Climate Conversations Must Focus on the ‘Audience Watching at Home’
Climate communicators’ target audience is the large majority of citizens who are casual observers, not the tiny minority of climate deniers bent on obscuring settled science, according to Penn State University advertising professor Lee Ahern.
“The objective is not necessarily to convince people you are right and they are wrong, it is to frame the debate in a way that indirectly conveys preferred assumptions about ‘reality’ to the audience watching at home,” he writes. “Making near-consensus—97% of scientists—a central element in the pro-policy debate opens up a rhetorical hole that policy opponents can drive a rhetorical truck through. A debate on the nature of consensus means the science is not settled, which means it’s premature for costly public policies.”
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Ahern suggests one simple question to shift the focus in favour of climate action: “Does this conversation or debate include the subordinate assumption that climate change is happening and the responsibility of the current generation of humans to respond to it?”