Saturday, January 22

We have had information campaigns about Brexit and Covid. And the weather? | George marshall

OROne of the key lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic is that strong policies require strong public commitment: People must understand the nature of the virus before tolerating restrictions on their lives or providing the government with a mandate for action.

However, the world is facing another major problem that is already transforming economies, infrastructure and way of life: the climate crisis. And in this case, governments have miserably failed to inform or consult their citizens. None of the most polluting nations that attended Joe Biden’s climate summit last week has a coherent strategy or dedicated national budget for public participation.

Citizens are largely unaware that we have the “right to know” about the climate crisis: article six of the climate convention (1992) commits governments to inform, educate and consult their citizens. This binding commitment was repeated, almost word for word, in 2015 Paris Agreement.

At first glance, a lack of commitment may not seem like a problem. After all, the vast and growing majorities around the world say they are worried and perceive climate collapse as a threat. However, this awareness is superficial and few people understand the speed and scale of the threat. The government’s own research shows that only about half of the people in Britain they accept that human activity is the main cause of climate collapse. And according to a 2019 report, only a third of the people I understand that there is a consensus shared by the vast majority of scientists.

This poses multiple challenges for policy makers. How can they expect rapid decarbonization to be accepted by citizens who do not fully understand the evidence behind those policies? How can they expect people to accept the imperative of limiting global warming to 1.5 ° C when, according to a British poll, Most people guessed that it would only get dangerous at eight degrees?

And can they be surprised if people resent and resist policies for which a mandate has never been requested or won? As we’ve discovered with Covid-19, when people are poorly engaged, denial and mistrust can spread through real-life conversations and social media. In 2014, resistance to carbon pricing in Australia toppled the government. President Macron was forced to withdraw a climate tax on fuel after yellow vest protests broke out on French streets in 2018. Without a shared national understanding of the climate crisis, such mild climate change policies, much more weaker than those required to meet the new climate goals – it easily became a proxy for social deprivation and political polarization.

The biggest concern is that the world’s most vulnerable people remain unprepared for the impact of climate collapse. Two years of investigate in North Africa by Climate Outreach, of which I am a founding director, found that most people could speak eloquently about the changes they had already experienced, such as droughts and record temperatures, but had little or no understanding of speed or gravity future impacts or what it is likely to mean for their communities. The lack of information in this region is a threat multiplier that reduces people’s ability to make informed decisions or prepare before extreme weather events.

It is time for governments to launch sustained and informed engagement with their citizens.

If the British government accepts this challenge – after all, it is hungry for opportunities to show climate leadership – it should apply the same level of investment that it has routinely applied to other priority issues; like the £ 8 million he spent in 2004 sending each household a 22 page brochure on the dangers of terrorism, the £ 100 million it budgeted for the “Prepare for Brexit” campaign, or the £ 184 million you spent in 2020 Engaging citizens about Covid-19.

However, this recent experience with Covid-19 also reminds us that many people, especially in the most skeptical groups, deeply distrust politicians and slick messages. Governments must resist the instinctive urge to spend budgets on short-lived advertising campaigns, celebrity endorsements, and political slogans. Some background advertising is valuable, but our investigate shows that communication about the climate crisis also requires a more sustained approach: recruiting authentic and trustworthy communicators, training scientists to speak skillfully, tailoring messages to the values ​​of different audiences, and reaching people through their communities , workplaces and religious networks. After all, the goal is to generate shared understanding, not to sell a product.

Whitehall would do well to look north of the border. For the past 13 years, the Scottish government has been quietly and steadily supporting community organizations to start local conversations about the weather in a modest, Annual budget of £ 8.5 million. We know what to do, but we must expand it.

Finally, the government must accept that the construction of a collective mandate requires that it reach all people, paying special attention to those who are skeptical, outcast and disconnected. There are excellent Models of health, addiction and literacy campaigns that provide clear strategies, goals and measures of success. Currently, the climate compromise has neither of these.

And as we approach the COP26 climate conference, we must question the technocratic culture that assumes that carbon targets can only be achieved through smart engineering and spreadsheets. We hear a lot about leadership, but leadership is meaningless without followers, and ambition is a fantasy unless it is widely shared and supported. Public participation is not a facade; it is the essential basis of all politics.

  • George Marshall is the founding director of Climate scopeand author of Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change

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