It’s time to change the climate disaster script. People need hope that things can change

(The Guardian, 26 Jun 2019) The climate story must balance talk of urgency with hopeful and creative ideas if we are to inspire positive change.

“Hell is coming,” one weather forecaster tweeted this week, warning not of further political turmoil but of the hottest heatwave in decades that’s advancing across continental Europe. Extreme weather events like this remind us that climate change is not a remote and distant threat – but a reality that is already taking an unacceptable human toll.

In recent months, Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strike have turned up the heat on the climate debate. They’ve both done an astonishing job of getting the climate change back on the public and political agendas. Their warnings of impending apocalypse, disruptive tactics and robust demands that others “tell the truth” about climate change have made huge waves. Parliament has declared a climate emergency. The Guardian has updated its own editorial guidelines to use language that accurately reflects the threat that climate change poses.

These demands and promises to tell the truth are based on a core premise: if people knew how bad this was we’d do differently. My organisation studies how we respond to and are shaped by the stories the we hear. I welcome the renewed energy within the climate movement – and the recognition of the power of language. But I fear we risk underplaying the part of “the truth” that could set us free.

Most people in the UK know climate change is a big problem. We understand it poses a grave threat to the future of our world. But we’re not trying to save ourselves – at least, we’re not trying hard enough.

Communications science offers some clues as to why we might be locked in this collective paralysis – somewhat able to see the problem but unable to deal with it. Our brains are hardwired to jump to conclusions without us noticing we’re doing it. When faced with serious and complex challenges such as climate change, we jump to “can’t be done” more readily than “let’s work through this problem and see the solutions”. While bleak, “nothing can be done

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The Guardian, 26 Jun 2019: It’s time to change the climate disaster script. People need hope that things can change