We acted on COVID-19 because it was indiscriminate, and had the potential to affect us, our families, and our friends. This made it a very tangible and immediate threat.
Climate change, over the long-term, is just as tangible and indiscriminate but the dangers often aren’t communicated as such. Getting people to take action on it therefore requires a shift in the way we talk about it. We can’t just guilt or shame people into action – we need to find communication techniques that speak to the person whose behaviour we are trying to change.
To take an extreme example: imagine you’re trying to get Donald Trump to act on climate change. Instead of trying to convince him that climate change is real, and that he invests in renewable energy for moral reasons to help combat it, perhaps a better approach might be to look at what motivates him. If instead we said “renewable energy represents an opportunity for the US to become more energy independent, create job, and maintain America’s position at the top of the global world order”, we’d surely have a far better chance of getting him to invest in renewable energy.
We’re doing it because we want to fight climate change, and he’s doing it to make a dollar, but the outcome is the same: we both get the benefit of the planet being a better place. Effective communication is key to tackling any issue, and climate change is certainly no different.