An important article by Rebecca Huntley on the community’s response to the problem of climate change was published recently on the ABC (29.1). Huntley has based her analysis on the Yale University Program on Climate Change Communication which divides citizen responses to climate change into six categories – alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful and dismissive (see image). Interestingly the ‘Alarmed’ and ‘Concerned’ categories together form majorities in both the USA and Australia – although in the US the ‘Alarmed’ number is much higher than Australia. Likewise the ‘Dismissive’ (polite language for climate change deniers) is 10% in the US whilst only 7% in Australia though this number for Gippsland is almost certainly higher than the US average.
The categories are for the most part obvious. The ‘Alarmed’ are those that accept the science and are actively involved in climate action in some way – in Australia about 18%. The ‘Concerned’ (33%) also accept the science but are yet to translate their concerns into deliberate action – political or otherwise. If my neighbours in Bairnsdale are any indication the ‘Disengaged’ numbers are also probably higher than in the US thinking along the lines of “She’ll be right, mate” if they consider the problem at all.
But Huntley’s important contribution is on what needs to be done to get concrete political action on climate change. Here I quote her at some length:
“We need to increase the ‘Alarmed’ cohort, absolutely no doubt. But we also need to develop and hone their (our) skills of talking to others not of the same mindset. And we need to provide social and emotional support as many of them — many of us — struggle with feelings of grief, dread and burning anger about what’s happening to the planet and the response of many of our political leaders.
“We need to shift more of the ‘Concerned’ group into the ‘Alarmed’ group. We need to find a way to convince the ‘Cautious’ that urgent action is necessary. This very difficultly, often requires language that isn’t fraught with tones of crisis…We need to engage the ‘Disengaged’ — probably the hardest task of all, because it requires us to rebuild their faith that our democratic institutions are capable and willing to do something about it.
“And finally — in my opinion, and I say this with no trepidation whatsoever — we need to drive the Dismissive group out of positions of power in our government, stop the flow of their donations into our political parties, and find smarter ways to engage with them in the media, including social media.”
I have been advocating Huntley’s last suggestion for a number of years and is one of the reasons why I persist against the odds with my support for single issue ‘climate’ parties. But it seems to me that if we can persuade a sufficient number of the concerned (including some of my family) of the necessity to engage in some action then the battle against the deniers and the vested interests will be won. Part of the strategy must be to convince them that this is the most important problem they (we) have ever faced and the need for urgent action.
The science of global warming is above party politics and party loyalties. As we have seen with the bushfires, global warming in one way or another will affect us all and the effects of extreme weather events are set to worsen in the foreseeable future.