys. The study suggested using new wording, such as “our deteriorating atmosphere” and “clean energy cash back,” to discuss the same concepts.

It also encouraged connecting climate change with “shared American values” like energy independence and national prosperity. Check out this Grist article to learn more.

If this approach feels too much like a salesman’s pitch, an Oregon high school teacher has found a different approach that seems to be working.

Greg Craven’s idea is that we could swap statistics about whether climate change is happening and what its causes are until the world ends. More important is to discuss what's at stake. In a series of YouTube videos, he introduces risk-management principles that the viewer can apply to global warming and decide: Is there a greater cost for action, or for inaction?

The concept – and the presentation – is catchy. His YouTube post, “The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See,” has gotten more than 7 million views and press coverage from ABC’s World News. A book using the same approach, What’s the Worst That Could Happen?: A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate will be on shelves this July.


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