Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Climate Communication Study: Polar Bears Don't Work

How can we get past America's uber-partisan divide on climate change  to foster political support for bold policy solutions?

According to a new study, images of distant polar bears and melting ice sheets not only don't cut it, messaging-wise, but actually make the problem worse. As reported by Big Think:
Climate change campaigns in the United States that focus on the risks to people in foreign countries or even other regions of the U.S. are likely to inadvertently increase polarization among Americans rather than build consensus and support for policy action.
Fortunately, the researchers found a way to build support for climate policy solutions: to use local stories that make the benefits of action immediately relevant to the community:
Research shows that individuals are more likely to support action on a problem when those threatened or at risk are perceived as more socially similar.  Conversely, when those affected are perceived as more socially distant, support for action is likely to be less.
That certainly makes sense...

Memo to those working to more effectively communicate the need for climate change solutions: use locally relevant pictures and stories.  Enough with the remote images already (in themselves, at least). How does the problem (including as illustrated by stunning remote imagery) really impact the lives of, say, Wal-Mart shoppers? How are the solutions going to protect local communities and improve lives where I live?

These types of messaging improvements are opportunities that Seth Godin talked about back in 2006, but that the climate action community still hasn't fully figured out how to implement.

This new study provides important clues on how to get the important job done of maximizing influence across the political spectrum.

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