CHICAGO—Anyone involved incommunications knows that climate change denial is as big a threat as the that we need so badly to cut back.
But after attending a 2½-day workshop in Chicago last week, organized by the Climate Reality Project, I’ve realized that climate change denial isn’t just an impediment. It has to be a focus for advocacy and truth-telling, right alongside the science and impacts of climate change itself.
The basics are easy enough to understand.
- Start with an urgent, proven, but complex problem.
- Add many thousands of scientific papers, all pointing to the same overall conclusion, but some of them necessarily disagreeing on some of the fine details—not because the problem is being exaggerated, but because that’s how science works.
- Factor in a huge, entrenched industry that is threatened by the research, has the money and the motivation to sow confusion, and has no scruples about spending lavishly to build a fake opposition out of junk science.
That’s the recipe for a manufactured debate that has slowed down action on the most serious crisis facing humanity, while producing vicious personal attacks on the climate movement’s leaders and volunteers.
Pushing Back on Climate Change Denial
The highlight of the Chicago training was a tour de force by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
Gore spent a full day presenting the latest update of the slide show behind his Academy Award-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth, then instructing us in the fine points of delivering the presentation.
He started at about 08:20 AM. He finished around 6:30 PM. Amid the details on climate science, climate change impacts, and renewable energy solutions, one of my biggest takeaways was the importance of calling out all four flavours of climate change denial:
- It’s not happening.
- It’s not caused by human activity.
- If it is, it’s not such a bad thing.
- Even if it is (all of the above), it’s too tough to reverse course.
I knew before I arrived in Chicago that all four flavours of denial are completely, utterly false. But they’re all equally dangerous, since each of them creates confusion and paralysis on a problem that we’ll only solve with decisive action.
It Takes a Community
I’ve been learning about climate change since 1997, talking about it for at least a decade, and writing about low-carbon energy options since Canadian Renewable Energy News began publishing in 1977. I’ve always believed that it will take a large, diverse, active community to make the transition away from dirty energy and the dirty weather it creates.
I found that community last week.
There were 1,500 of us from 40 countries, including about 100 Canadians. We were an incredibly varied group, with a wide range of skills, experience, and assumptions about the look and feel of a low-carbon future. We don’t agree on everything, and some of those interesting differences are already leading to some fascinating and fast-paced conversations online.
But we all came away with a common understanding of the four flavours of climate change denial and the steps we have to take to counter it, whenever and wherever it rears its ill-informed, fossil-funded head.
The knowledge we gained in Chicago will stand us all in good stead as we begin lining up our own public presentations on how to understand and solve the climate crisis. But we’ll also keep learning from each other, drawing lessons and inspiration from a very wide spectrum of experience.
In the end, a growing network of smart, committed peers will be the Climate Reality Project’s biggest contribution to solving the challenge of our generation.
This post is part of a regular series on climate change communications, policy, and action. Sustainability is at the core of Smarter Shift’s operations, and we see the transition to low-carbon energy futures as the single most important area to apply our expertise in content marketing and online community management. Whether you’re an energy specialist, a communicator, or a marketer, please join this conversation as though the future depended on it!