Public confusion slowing effective climate action in USA

Ignorance and deliberate misinformation is holding back the implementation of effective low-carbon policies in the USA, a Washington-based climate expert has told RTCC.

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, says campaigns to confuse, driven by oil companies allied to the climate-hostile George W Bush Presidency set back attempts to raise awareness in the States.

“There is confusion among the public, certainly in my public the US,” he said. “There is not a general awareness that climate scientists in the world are virtually unanimous in saying this is a problem.

“There’s starting to be an awareness in the wake of the droughts, wildfires and Superstorm Sandy that something is going on here, that extreme weather is becoming more prevalent.

“People are starting to connect the dots, and realise that something really is happening with the climate – but it’s a very complicated bit of science to explain to people.”

Alden Meyer COP18 interview from Responding to Climate Change on Vimeo.

Meyer stresses that simply outlining the bad things that may happen in a 2-6°C world is not an option, agreeing with current President Barack Obama that to carry public support proposals must be realistic.

“All the research shows that if you talk only about urgency, gloom and doom and you don’t offer solutions and hope and a way out they tend to resist and deny, because they don’t want to accept it without knowing how to resolve the tension it creates.”

But in the wake of the Doha round of UN climate talks, which failed to deliver any new cuts in global carbon emissions, Meyer says scientists are becoming increasingly nervous over what the future may hold.

“Board members joke that maybe we should rename ourselves the Union of ‘panicked’ scientists,” he said.

“There is an anxiety growing in the scientific community about the disconnect between the reality of the physical science system and the impacts we are already starting to see and the response by policymakers and the lack of urgency we see in these halls and capitals around the world.”

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