Are there other ways to get people to engage with climate change? FloridaStock/Shutterstock.com
There’s been no shortage of pessimistic news on climate change lately. A group of climate scientists and policy experts recently declared that we have just three years left to dramatically turn around carbon emissions, or else. Meanwhile a widely circulated New York magazine article detailed some of the most catastrophic possible consequences of climate change this century if we continue with business as usual.
Critics pounced on the article, claiming gloom-and-doom messages are disempowering and thus counterproductive.
But are they? And is there a better way to communicate to people about the urgency of climate change? In a somewhat unorthodox way – creating a mini-series of videos on climate change – my colleagues and I think we’ve gained some insight into these questions.
Naysayers to negative messaging miss an important function of this kind of apocalyptic thinking. It is useful in forcing us to imagine ourselves as the people who allowed a future we don’t want to come about. In California, for example, Governor Jerry Brown has been a master of highlighting the existential threat of climate change. But his real genius has been linking that dystopian vision to what needs to be done to prevent it from becoming real. I call this approach “the California way: sunny with a chance of apocalypse.”