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A new survey published in the science journal Nature can be filed under good news/bad news.

Here we use national survey data collected from 1,822 individuals across the UK in 2010, to examine the links between direct flooding experience, perceptions of climate change and preparedness to reduce energy use. We show that those who report experience of flooding express more concern over climate change, see it as less uncertain and feel more confident that their actions will have an effect on climate change. Importantly, these perceptual differences also translate into a greater willingness to save energy to mitigate climate change. Highlighting links between local weather events and climate change is therefore likely to be a useful strategy for increasing concern and action.

The good news is that even as governments drag their feet and the traditional media mostly serve their corporate masters by distracting and obfuscating, people's perceptions can be changed. Their consciousness can be awakened. They may not have the time to research information that isn't easily available, but they don't ignore evidence that impacts their lives. The bad news is that it does seem to take evidence that impacts their lives to change their perceptions and awaken their consciousness.

What this says is that people aren't stupid; they may mostly be unaware. Until awareness is forced on them. But that does raise the possibility that raising awareness might not necessitate crises. Consistent and persistent messaging might do it. If our ostensible political leaders would break through the media firewall and offer such messaging. It's about the overwhelming scientific consensus. It's also about using every opportunity.

One problem that needs emphasizing is that most weather related events cannot be directly tied to climate change. Last summer's heat waves are a good example. We cannot say they were caused by climate change, and to do so would enable the inane right wing narrative that cold winters disprove climate change. The reality is that while we aren't yet capable of proving causal links to individual weather events, both unusually extreme hot and unusually extreme cold weather are consistent with what we expect from climate change. And that's what we need to emphasize. It's about unusual extremes becoming a new normal.

Every time there is an extreme event, we need to repeat that it is consistent with what we expect from climate change, and then expand the conversation to the latest research. Because the research is pouring in, and there are new data points to publicize every week. In the new normal, we expect more extreme weather events, we expect more natural disasters, and we expect more people having to face the consequences of such in their daily lives. And the more we discuss it, and the more we point to the science, the more likely it is that it will be assimilated into public consciousness. Despite the best efforts of an irresponsible and dangerous media, and despite the right wing science deniers and ignorami. And the more it is assimilated into public consciousness, the greater will be the public demand for public policies to address it.

We need our own ostensible political leaders to lead on this messaging. They have the biggest bullhorns. If they use them, they will not be ignored. And we can help keep them mindful of what they need to be saying, and that they need to be saying it at every possible opportunity.

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Comment Preferences

  •  But Dancing with the Stars is on! (7+ / 0-)

    What scope of what gets allotted attention on America's broadcast media is very narrow.

    "We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children"

    by Lefty Coaster on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 07:55:48 PM PDT

  •  What bothers me (10+ / 0-)

    is that not only do Movement Conservatives deny climate change for stupid reasons, but their policies make it harder to both curtail it and to deal with the fallout from it years down the line.

    Movement Conservatism is a threat to US national security. It is probably the only force in the world that can bring America to its knees, and to do it from within like a virus or a cancer.

    •  I take very little comfort (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Laurence Lewis, badger, walkshills, Matt Z

      in the knowledge that the states most likely to become very unpleasant places to be post-major climate shift are also bastions of kneejerk Movement Conservative political majorities.

      I really do feel a great deal of sorrow for what awaits the American south over the next fifty years. On top of being conned by a bunch of hucksters and con men trying to keep the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer using Jesus to shill unChristian outcomes, a lot of the shittiest things that climate change will bring will hit them the hardest and the most often.

    •  Problem with conservatism (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Laurence Lewis, Matt Z

      is that it attempts to build upon the successes of those whom it opposed some 100 years before so that we had states' rights more or less determined while now, doctrinaire conservatives sound like echoes of John C Calhoun as they attempt to roll back 100 years of civil rights advances

    •  It doesn't help that the Democrats (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Thumb, walkshills

      have embraced an anti-populist, anti-democratic, corporate friendly technocratic ethos, that views the populace as something to bypass / get around / manipulate in matters of real interests and real politics pretty much across the board.

      Who are we kidding?  Do we really think that Democrats can represent narrow power interests, against the people, in areas of war and the economy, yet somehow play a positive, broad, political role in matters of science and the environment?

