Garnering public support for climate change action

Posted by Christine, January 6, 2013

Bill Moyers discusses gaining popular support for taking action on climate change

“Remember climate change? The issue barely came up during the presidential campaigns, and little has been said since. But bringing climate change back into our national conversation is as much a communications challenge as it is a scientific one. Scientist Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, joins Bill to describe his efforts to do what even Hurricane Sandy couldn’t — galvanize communities over what’s arguably the greatest single threat facing humanity. Leiserowitz, who specializes in the psychology of risk perception, knows better than anyone if people are willing to change their behavior to make a difference.”

In the course of the interview, Leiserowitz gives the Republicans some talking points:

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: I think there are a couple things. One is they need to look at the threat, okay. So as an example could we think in a different way about climate change as a threat to our freedoms, okay? Climate change itself is a threat to our freedoms.

BILL MOYERS: To our freedoms?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Sure. If you’re a rancher or a farmer in the Great Plains today, your freedom is enormously constrained by the fact that you’re in the midst of a two-year severe drought, okay. You don’t get to choose what you’re going to plant. You don’t get to choose what cows you’re going to slaughter. In fact, we’ve just seen in Texas in the past year two million head of cow, cattle are no longer in Texas, they had to move them out because they couldn’t provide the food and forage and water for them because of that drought. That’s not freedom, okay. You are literally not able to do the thing that you were raised and that you believe in as part of your culture because the climate has changed.

BILL MOYERS: You got me on that one. What’s another one?

ANTHONY LEISEROWITZ: Another side though is the opportunity side. First of all, political opportunity which is perhaps the language that most touches them directly, and that is that they’ve now lost two national elections, okay. And that hurts. I’m sure it hurts. They need to find a new way back to the middle of this country, okay.

Now, there’s an active debate happening within the Republican Party right now between, “perhaps our problem is that we weren’t pure enough,” okay– I mean, we hear those voices on the right who were saying, you know, Mitt Romney was really just a liberal in disguise, that we didn’t make a stark enough choice, and that what we need is purification, we need to become true, you know, even take this party farther to the right versus those that are in the middle that are saying there is no pathway to political success unless you can reach this new America that is quickly emerging: Hispanics, minorities, young people, women who voted in record numbers not just in 2008 but in 2012.

And if we ever want to be able to succeed at the national level again we have to find a way to appeal back to these new voters who are not responding to these far right messages, okay. So there’s enormous political opportunity. We’ll see where the Republican Party decides to move.