Making Climate Change More Actionable
Climate change is classified as a wicked problem, that is, one that’s so complex and connected with other problems that it is very difficult to solve. Recently, Yale climate communication scientist Anthony Leiserowitz called climate change the “policy problem from hell.”
One of the barriers is that climate change is caused by greenhouse gases that are invisible, so they do not trigger a response in humans. Some of my research helped to quantify and visualize greenhouse gas emissions at the residential level, but this work has not been mainstreamed into policy discourse.
To make things worse, the often catastrophic framing of climate change leads to what Leiserowitz calls apocalyptic fatigue: we avoid these types of messages because they are overwhelming.
So, what do we do? Research suggests we should link climate change to specific, tangible issues that we are experiencing here and now. For example, asthma in California children linked to greenhouse gases, or an Oregon river basin that is experiencing changes in water levels due to climate change, are good ways to motivate people to change their behavior. In the San Francisco Bay Area, where I currently live, climate change is affecting the precipitation, including the famous fog in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
What are some local, specific and tangible events happening in your neighborhood or city that are related to climate change?