We've Got the Policy Team, Now We Need an Office of Climate Change Communication
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."
Think Progress, the blog for the Center for American Progress, has a detailed run down on the Obama administration's announced appointment of Steve Chu as Energy secretary, Carol Browner as the head of the new National Energy Council, and Lisa Jackson as head of the EPA. At Dot Earth, Andrew Revkin has more background on Chu.
The plan is for this new policy team to be working with Congress and the states to pass bold new initiatives on energy and climate change, but it is not necessarily a given that strong public support for these policies will follow along.
These policies--along with recommended changes in consumer behavior and action--need to be communicated in a way that reach important audience segments and that resonate with the background of these audiences. In short, no matter how innovative, smart, progressive, and "science-based" the policy, public support will only follow if the policies are carefully communicated.
That's why we need a national Office of Energy and Climate Change Communication, a coordinating center that funds audience research on energy and climate, designs and implements national scale public communication campaigns, and that coordinates message strategy across agencies and non-governmental organizations. Along the model of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, this office should also invest in nonprofit news initiatives on climate change, an important step for building up the national and local infrastructure needed for climate adaptation.
On this idea, my colleague Edward Maibach and co-author Karen Akerlof recently reviewed three possible models for such an office based on campaigns in Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Canada (PDF, page 4). As they recommend, any national campaign to shape individual and collective behavior in the US should be based on three broad categories: carrots, also known as incentives, sticks as regulations, and sermons, in this case communication campaigns.
As they note, and as I have often "sermonized" at this blog, effective communication about energy and climate change will only come with research that segments audiences and that tests and implements messages tailored to the background of that audience.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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