Addressing Global Warming: Better Communication Needed

As we conclude the hottest decade since 1850 , polls of Americans show that the percentage of those who believe global warming is caused by humans is decreasing. A decreasing minority of Americans believe it is a serious problem. The Copenhagen talks proceed with the developed nations pledging paltry, nonbinding amounts of money towards addressing climate change. Developed nations insist they owe developing nations no obligation to fix it, and indeed, should be allowed to emit more greenhouse gases per person than developing nations! Meanwhile, the main news fallout from the illegally hacked emails of climate scientists is not that desperate climate deniers commit criminal acts that do not change the reality of global warming. Rather, reporters write about how it makes some people question the legitimacy of global warming.

What's wrong with this picture?

There's a lack of popular, accurate sources of information and communication that adequately and continuously convey an understanding to Americans and their leaders about just how credible and serious climate change is. Currently, our daily news sources are saturated with health care reform, Afghanistan, and the economic situation. But climate change is not just about our economy, or our health. It's not just about the security of the US, or Afghanistan, or Iraq. It's about the security -- economic, social, medical, political and basic -- of human civilization on Earth.

Are you unemployed now? If so, no doubt it is overwhelming. It does not necessarily make you oblivious to health care reform, though, or what is happening in Afghanistan, if you pay any attention to the news. But how do these topics compare to the increasing probability that much of the US coastline will be permanently flooded by a 6-foot rise in 2100? To economies crashing now because of climate change, as is happening in southeastern Australia? To knowing that our government still subsidizes the fossil fuel industries that enable emissions of the greenhouse gases that ultimately cause climate change? Are you informed?

Better yet, are you angry?

One can find special reports about climate change almost daily that pop up like buoys in an ocean of news devoted to the topics listed above. But imagine if our daily news sources were, instead, saturated with ongoing informative news about climate change: the evolving technological and policy solutions, the consequences that multiply as we write, the resulting changes in geopolitical landscape, detailed reports on how jobs can be created and the economy stimulated by addressing it, and so forth. How would this affect how much all of us think about climate change, and what we are willing to invest to solve it? Would all of us, both citizens and leaders, finally recognize that we need to invest at least as much, if not more, in solving climate change than we do currently to address the Afghan insurgency?

One way to better inform the public is for mainstream news people to provide many more daily news reports concerning climate change and the science that underlies it. One of us, in fact, has started producing a series of 90-second weekday news reports about climate change. The Climate Change Report is available for free broadcast to all radio stations and free downloading and streaming to the online audience. Listening to the Climate Change Report can tell you, for example, that global warming is increasing Arctic methane emissions, which could seriously accelerate climate change. Or that Canada is developing an oil source that will worsen global warming. Or that there is a credible plan for moving the US and the world towards a clean energy economy that would increase our quality of life.

But much more needs to be done among the media to saturate the news with accurate and relevant climate change information -- information that conveys a true understanding of the issue to the public. President Obama and our congressional leaders over the coming months will be engaged vigorously in climate change legislation. Without a constant reminder of the pros and cons of policy solutions, and the consequences of delay or inaction from an informed citizenry, however, Congress will craft legislation that will be as inadequate as the current results of the Copenhagen talks.

Yeah, Sarah Palin is stupid. But what will our descendants think we are, if we can't move our nation to do the right thing about climate change?

Mary Ellen and John Harte have authored a new book, "Cool the Earth, Save the Economy: Solving the Climate Crisis is EASY" available as a free downloadable pdf at CoolTheEarth.US .