The media has the story of UC Berkeley study on climate messaging exactly backwards, as I explained last week. The study found the best message is also the most science-based: Doing nothing risks “many devastating consequences” but “much of the technology we need already exists.” We just need to deploy it already!
Brad Johnson made a similar point in his post, “Winning climate messages combine dire scientific threat with solutions for a just world.” Now he reports on the predictably wrong take Fox News has on the study:
As the 19th year of international negotiations on climate change begin today in Cancun, Mexico, Fox News continues to deny the civilizational imperative to end global warming pollution. On Saturday, Fox News Watch’s Jon Scott and Greg Gutfield cited last year’s Climategate smear campaign to attack climate scientists and activists. “Maybe it’s time for the granola-crunching press to change its doom-and-gloom message,” Scott argued. Gutfield then read a bowdlerized version of his “racist homophobic globalphobe” blog post distorting the results of a study on global warming messaging:
So climate change experts having finally got the message. And the message is: their message sucks. In fact, their “Scare the hell out of us” screed was so awful, researchers claim, that it actually undermined their mission. Which, I always thought, was to scare the hell out of us. Yep, according to Cal-Berkeley shrinks, dire predictions about global warming can “backfire if presented too negatively.” Of course that raises one question: how do you offer dire predictions, positively? “Hey, were all gunna die. LOL.” Which leads me to a theory: these Berkeley researchers are idiots. Look the fact is, people like me questioned global warming evidence because we’d seen this media hysteria before – with the ice age, the dangers of nuclear power, artificial sweeteners and DDT.
… the study by UC Berkeley’s Robb Willer and Matthew Feinberg actually found that effective climate messaging combines hard facts about the dire nature of global warming with optimism about human ingenuity to address it “” which is the honest story that Al Gore, Bill McKibben, Desmond Tutu, and other climate activists have been telling for decades. Their study also found that the parody presented by the right wing “” that those concerned about global warming pollution are hysterical doomsayers “” will effectively drive some people into skepticism about the existence of the threat.
Gutfield’s mention of DDT is telling “” that right-wing historical revisionism designed to discredit Rachel Carson is soundly debunked in Merchants of Doubt, the book that describes how propagandists have used the same tactics for decades to block policy from everything to cigarettes to global warming.
To repeat, the UCB study, if it proves anything, finds that the strongest possible science-based messaging is effective. The message that doesn’t work is that the problem is so hopeless science doesn’t even know where to start.
Climate hawks should feel confident explaining to the public as clearly as possible the dire consequences if we fail to take action to reduce emissions together with the myriad cost-effective solutions available today that make averting catastrophe so damn cheap compared to the alternative.
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