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Week 2 - Talking Climate and Climate Change Denial

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Ashley Conway

on 23 December 2014

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Transcript of Week 2 - Talking Climate and Climate Change Denial

George Marshall is a communications expert and founder of the Climate Outreach Information Network, a non-profit specializing in public engagement around climate change.

Marshall is a lead advisor to the Welsh Government for climate communications. He has worked across the political spectrum, from activists and trade unions to coal mining communities, business leaders, and political conservatives.

He has authored a new book
"Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains are Hardwired to Ignore Climate Change"
that challenges the bipartisan divide on climate change and argues that we can and must find ways of talking and thinking that overcome barriers of politics and worldview. And in the process, build convictions around shared values that cross those boundaries.

I found this to be a useful book, especially because the communication techniques can be applied to any divisive or polarizing issue. Next click on the video screen to hear the author give an overview of his theory of climate change risk perception and the denial of that risk.
WhatProductionsUK. (2008) George Marshall: Stop taking about the environment! (2:27)
WhatProductionsUK. George Marshall: People don't care about polar bears. (3:40)
Meet our guest lecturer - George Marshall
The main mistake made by unions is people not being willing to talk to people that you strongly disagree with. Not just talk, but communicate.

- Pete Seeger
Risk perception and climate change
Week 3
You can find the article "When Belief and Facts Collide" on the course Ecollege site both on Week 3 page and in the Webligraphy.
Like other hot-button issues, people hold strong beliefs about climate change. What is the best way to communicate about climate change issues to avoid stalemates and inaction? If the scientific debate is over about climate change, why is there so much doubt and dismissiveness?
Understand how people’s cultural and political views trump scientific fact
Examine techniques to find common ground among members with diverse beliefs and values
Explore how the "manufacture of doubt" complicates climate change communication and action

Are Our Brains Wired to Ignore Climate Change? George Marshall denial-psychology book trailer (4:42)
Making climate change personal
... and building climate change bridges
These two short clips are Marshall explaining why we need to shift how we talk about climate change from "something that will happen sometime in the future" and "something that is happening to someone else" to an issue that is
right here and right now
If you are interested in learning more
about Marshall's approach to communicating climate change, check out these resources:
2. Read the book.

Marshall, G. (2014)
Don't even think about it: Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change.
New York: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
1. Watch a longer video about how to talk to climate change deniers.
3. Check out the COIN (Climate Change Information Network) website at http://www.climateoutreach.org.uk/
4. View Marshall's one or two hour presention on YouTube. Put "George Marshall climate change" in the search field and a number of recorded presentations will come up.
VisiononTV. (2012) How to talk to a climate change denier. (20:18)
Other climate change communication resources:

Nisbet, M. C. (2009)
Communicating climate change: Why frames matter for public engagement.
Environment Magazine, Vol. 51, No. 2.

Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, and Affiliate Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, Boston, MA.

Big Think. (2012) Matthew Nisbet: On How to Communicate the Climate Crisis. (3:24)

George Mason University, 4C - Center for Climate Change Communication: http://www.climatechangecommunication.org/welcome

Site includes a data­base of aca­demic papers, a reg­ular news­letter, and a blog fea­turing com­ment and ana­lysis from cli­mate change com­mu­nic­a­tion experts. "Talking Climate is the gateway to research on cli­mate change communication."
The IPCC's release of the 5th Assessment report on climate change shows scientists are about as sure as they could possibly be that global warming is real, and that humans are in large part responsible.

And yet denial of the crisis persists.

Public Radio International (PRI) host Marco Werman talks about the perception gap with environmental risk specialist Peter Sandman.

Climate change denial - Public Radio International segment, 9/27/2013 (4:23)
Showtime. (2013) Years of Living Dangerously Season 1: Episode 9 Clip - Thomas Freidman interview of President Obama. (1:57)
*Risk communication is an exchange of information about the likelihood and consequences of adverse events. In an emergency, effective risk communication is vital because it helps the public respond to the crisis, reduces the likelihood of rumors and misinformation and demonstrates good leadership.
- Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
Sandman and others in the field of risk, hold that there is a very low correlation between hazard (the stuff that can hurt you) and outrage (people's concern about the hazard.)

His risk model seeks to explain

this is and provides ways to communicate with people who are alarmed, concerned, ambivalent, in denial, or dismissive about a hazard.

Risk communication provides concrete tools and techniques to more effectively communicate in a crisis. I think it is an approach to communication that can be useful for union leaders and leaders in any organization.

If you are interested in learning more
about risk communication:

Sandman has a website with his publications, videos, and a blog at:

The CDC has a online risk communication training module at:

It's here, it's warm - get used to it!
This week's objectives:
Do you have communication resources to share? Bring them to forum! Be sure to provide a link or add them to our Webliography.
A bit more about risk perception
Risk = Hazard + Outrage model
"...In the end, all of the computer models, scientific predictions, and economic scenarios are constructed around the most important and uncertain variable of all: whether our collective choice will be to accept or to deny what the science is telling us. And this, I hope you will find, is an endlessly disturbing, engrossing, and intriguing question."

