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Green Groups Rebrand Global Warming Around Public Health
Following the demise of cap and trade legislation, green group leaders acknowledged that despite spending several hundred million dollars to pass the bill, they were unable to create public demand for action in key Midwest Congressional districts and states.
"The community that tried to move a climate bill fundamentally lacks political power and doesn't have the ability to either deliver punishment or reward to members of Congress who don't vote for us," Kathleen Welch, a Washington-based philanthropy adviser told Politico in 2011. Her admission was echoed in statements by Fred Krupp, Bill McKibben and others.
Now, as Politico reports today, it appears that green groups led by the National Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club are seeking to address this weakness. “We’re going to talk a lot about the health implications of dirty air,” Heather Taylor, director of NRDC’s political arm told Politico. “I think that the Midwest is one of those places where [there are] a million great clean energy stories, especially. And they’re not being told right now, because we’ve tended to be in other markets. That’s an area where we feel like it’s time to go tell those stories.” You can watch one of their TV ads emphasizing this message later in the post.
In a polarized America, if you are going to build support for candidates in the Midwest and other battleground states that will back legislation on climate change during the next Congress, you have to switch focus to emphasize public health and economic resilience, goals realized through incremental actions like eliminating coal plants and boosting fuel efficiency.
“Critics for a long time have argued that environmentalists and our issues don’t connect with people,” Sierra Club National Political Director Tony Cani told Politico. “The idea is this: When it comes to any issue, whether it’s Keystone, EPA regulations or any other issue … how does that impact individuals? How does it impact families? I think that it’s fair to say that that’s not always been a strength of environmentalists.”
HISTORY OF MESSAGING ON CLIMATE CHANGE, 2006 to 2010
As I reviewed in a 2009 paper at the journal Environment, in 2006 and 2007 the dominant focus of climate messaging was around the "climate crisis" and the risk of catastrophe. This message was set in motion and promoted through Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Along with this frame was one of political accountability, emphasizing the "war on science," the actions of the Bush administration and conservatives, and the efforts of Democrats to "return science to its rightful place" in politics, as Obama would later declare.
In late 2007, Gore with his newly launched WE campaign switched focus temporarily to a message emphasizing national unity in the face of an existential threat, similar to Americans coming to together to win WWII or to put a man on the Moon. Yet by 2009 and for most of the cap and trade debate, Green groups led by the Environmental Defense Fund and the WE campaign focused on climate action as leading to jobs. EDF in ads told viewers that "Cap=jobs" and the WE campaign ran ads featuring construction workers, ranchers, and clean energy technicians around the brand theme "Repower America."
Yet the focus on jobs lacked a moral foundation. It offered the promise of benefits, but didn't build a case for why we should act and why we have a responsibility to do so. The emphasis on economic benefits in the context of the recession also turned the debate into "some economic benefits" as claimed by greens versus "dramatic economic costs" as claimed by opponents, a balance that given the economic context favored the opposition.
A SLOW SHIFT TO FOCUS ON PUBLIC HEALTH
Public health has been a dramatically under-communicated dimension of the climate change story, yet it is a dimension that has perhaps the best ability to connect with a wider diversity of Americans, to erode polarized differences, and to create a moral foundation for action.
Consider that through 2009, in an analysis I conducted for the Centers for Disease Control with several colleagues, we found that health impacts such as extreme heat, disease, and respiratory problems, and more vivid threats such as hurricanes, were mentioned in fewer than 5% and 10% of the climate change-related articles in national and regional papers, respectively.
One reason that human health impacts were dramatically under-communicated was that major funders were not considering these types of human dimensions in their investment strategies. As I detailed in the Climate Shift report, between 2008 and 2010, the 9 major national foundations that were part of the Design to Win alliance distributed more than $360 million in grants related to action on climate change and energy, but among these grants only $1.9 million included a focus on public health and well-being, less than .05% of all funds distributed.
WHY THE FOCUS ON PUBLIC HEALTH AND GAS PRICES MATTERS
1. Public Health Partners Have a Built in Network in the Midwest, Greens Don't
Partnering with NRDC and the Sierra Club is the American Lung Association. This partnership is important since by their own admission, green groups lack the network in many conservative or swing districts to make major communication gains. For public health groups, this network exists and they have a playbook specific to tobacco to draw from.
In the ALA and other public health groups' efforts to regulate tobacco, major Congressional legislation was blocked by the tobacco lobby until 2009. Yet over the previous 30 years, anti-smoking groups won incremental policy victories through smoking bans and cigarette taxes, while socially stigmatizing smoking through campaigns in support of these goals. Moreover, it was legal action by States Attorney General that ultimately forced Congress to consider national legislation in 1998. The bill failed but built momentum for legislative success in 2009, the first time after 50 years of efforts that Congress enacted a bill that regulates tobacco as a controlled substance.
