Bring messages down to local effects and do-able actions; calculate objective risks and prudent steps.
In our Eco Pulse™ 2013 survey, we are seeing a sustained increase in agreement with the statement, “Global warming, or climate change, is occurring and is primarily caused by human activity,” as 58 percent of respondents (compared to 48 percent in 2010) agreed or strongly agreed.
That’s the highest level since 2009. It’s linked, we believe, with recent severe weather events and the economic recovery, as consumers are able to turn their attention to problems larger than their household finances.
At the same time, we are not seeing an uptick in personal activities to lessen consumer impact on global warming. So, how do we connect consumer belief to constructive action?
The answer starts with avoiding sweeping warnings that make people feel helpless. Instead, note local effects – say, milder winters or hotter summers – and focus on small acts that can keep a little less CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Communicate those in a simple way, for example, “If you use a little less electricity, that’s less coal that the power company needs to burn.”
Nonetheless, the issue of climate change and man’s role in it remains a politically charged, divisive issue. It’s mired in belief systems that we know we can never really change.
One clear view, though, comes from the segment of our economy most accustomed to calculating and planning for risk: the insurance industry. In the 1990s, insurance losses from weather-related damage were triple those of the ‘80s. The losses in the first decade of the 21st century were triple those of the ‘90s.
We see the trend continue with epic disasters like Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and this year’s Moore, Okla., super-tornado.
While some members of the business community hold fast to climate-change denial, insurers are presenting the objective data and the risks to their corporate clients, and they’re working together to take prudent action to avert or prepare for possible events.
This is a valuable lesson for sustainability communicators: Present the risks based on objective data and let the listener decide on a course of action.