Recent controversy over the handling of climate data has been seized upon by those intent on preserving their own financial interests, with potentially catastrophic results for us all. The upsurge in doubt among the general public is concerning – but it is lack of understanding that allows doubt and fear to thrive. What messages best help the man in the pub see the sense in tackling climate change?
It’s a tricky one. It’s been attempted many times. But though the calls of governments, warnings of campaigners and the consensus of nearly all climate scientists state clearly that we must urgently tackle man-made climate change, public opinion has been sliding in the wrong direction. And without a mandate from the man on the street, government’s ability to make the changes necessary is fundamentally undermined. The leaks must be plugged or the dam will crumble: and then we’re all stuffed.
Doubt is the most powerful tool for those intent on halting the move towards a low-carbon future. Controversy rightly surrounds the moniker ‘climate change denialists’ – but there is no doubt that those driving the “business as usual, do nothing” agenda are determined and are the most dangerous people alive. They put the future of all humanity at risk for short-term financial gain. And we do need a term to set them apart: it’s wrong to lump them in with climate change skeptics. It is the absolute right of the man in the pub to require a convincing case from those of us working to protect the planet. Why on earth should he be made to change his lifestyle, pay more taxes, have public finances diverted from services supporting his day-to-day?
Our Future Planet has published a useful blog for any pub-goer who has struggled to explain why climate change is happening and why it matters. It sets out in clear terms that ignoring our growing environmental impact could mean fundamental change for everyone – that “do nothing” could end up changing everything. That a destablisied climate means destabilised societies, interrupted food supplies (interrupted beer supplies!) and worse. It clarifies the ultimate impact of global climate change beyond a localised increase in suitable beer-garden days.
The man in the pub wants to know why he should care about climate change – last orders on crisps and beer could be a good place to start.