At Skeptical Inquirer Online, Moving Beyond Gore's Message
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Conventional wisdom pegs 2007 as the long awaited tipping point in waking the American public up to the urgency of global warming. Yet as I review in my latest "Science and the Media" column at Skeptical Inquirer Online, such optimism runs up against the reality of public opinion.
Despite Gore's breakthrough success with Inconvenient Truth, American opinion today is little different from when the film premiered in May 2006. Gore has done a very good job of intensifying the beliefs of audiences who were already concerned about climate change, but a deep perceptual divide between partisans remains.
Still, the past twelve months were not without several overlooked developments that present both opportunities and challenges. They include:
a) The emergence of a new paradigm in climate change communications.
b) The rise of an "invisible middle" of climate perspectives.
c) And a powerful new public health definition of the problem.
In the column, I highlight these developments with many links to past posts or comments at Framing Science or other sources such as Andrew Revkin's new climate blog hosted by The NY Times.