Problem Not Solved

by Jassmin Del Rio

Unfortunately, the fact that that there is almost complete consensus among scientists that climate change is occurring is not enough to completely convince the general public. There are some techniques outlined by Maxwell and Miller that might be able to get more people to acknowledge the existence of climate change. They also outline the many factors that contribute to why 25% of Americans continue to deny climate change.

First, there are many biases that need to be accounted for before there can be any media influence to persuade people to rethink their beliefs. To make matters worse, Maxwell and Miller stipulate that there are popular media outlets including Fox News and the Wall Street Journal that provide false information to the public. This often leads to distrust in journalism and therefore disbelief in climate science.

Maxwell and Miller go on to highlight different studies that show how we can bridge the gap between conservatives and liberals when it comes to climate change. The study suggests that framing climate change in terms of “social harm and care” for liberals and “moral domain of purity and disgust” for conservatives, might help get both political ideologies on the same page because each phrase caters to their ideology. Another study claims that showing pictures of smog-filled cities and contaminated water would also motivate people to want to prevent any more damage to the planet regardless of political preference. These might serve to scare Americans into taking action.

Maxwell and Miller claim that all of the people who doubt that the science behind climate change is not concrete will continue to persuade others of that as well and also serve to prevent polluting companies from undergoing any sort of “proenvironmental legislation”. These doubters may even be the same people who tried to convince the public that the health effects of tobacco were not as bad as others claimed. There are several organizations that work to discredit the science backing up climate change.

Furthermore, some of the largest fossil fuel businesses have begun calling themselves sustainable in efforts to become stakeholders in the “green economy” and are further confusing the people in the process. On the bright side, shareholder activism had become more prevalent and succeeded in implementing the Shareholder Proposal Rule which states that shareholders are allowed to submit proposals to try to change company operations. This changed in 1970, however, when a legal decision made it so that shareholders could not vote to change company policy to try to make proenvironmental modifications.

Finally, Maxwell and Miller end by highlighting Pope Francis’ environmentally focused encyclical as an example of fighting against the climate change deniers. The encyclical holds much authority over a large portion of the population and has helped in reassuring the people, even those who may not consider themselves religious.

Maxwell, R., Miller, T., 2015. The Propaganda Machine Behind the Controversy Over Climate Science: Can You Spot the Lie in This Title? American Behavioral Scientist 1-17.

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