| ||E2 Members at the luncheon. L to R: E2 NE Director Tedd Saunders; Dr. David Cash; Dr. Joe Grady; Ed Chen; and E2 NE Directors Dianne Callan and Berl Hartman. Photo Courtesy of Dianne Callan.|
Polls consistently show that the number of people who believe in global warming is dropping. However, according to a recent New York Times article
, people in Kansas who do not believe in global warming nevertheless embrace cleaner energy. The November election proved that voters in California overwhelmingly support their state’s efforts to curb global warming pollution. Clearly, how we frame this issue and talk about it makes a huge difference. It was this issue of messaging that three experts discussed with E2 New England members at a luncheon on February 11, 2011.
“Focus on creating a new common sense approach,” was the advice of Dr. Joseph Grady, principal and co-founder of the Topos Partnership
. Topos works with a wide range of advocate groups to create more effective explanations of public interest issues by taking into account the cognitive and cultural foundations of the issue. Dr. Grady presented highlights from a recent study, “Climate Crossroads
,” emphasizing the importance of an indirect message, focusing on energy-use reduction (thrift), pollution (without mentioning global warming), clean energy, green jobs and energy security. He also cautioned that because a majority of Americans don’t understand global warming, the indirect tactics should be supplemented with direct, common sense education about the causes, implications and solutions without rhetorical language.
Dr. David Cash, Massachusetts Undersecretary for Policy, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, explained that, in the current economy, Massachusetts residents are motivated primarily by reduced energy costs and volatility, increased energy independence, and jobs created by clean energy; framing the climate issue should therefore take this into account. The Administration will highlight these factors when communicating the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020
and its portfolio of policies: green buildings, electricity supply, transportation and non-energy emissions. They characterize the roll-out as “Launching the Clean Energy Revolution.” Dr. Cash also emphasized the importance of communication and implementation at the local level, demonstrating practical results for individual communities throughout the state.
Finally, Ed Chen, Federal Communications Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), spoke about his experience with messaging related to climate issues. Mr. Chen spent most of his career as a political journalist covering Clinton, Bush and Obama, and as senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg News. He sees first-hand the challenges of messaging at the nationwide level. Ed explained that, based on recent NRDC nationwide focus group meetings, “pollution” ranks high on the list of public concerns, but the public reacts negatively to terms like “global warming”, “cap and trade” and even “carbon dioxide.” An NRDC survey
also shows a strong public sentiment supporting EPA, as opposed to Congressional decision-making about environmental issues. Mr. Chen urged more public education and greater specificity in advocating the mitigation of global warming.
The audience had many questions and left the meeting with new resolve to improve our communication techniques and focus. E2 would like to thank our hosts, the law firm Nixon Peabody LLP, for the use of its conference facilities and the luncheon fare.
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