2. A Public Health Frame Personalizes and Localizes the Climate Pollution Story
As I wrote in the 2009 paper at Environment, by re-framing climate change in terms of public health, several points of emphasize likely connect better with audiences beyond the environmental base:
The public health frame stresses climate change’s potential to increase the incidence of infectious diseases, asthma, allergies, heat stroke, and other salient health problems, especially among the most vulnerable populations: the elderly and children. In the process, the public health frame makes climate change personally relevant to new audiences by connecting the issue to health problems that are already familiar and perceived as important. The frame also shifts the geographic location of impacts, replacing visuals of remote Arctic regions, animals, and peoples with more socially proximate neighbors and places across local communities and cities. Coverage at local television news outlets and specialized urban media is also generated.
In research with Ed Maibach and colleagues, we find that by focusing communication on the health risks of climate change and the health benefits of local-level action, even those doubtful or dismissive of climate change support forms of mitigation-related actions, a starting point for building support for eventual national policy. [See discussion and study at BMC Public Health.]
As Maibach and I have also described, by focusing on public health, you additionally activate new trusted spokespeople and opinion leaders among local public health officials, nurses, doctors, and health advocates.
With Mindy Weathers -- a graduate student at GMU -- we put together a report and primer on Conveying the Health Implications of Climate Change, intended to serve as an education tool and resource for public health officials, professionals, agencies, and offices across the country.
3. Personal Stories Build the Foundation for National Action
Localizing the issue of greenhouse gas pollution in terms of personal stories also resonates strongly with the strategy of health care reform advocates in the run up to the 2008 election.
Families USA spent several million in 2008 creating a “story bank” of media that documented the personal struggles of individuals without health insurance or who had been denied coverage. This became a major resource for journalists, campaign speechwriters and communication staff, helped elevate attention to health care during the election, and set an important frame of reference for the policy debate after Obama was elected. The efforts by Sierra, NRDC, and ALA should be designed and used with these types of goals in mind.
4. A Public Health Focus Can Transcend Polarization
As evidenced by the study above, public health is a widely shared value. Indeed, as was the case in the battle over tobacco and second-hand smoke, concern for the health of innocents including women and children is a moral foundation held by both liberals and conservatives.
In the XL Pipeline debate, opposition to the pipeline from Midwest state and local Republican political leaders did not come from appeals to act on behalf of the environment or global warming, but rather because of concerns over health risks related to the contamination of the Ogallala aquifer. "I want to emphasize that I am not opposed to pipelines," wrote Gov. Dave Heineman in a letter to Obama. "I am opposed to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline route because it is directly over the Ogallala Aquifer.”
5. A Public Health Frame Morally Stigmatizes Fossil Fuel Companies
The tobacco campaign began to turn when grassroots activists across states shifted the perceived norms around smoking from something that was attractive and done openly in public to something that was harmful to innocents, disgusting and done in private. In the process, advocates morally stigmatized tobacco companies as knowingly creating an addictive product that harmed the public's health especially innocents such as kids. Tobacco executives then lied before Congress about the issue.
Defining greenhouse pollution as harming innocent kids and fossil fuel companies as morally irresponsible is a parallel strategy. Partnering with ALA and public health officials gives Green groups the moral authority to make this argument.
Sierra and NRDC do this in the first of the ads that they are running in the Midwest. See below.
6. Greens for Too Long Have Ceded the Conversation on Gas Prices to Conservatives
Focusing on fuel efficiency in cars as an antidote to high gas prices -- and thanking President Obama for the fuel efficiency rules -- is also an important strategy. For too long, Greens and Democrats have ceded the gas price conversation to conservatives who redefine the issue as a supply problem (i.e. drill more) rather than a demand problem (ie. fuel efficiency, public transportation that saves money and benefits public health).
In a study at the American Journal of Public Health with Ed Maibach and Tony Leiserowitz, we find that conservative perceptions mirror expert opinion, as they are highly concerned about the possible economic and health impacts of a spike and volatility in gas prices. Liberals -- opposite to climate change -- display greater divergence from expert opinion and are less concerned about these impacts, suggesting an ideological blind spot to the importance of the issue.
The sensitivity of conservatives to gas prices and their low information, intuitive sense that gas prices are connected to public health offers a strong opening for engagement on the issue, an opportunity to start a broader conversation about the connections between energy policy, public health, and economic well-being.
Maibach, E., Nisbet, M.C., Baldwin, P., Akerlof, K. & Diao, G. (2010). Reframing Climate Change as a Public Health Issue: An Exploratory Study of Public Reactions. BMC Public Health, 10: 299.
Maibach, E., Nisbet, M.C., & Weathers, M. (2011, April).Conveying the Human Implications of Climate Change: A Climate Change Communication Primer for Public Health Professionals. Fairfax, VA: Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University
Nisbet, M.C. (2009). Communicating Climate Change: Why Frames Matter to Public Engagement. Environment, 51 (2), 12-23.
Nisbet, M.C., Maibach, E. & Leiserowitz, A. (2011). Framing Peak Petroleum as a Public Health Problem: Audience Research and Public Engagement. American Journal of Public Health, 101: 1620-1626.
Nisbet, M.C. (2011, April). Climate Shift: Clear Vision for the Next Decade of Public Debate. Washington, D.C.: School of Communication, American University.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think.
Women today are founding more businesses than ever. In 2018, they made up 40% of new entrepreneurs, yet in that same year, they received just 2.2% of all venture capital investment. The playing field is off-balance. So what can women do?
In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.