      It's really not that people are ignorant or unaware.  It's that the alternatives offered are between denier and avoider.  Or between idiot and enabler.  Or rapist and ameliorator.

      Please don't feed the security state.

    •  these people are not 'conservatives', (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      walkshills, bushondrugs, Matt Z

      they are ignorant, narrow minded, racist, religiously extreme greedy fools.

      Please, stop lending them credence, they have zero content of any type of ideology, plan, concept or knowledge that can be described as 'conservative'. It's insulting to actual conservatives to use the label to describe these idiots.

      Republicans totally abandoned conservatism in the 1980s ..

      by shpilk on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 08:40:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yes... (5+ / 0-)

    ...we need to keep hammering in these points continually.

    It's not about warmer vs. colder.  It's about weirder vs. the way it used to be.

    Any time someone says, "this weather's been really strange," I work in something along the lines of, "Yup.  Gonna be a lot more of that in the years to come."

    The more the conversation can proceed along the lines that AGW is an established fact and it's going to make things weirder and weirder, the more I can keep away from the inevitable denialist shibboleths.

    Granted, sometimes I just want to scream.  But I try and talk like a Yankee farmer and sound quietly authoritative.  

    And I keep trying to get these points into my daily letters, too.  I feel like there has been a slight upsurge in the number of scientifically literate realists posting in response to the usual idiocy...at least there are a few more voices of reason out there.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 07:57:57 PM PDT

  •  "One problem that needs emphasizing..." (5+ / 0-)
    is that most weather related events cannot be directly tied to climate change. Last summer's heat waves are a good example. We cannot say they were caused by climate change, and to do so would enable the inane right wing narrative that cold winters disprove climate change.

    Yup. Huge problem. Especially when front pagers do it. But the steady drumbeat of "see? global warming!" while pointing at an individual even is just further evidence that our side isn't significantly brighter than the other side.

    Which isn't surprising - we all just Americans.

    lols - reminds me of Grandpa Simpson "seeing death DEATH!!!" everywhere.

    I'm gonna go eat a steak. And fuck my wife. And pray to GOD - hatemailapalooza, 052210

    by punditician on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 08:01:21 PM PDT

    •  One thing that I do... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bushondrugs, Matt Z

      ...that seems to work rather well is to ask skeptics if they watch their evening news.

      If yes, do they watch the weather.

      If yes, I suggest that they keep a mental note of the weather almanac -- if their weather spot offers one -- and watch the dates of the record high temperatures and the record low temperatures for the date.

      Where I live (metro Tacoma-Seattle-Everett is a close enough description) it's very common to see that the record low for a given date is decades ago -- the 1950's or 1960's -- while the record high is often five or eight or twelve years ago.

      I suggest that they keep an eye out for that, and draw whatever conclusion they wish.

      Of course, this does return to the "weather is not climate" conundrum, but it does tend to get people's attention in a manner that lets them do the work and lets them make of it what they will.

      - bp

      "I don't care who your goddam emperor is: his clothes still suck"

      by b00g13p0p on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 09:23:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  In terms of advertising, perhaps we need to (5+ / 0-)

    change our imagery to emphasize the biosphere and not "the planet."

    More here

    I hope this is not seen as "pimping", but this is directly related to the topic and written over 3 years ago.

    Anyway, thanks.

    "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    by respectisthehub on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 08:06:50 PM PDT

  •  Perceptions have changed in the U.S. too (6+ / 0-)

    For the most part, the denial has increased.

    From Pew Research: Wide Partisan Divide Over Global Warming

  •  The survey also suggests that... (5+ / 0-)

    perceptions of perceptions of climate change can change.

    ;-)

  •  it's less about perception and more about (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Laurence Lewis, ejoanna, WarrenS, Matt Z

    attitude or valence as matters of ideology (structures of belief)

    using "climate change" always brings to mind the Luntzian reframing/delimiting of the message as opposed to what it is: radical or accelerated climate change from global warming

    Präsidentenelf-maßschach; Warning-Some Snark Above "Nous sommes un groupuscule" join the DAILY KOS UNIVERSITY "makes Beck U. and the Limbaugh Institute look like Romper Room"

    by annieli on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 08:16:19 PM PDT

  •  1/2 of the people in this country believe (5+ / 0-)

    Jesus rode dinosaurs; their ideas about something as complicated as the ecosystem, let alone something even more complicated as climate change, remind me of how many people believed the world was flat long after it was proven otherwise.  

