The How and Why of Creating Social Consensus on Climate Change: What’s next?

By January 24, 2012Blog

About the Author

My mind is still racing from a very exciting and ground-breaking conference that the Erb Institute co-hosted this past weekend with the Union of Concerned Scientists. So much so, that I want to share some of it with you. In doing so, my hope is that you will respond here with your ideas about how the Institute can leverage the ideas and connections formed at this workshop to create mission-relevant and high-impact outcomes.

Called “Increasing Public Understanding of Climate Risks and Choices: What We Can Learn from Social Science Research and Practice” we brought together 100 participants from the worlds of climate communication and the social sciences to discuss how we create a social consensus to match the scientific consensus that presently exists on climate change. In short, the question is – why don’t people believe the science? In short, the answer is – the messenger and the framing of the message is as important as the scientific message. There is certainly much more to this answer and, with the help of 12 Erb masters and PhD students who worked tirelessly to take notes of the conversation, we will be producing an in-depth white paper to summarize the workshop results.

But until that report comes out, I want to share a part of the meeting with you. On Friday evening, we hosted a Town Hall event that drew about 250 people in Blau Auditorium and another 300 on the live-stream. We heard from Rev. Sally Bingham, Congressman Bob Inglis, our own Steve Percy, Rev. Richard Cizik and Katharine Hayhoe (a climate scientist made recently famous by Newt Gingrich – see the link to her interview below!). We took questions from the audience as well as the on-line viewers. It was a fantastic evening to match the fantastic workshop.

I hope you enjoy it, and find it interesting and useful in your own efforts to communicate this important issue in today’s fractious world. And we will share the final white paper with you all when it comes out as well.

Here are my questions for you.  What content can we offer, in this vein, that would be valuable to you personally and/or professionally?  What program strategies should Erb build on this platform – including research, partnerships and collaborations, communications (PR, print, web, social media and more), degree and non-degree education, conferences and other events?  Do we need to investigate other issues applying similar perspectives?  In sum, please share here your reaction to this kind of programming, if we should do more of it, and how.  Many thanks!

Sincerely,  Andy Hoffman

More from the January Town Hall:

Read Peter Sinclair’s interview with Katherine Hahoe. 

Michigan Radio (NPR) write up and podcast  on the conference, be sure to scroll down to the quiz at the end of the story.

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