- Peter Marshall,
Don't Even Think About It
Union leaders have a better understanding of how doubt is "manufactured" than most people. The demand for more and more research on workplace hazards has become a common tactic to avoid regulation. The next part of the presentation is the backstory of manufacturing doubt.
From the abstract to the personal
Sandman is one of pioneers in the field of risk communication.
(Sometimes students in my risk communication classes find his material confusing. But its not academic wonky - just a bit wordy.)
You gotta be organized
..." - Anthony Leiserowitz, Director, Yale Climate Change Communication Project
It can be disheartening to think about the urgency of the climate change crisis and how little policy progress has been made. I like this clip because in it Leiserowitz reminds us about the power of organizing. This was, in large part, my motivation to create this course. Who knows better about organizing than unions? Its in our blood and, in my opinion, unions have the very real potential to change the current climate change trajectory.
PBS, Moyers & Company. (2013)
Climate change communication - why isn't the message getting through?
What Sandman calls "strategic denialism" is likely familiar to you. The article
Manufacturing Uncertainty: Contested Science and the Protection of the Public’s Health and Environment

where the strategy came from and how it is used,

Manufacturing Uncertainty
was written by David Michaels (Obama's Assistant Secretary of Labor and head of OSHA) and Celeste Monforton in 2005, but is relevant today - maybe more than it was almost a decade ago.

Here is the abstract:

Opponents of public health and environmental regulations often try to "manufacture uncertainly" by questioning the validity of scientific evidence on which the regulations are based. Though most identifed with the tobacco industry, this strategy has also been used by producers of other hazardous products. Its proponents use the label "junk science" to ridicule research that threatens powerful interests.
This strategy of manufacturing uncertainly is antithetical to the public health principle that decisions be made using the best evidence available. The public health system must ensure that scientific evidence is evaluated in a manner that assures the public's health and environment will be adequately protected.
If you would rather view Micheals talking about his book on this topic you can watch the video. A longer version of the video is available on YouTube.
BookTV. (2009) David Michaels author: "Doubt is Their Product". (9:54)
Michaels, D. (2008) Doubt is their product. Oxford University Press, Inc., New York, New York.
You can access the article on the Week 3 page or in the Webliography in Ecollege.
How to manufacture uncertainty
But isn't doubt good for science?
Well, yes. This brings us back to the little video "The Scientific Method Made Easy"...

"Science is, and always has been, about doubt, uncertainty — what the 18th century physicist James Clerck Maxwell called 'thoroughly conscious ignorance.'.. Science often traffics in doubt and readily welcomes revision (testing the hypothesis). And these are precisely the attributes that make it deserving of our confidence." (Firestein, S.)

But healthy skepticism that is fundamental to the scientific method can be abused and manipulated when there is a demand for "scientific certainty" with the intent to influence policy or prevent the regulation of hazards. This is a counter-intuitive and nuanced notion that seems to confuse even the science majors in my classes at Rutgers. No wonder then that so many people are stuck in the middle of the 'Six Americas' of cautious, disengaged and doubtful (the dismissives likely have an agenda and are likely not simply confused.)

An OSH example of this is diacetyl - a chemical that makes our microwave popcorn taste like butter. Since 1999 the connection between diacetyl and a rare, fatal lung disease seen in workers at popcorn plants has been recognized. In the years since, compelling evidence has been compiled that shows a clear connection between diacetyl and
bronchiolitis obliterans
. Fast-forward to present day and despite the efforts of the medical and research communities; national unions; the families of dead and injured workers; NIOSH and OSH; and progressive legislators, there is still not a federal permissible exposure limit for diacetyl. The strategy of demanding scientific certainly has been consistently and successfully used in this case.
Meet our guest lecturer - Naomi Klein
You may have already seen this 2010 TEDTalk, but if you haven't I think is worth the 20 minutes it will take to view it. Klein's thinking on why our political and economic leaders are so willing to take huge risks based on "cost benefit analysis" and why they employ the demand for scientific certainty to justify those risks.

Klein counters the question of "what if we are wrong" with the question "
what if we are right?
" I look forward to reading your thoughts on the talk in this week's discussion forum.

Klein is one of the two people (the other is Bill McKibben) responsible for my move out of the disengaged segment and is part of my personal climate change narrative.

What if we're wrong?
TEDTalk. (2010) Naomi Klein: Addicted to risk. (20:19)
As my family and friends would tell you, I'm not an optimist and it would be easy to sink into climate change hopelessness and inertia. But I am heartened by what seems like real shifts in attitudes just in the past year. Four years ago when I began integrating climate change into all of the courses that I teach, it was hard to find decent resources to use; now there is wealth of information to choose from - an overwhelming amount! I've picked some of my favorite resources to share with you in this presentation.

If you have favorite resources to share, please mention them in the discussion form. Last week, I watched a hilarious video and an article that Gunilla linked.
Showtime. (2013) Years of Living Dangerously Season 1: Episode 9 Clip - President Obama. (1:52)
Thomas Freidman interviews
President Obama on Leadership
Sources cited in frames.

Ashley Conway
Union Leadership Academy Fall 2014
LEARN, Rutgers University
School of Management and Labor Relations,
Labor Studies and Employment Relations
and Climate Change Denial
If you want to watch the Micheals' video and your screen says that BookTV doesn't allow embedded playback, just put the "Michaels doubt is there product" in the YouTube search field to find it.
A scientific explanation of how our brains process climate change risk
PBS - It's OK to Be Smart. (2014)
Why people don't believe in climate science.
Full transcript