Rising Waters and Public Awareness
Rising Waters and Public Awareness, by Susan Israel
22 September 2017, Newton, Massachusetts – Will the recent hurricanes, heat waves and fires in the United States and Caribbean finally serve as the call to action for which we have been waiting? 70% of Americans understand that climate change is happening and that it will harm future generations of humans, animals and plants, about 53% accept it is anthropogenic, and yet only 40% believe that it will affect them personally (data from Yale Climate opinion Maps, 2016: http://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us-2016/. This lack of personal urgency leads to inaction. The problem of perceived risk seems to be largely an American problem, rooted in cultural outlook, misinformation campaigns and politics. In other words, it is an emotional, cultural and communications problem, not a data problem. We have plenty of data. People don’t seem to respond to data, and when they do, they become overwhelmed, hopeless and apathetic in the face of something so big they cannot conceive of personally impacting it. So how do we reach out, convey the risks of climate change, and mobilize people to act in whatever ways they can?