With climate talks occurring at the United Nations International Climate Conference in Copenhagen, everyone is talking about climate change. I am thrilled at the attention it is getting, as some of my past blogs have addressed the fact that the media has seemed to have forgotten there is an issue on our hands, but not all of the attention has been positive.
As you may have heard, according to various polls the number of Americans who believe in climate change and in human contribution to climate change has diminished. My husband and I were discussing this phenomenon on an early morning walk. He heard a report last week on NPR stating this fact, but the report also said that according to polls the number of people who are in support of green jobs, energy independence, solar panels, etc. has increased. The report went on to say that in regards to climate change, it is all in the way you frame it.
This fact made me reflect on the message of my boss, Terry Tamminen, and our non-profit organization. Time and time again he/we focus on the business side of climate change: let’s create new (green) jobs, help jumpstart the economy, and save money for businesses and individuals. People can continue to debate about whether or not climate change is real (even though the science proves it is), but people can’t debate that making environmentally smart choices in their daily lifestyles is not only good for the environment, but for their pocketbooks as well because the numbers are there to prove it. I believe more education needs to occur that gives tangible evidence about the direct correlation between climate change and people’s wallets to get even more people on board. However, the report my husband mentioned made me extremely hopeful because to me it was saying that even if not everyone is getting the big picture (climate change), people are still getting on board the environmental movement one step at a time (energy independence, green jobs, solar panel support), which are the building blocks to the big picture in the end: reducing GHG emissions and creating a sustainable lifestyle for future generations.
That same report on NPR also interviewed psychologists about why people are less in support of climate change, and the psychologists explained that the consequences were too frightening for people to comprehend, making the term climate change an overwhelming concept for many. People get so overwhelmed that they feel completely helpless about the situation. Instead, people find it easier to cope with their fears by going to a place of denial than actually believe in their existence. I would also argue that with the current economic times, people feel even more overwhelmed with life in general and are so focused on just trying to get food on the table for their family that thinking about climate change is too much to handle. Not to mention the health care debate, which people are viewing as more important than climate change because the repercussions are more immediate for some, and not to mention the direct connection to their pocketbooks (even though climate change will actually increase health care costs due to the number of health issues that are going to increase because of catastrophic consequences).
To sum this up, during the last few months I have been feeling disheartened hearing that the polls are showing that less Americans believe in climate change even though greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase as I write this. However, I found this report very promising to hear that more Americans believe in and support the solutions. Focusing on a few key solutions can make the problem more manageable and less overwhelming. Whenever I’m overwhelmed with projects at work or chores at home, I make a to-do list to accomplish my goals for the day. The solutions (energy independence, green jobs, solar panels) are the items on the to-do list to tackle the overwhelming challenge of climate change. And even 3 years ago, I would bet less people would be in support of concepts such as energy independence or green jobs or solar because I’m not sure if the general public was completely understanding of what those terms meant. Therefore, although a bit disguised, I see that progress is actually being made and we are on the right track.
Now let’s just keep tackling those items so we can check them off our lists!