    It's about unusual extremes becoming a new normal.
    At some point even those people are going to understand the science behind climate change, but unfortunately we don't have a few centuries to "enlighten" the population.   I sure as hell don't see this ending well.
  •  It seems simple to me (6+ / 0-)

    but then maybe I'm just simple.

    Where I live, it's been noticeably wetter the last 5 or so years. We used to average about 11 in/yr of precip, mostly snow, now we probably run about 15 in/yr. Unfortunately, here that's an improvement for orchardists, vineyards, forest fires and hydro. Climate change is mostly bad, but not all bad. But at any rate, that's a change in climate.

    I would think that in a lot of places you can take weather statistics - precip, temperature, humidity, high winds, whatever - and compare the last 5 or 10 years to long term averages and see climate change has really happened. And whatever the climate has changed to now, odds are as CO2 increases, it's going to change again.

    That factors out the stupid "it snowed so there's no global warming" and the equally stupid "it's hot so it's because of global warming".

    It should then be possible to make some connections to what the changes that have already occurred will mean economically - for heating, A/C, agriculture, tourism, forests, lawns, water supplies, sea level, number and strength of tornadoes or hurricanes, etc. And you can make the point locally, which is where climate effects matter most anyway.

    I feel pretty certain that climate change is already here, has been here a while, and the effects are already significant and measurable. This isn't something that's going to happen suddenly 50 years from now - it's already going on gradually.

    If we had a government that cared about it, they'd already be doing that.

    We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. - John F Kennedy

    by badger on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 08:27:12 PM PDT

    •  all the consequences (4+ / 0-)

      are happening faster than was predicted, including the collapse of the ice sheets.

      The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

      by Laurence Lewis on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 08:37:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, but (2+ / 0-)

        If I'm a wheat farmer in ND, I might be momentarily saddened by the plight of polar bears. If you show me that Manhattan or Wall Street will be flooded, I might even smile at the thought.

        If you can show me something I already have a vague inkling about - say, that yields have been lower in some recent years because of less rainfall or hotter summers or more frequent flooding - I'm a lot more likely to care.

        And if I'm not a wheat farmer in ND, I still care about the price of bread or donuts.

        So take those consequences and personalize them. Make them into campaign commercials in Oklahoma, link it to what people are already experiencing.

        We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. - John F Kennedy

        by badger on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 08:52:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Contingency Planning..... (6+ / 0-)

    While I think it's important to get the point across, from a messaging perspective, I actually think it's possible to get the necessary result even if you can't make people realize that 2 and 2 make 4.

    For almost every "green" policy proposal, the logic & reasons for doing 'em goes beyond whether someone believes climate change does or doesn't exist, and can be argued for on long-term economic & strategic grounds. For example, even if someone believes that climate change is complete bullshit, doesn't it make sense to develop wind, solar, and other forms of energy generation that doesn't make us dependent on others?

    I once read an article which profiled Democratic Strategist David "Mudcat" Saunder, who's worked on a lot of campaigns in the South. One part of the article detailed a conversation between Saunders and his Republican neighbor, who thought conservation policies were bullshit pushed by environmentalist wackos. Saunders pulled him around to the environmentalist position by arguing that those conservation policies are protecting the animal populations that his neighbor liked to hunt on the weekends.

    •  many hunters (5+ / 0-)

      have been moving into the enviro camp the past decade or so, as they notice shifting migratory patterns.

      The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

      by Laurence Lewis on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 08:39:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah, but... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rimjob

      ...these are Republicans we're talking about.

      For example, even if someone believes that climate change is complete bullshit, doesn't it make sense to develop wind, solar, and other forms of energy generation that doesn't make us dependent on others?

      At this point they're so fixated on hurting liberals' feelings that they'll be damned if they're gonna do something that we think is a good idea.

      If only you could make renewable energy programs a form of hippie-punching, they'd be all over it.

      Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

      by WarrenS on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 08:46:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The crux of the problem (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WarrenS, badger, Laurence Lewis, Matt Z
    I feel pretty certain that climate change is already here, has been here a while, and the effects are already significant and measurable. This isn't something that's going to happen suddenly 50 years from now - it's already going on gradually.
    Most of us travel on top of this planet about 70 turns around the nearest star.  Climate change/AGW is advancing at a rapid pace in terms of planetary evolution; in terms of human life it progresses at a snail's pace, and that is a huge problem in terms of trying to get a political solution.  
  •  Don't really care about what ignorant buzzards (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein, WarrenS, Laurence Lewis, Matt Z

    might think; the facts are, even if we were able to switch to geothermal energy and stop burning carbon tomorrow, most of the damage has already been done. We're just starting to see the beginnings of the effect of what we have brought into the planet's balance.

    There's simply no way to put back the genie that's been unleashed.

    All we can hope to do now is to slow and limit the damage, and prepare for near total disastrous and rapid changes to climate worldwide.

    The combined effects of multiple ecological changes is going totally transform most of this planet, and most of it will be for the worst.

    As Carlin said,

    "The planet?! The planet will be just fine.
     Pack your shit, we're going away!"

    "To the Earth, we're a surface nuisance."

    Republicans totally abandoned conservatism in the 1980s ..

    by shpilk on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 08:37:04 PM PDT

  •  we can't even stop the wars in Afghanistan (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bushondrugs, Laurence Lewis

    and Iraq but we're going to do something about the biggest corporations on the planet and the politicians they bought and paid for fair and square ?

    Please...

    Guess that coal lease Salazar just set-up in Wyoming doesn't help  much does it ?

    Still blowing the tops off of mountains too.

    So yeah, we should fight.  The problem is that by the time we get any traction it's going to be too late.  It is, all snark aside, probably alredy too late.

    But maybe we can make it a little less bad.

    big badda boom : GRB 080913

    by squarewheel on Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 10:04:07 PM PDT

  •  Personalize It And Blame The Kochs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Laurence Lewis, Matt Z

    Do to them what Beck has tried to do with Soros, make them the all purpose boogey men.

    Key difference - for the Kochs it's not a lie.

    2011 is the year that a lot of people will be catching The Fear because the climate  numbers are likely to be catastrophic.

  •  The Problem is Not What You Think (0+ / 0-)

    There really are two systems that we tend to think of as one and the same.

    One system can be described as the adoption curve, the model for the way that society accepts innovation.  Scientists or innovators come up with new evidence for a departure of some sort that is needed, like the need to get away from fossil fuels.

    Gradually early adopters begin to become aware and then adopt the new thinking or new technology.  The adoption curve rises slowly as the earlier the adoption, the fewer the number of people who buy into it.  At some point, the curve rises as a larger number of people realize that there is reason to place some trust, especially when there is evidence, and financial investment already moving into place.  

    The other system is the political system.  This does not kick into gear at all until late in the adoption curve when a large number, perhaps a near majority, have decided to adopt and then start clamoring for political help.

    The problem with the circumstance we are in with either fossil fuels or with climate change is that both systems are moving too slowly.  

    The public has a hard time with cause and effect that are not immediately obvious, and may contradict individual or local experience.  The adoption curve is slowed by that, and the political system, which waits for confirmation that a majority will buy in, is given unclear signals.

    Worse, the reactives have the day when crass manipulators decide that they can benefit by just stirring people up through fear.  That is the real reason for the rise of the Tea Party - and its strength.

    You see the progress we need to make in its shadow at this point.  

    Most likely, this situation will get worse.

    What is needed is a long term sense of what is going on that can be subject to a sustained effort on the part of many people to push a speed up of the adoption curve by both society at large and the political system.  Simple, right?

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Fri Mar 25, 2011 at 08:57:54 AM PDT

  •  Perceptions of Climate Change can be changed (0+ / 0-)

    Sounds like Grist and so many other so-called 'liberal' rags.
    I won't sanction 'conversation' that focuses on Religious Conversion.  Analysis requires a variety of viewpoints be considered as possibilities.
    Once upon a time, THAT was called 'science'.
    This is what is designated by RAND corporation as controlled and imposed circular - and futile - 'discussion.'

    Olde Phartte ( in Training still )

    by opit on Sat Mar 26, 2011 at 09:33:52 AM PDT

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