Environmental groups, international aid organizations, the vast majority of world leaders, and 97 percent of climate experts know that climate change is happening and is a threat to natural systems, global communities, and the future stability of nations.
We hear from these groups constantly on the realities of climate change. They are the ones we all expect to be sounding the alarm. But it’s wrong to view the climate change conversation through such a narrow lens. In reality, the climate change tent is much bigger. Others calling for immediate action on climate change include:
- Generals and Admirals
- Former Republican Governors
- Christian groups
- Fortune 500 companies
- $100-plus billion fund managers
Why, despite all of this support has America failed, time and again, to enact comprehensive common sense climate change legislation?
One reason is that those concerned about climate change have allowed a vocal minority to frame the conversation and create distractions through manufactured controversies, false questions about consensus and political posturing. At the same time, those most vocal about the climate change problem have done a terrible job of engaging in an inclusive conversation on the issue.
Despite having the majority on our side, we segment ourselves into off-putting sects like “environmentalism.” We are suspicious of groups that agree with us on climate change but who disagree with us on other social and political issues.
This two-headed monster has created a near intractable communications problem around the climate change issue. It’s gotten to the point that anyone speaking out on climate change seems foreign and radical when, in truth, most Americans agree climate change is a real and present danger.
How can we get the conversation back on track and get to a point where we can start enacting real solutions?
First and foremost, those who are most passionate about climate change action need to drop our self-righteousness, reach out to the many groups who are with us on the issue and demonstrate that there is consensus. To do this, we need to take climate change out of the rubric of environmentalism and create a new movement that is inclusive and lives outside of political posturing and tree hugging. Let’s face it – you can support fighting climate change because you own an advanced battery manufacturing plant and still hate Al Gore and drive a Hummer. That’s fine, America needs you and we need your batteries. We can talk about the Hummer some other time.
This is where climate hawks come in. Back in October, Grist writer David Roberts (and 226 commenters) put a lot of thought into what we should call people who care about climate change and clean energy. The term he landed on was “climate hawks,” a brilliant turn of phrase that is all at once American, forward leaning, tough and – because it borrows from a Republican foreign-policy stance – non-partisan. It’s the type of phrase that has the ability to cross social and political divides and bring veterans together with environmentalists and hunters together with international development advocates.
Since October, the climate hawks movement has moved steadily along. It has a Twitter account with a modest following and its own patriotic logo/bumper sticker thanks to graphic designer Joe Immen. But it hasn’t really caught fire in the way I thought it might. The few people who do use the term are the same people who have been talking about climate change all along.
So this is a call to action. You know climate change is happening and is a clear and present danger, so become a climate hawk. Start using the term to refer to those who want to attack the climate change threat from all angles – from clean energy to fighting deforestation to adapting to changes that are already occurring.
Most importantly, reach out to others who are concerned about climate change but feel excluded from the conversation. Find a climate hawk who you might not agree with on other issues, start a dialogue, and find solutions you can both get behind. To win this fight, we’re going to need an entire country full of red, white, and blue climate hawks.
David Connell is associate director of strategic communications for digital marketing at The Nature Conservancy
Tags: anglers, climate change communications, climate change consensus, climate hawks, David Roberts, fund managers, generals, global warming, hunters, Joe Immen, meteorologists, republicans, veterans
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