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.