The internet is potentially the only place that is buzzing more this week than the streets of Paris. As part of its full coverage of the COP21, The New York Times published this Sunday an article titled “Two-Thirds of Americans Want U.S. to Join Climate Change Pact.” showed that in a New York Times/CBS poll two thirds of Americans supported the US joining an internationally binding treaty on climate change, something the United States has notoriously never done before and likely will not do in the future.
Along with the article, the NYT published the full results of the poll which provided deeper insight into how Americans think and care about climate change. What is evident is a gap between the understanding of climate change’s impact and the level of personal worry in the United States; 80% of Americans see the effects of climate change as serious, and 53% see them as immediate, but almost 60% hardly worry personally about the effects of climate change.
This data is worrying because many of the ways that climate change is communicated to the American populous is intended to create personal worry in the hopes that personal worry drives action. However, if better understanding the effects of climate change does not drive personal worry, then we need to think of either different ways to drive personal worry or think of different methods, other than worry and fear, to communicate the need for action at a personal and national level in the United States.
As so much of the COP21 related events are focused on communication in hopes of driving personal action, hopefully some innovative strategies will come arise that can help inform us and climate change activists in the US how to bring this issue to the forefront of every American’s mind.
Adam Goldstein 12/2/15