Climate change is a fact. It is also a fact that mankind has caused climate change. But these are facts, what is less clear is how climate change will affect you emotionally, your wealth and your health throughout your lifetime.
Ok, as an ex-physicist I do have some sympathy for the scientists actively trying their best to change our behaviours. Figures and facts are their language, they are not marketers nor human behavioural experts.
It is time for a change of approach, let us first examine what needs to change.
1) Most humans distrust, dismiss or ignore facts. At any decision point, they will choose the option that feels emotional right at the time for them, while expending the least amount of effort.
2) Human priorities are generally not long term, in decreasing order of urgency is survival > comfort > social status > greed
3) Human level of interest for the survival of other living entities typically have the following decreasing order of importance ranking:
Immediate family > pets > people they fancy > friends > people they know > local strangers > decimation of local natural habitats > national strangers > global people that they can relate to > foreign people affected by natural disasters > popular wild animals > popular ecosystems > decimation of foreign habitats > unpopular wild animals > insects > sea life.
When you compare these human traits to the current climate change public messages of ‘…you must make many uncomfortable decisions to prevent the world warming up more than 1.5C, in order to prevent foreign strangers or insects you don’t care about from dying in 20 years time…‘ It is remarkable that as a species we have made any effort at all to advert climate change!
So are we all doomed? Well, not necessary. We are not a species where individuals have equal influence. Governments around the world still have a vital role to play. Lets have a look at what they should be doing:
1) Drop the facts man! Focus instead on how climate change will affect the individual. Governments should fund the creation and promotion of a website that can calculate the cost per year going forward (about the only fact people do show some interest in) for any given individual who provides their postcode, age and personal interests. (The government will know the households that haven’t done this) They should also use legalisation, taxes and subsides to help the individual make the right purchase decisions. The cost of action should always be less than inaction!
2) Focus on what is happening now that would affect an individuals survival > comfort > social status > greed. Keep it emotional.
3) Highlight the impact on immediate family, focus on the threat of raising food prices, insurance premiums, new diseases, threat of flooding, killer hailstones etc
I will end on optimistic note. Many countries have a lot to lose from climate change and eventually they will be forced to act. Big budgets and technology may yet save us from the worst impacts of climate change.