By Adam Pearson
Discovering ways climate change effects someone personally and then finding a sense of hope is what is needed to effectively talk about climate change, an atmospheric scientist believes.
“We need hope because without it we will be a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom.”
Katharine Hayhoe spoke at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire’s Schofield Auditorium on April 10th as part of its Forum Series. The speech, entitled “Climate Change, Extreme Weather, and You,” was delivered to a diverse crowd of 250 people who paid to see Hayhoe speak. To interact with the audience, Hayhoe used an app which audience members could access on their phones to ask and answer questions throughout the speech.
Hayhoe, a scientist, speaker and political science professor at Texas Tech University, focused on the effects of climate change on both a local and global level, as well as how to get the people of Wisconsin engaged in the climate change discussion by “connecting the dots” to their own personal values.
“Connect the dots directly to what it means for us here,” Hayhoe said, “Not in the Arctic, not in the Antarctic, but here in Wisconsin.”
Hayhoe acknowledges that the people of Eau Claire are aware of climate change, citing data that shows 59% of Eau Claire adults believe that climate change is real – 2% more than the national average. Where the problem lies, according to Hayhoe, is where Eau Claire, as well as the rest of the country, are in the dark.
“Almost everyone thinks it’s happening,” said Hayhoe before revealing more data showing that very little people believe it will affect them personally. However, Hayhoe believes Wisconsinites are already feeling the effects of climate change; citing the recent flooding, stronger droughts in the south, and a Wisconsin town that broke heat records, cold records, and snow records all in the same month this past March – and Hayhoe suggests it isn’t just a bad streak of weather. By 2030, Hayhoe’s data suggests that Wisconsin summers will feel like Illinois summers.
Hayhoe believes that just seeing what is happening now and knowing what could happen in the future is not what will hit home with people; instead, more effective conversations is the answer.
To have an effective conversation about climate change that will make people care, Hayhoe believes you must start with three steps:
- Find shared values.
“Do not start the conversation with something that you completely disagree with them on,” Hayhoe said, “You want to begin the conversation with something that you most agree with.”
- Explain why these values matter to us – connect the dots.
- Lastly, but most importantly, talk about solutions.
“That is the real problem. Nobody thinks there are any positive solutions,” Hayhoe said.
According to Hayhoe, following these three steps with get people engaged in the climate change discussion while simultaneously forcing them to connect the dots between climate change and the things they care about the most. And that, Hayhoe believes, is what will help the most.
After the speech, audience members seemed to be pleased with Hayhoe’s speech. Todd Wellnitz liked the modern approach with the use of the app, also adding that he is “glad she is at the forefront” of climate change. Larry Metznbauer, a self-proclaimed “70-year-old activist,” has heard Hayhoe speak before but returns because they “share the same motivations.” Metznbauer also said that it is nice to see younger people getting involved because he worries about his kids and grandkids.
Following Hayhoe’s speech, a reception was offered immediately following a 20 minute segment in which Hayhoe allowed audience members to ask questions. One of the questions regarded the burning of fossil fuels.
“We need to figure out how to ween ourselves off those fuels, giving ourselves energy, helping people who don’t have energy get energy because they need it too, in a way that is sustainable, that is clean, and can keep us going long term.”
Hayhoe closed her speech with a quote from another scientist, Jane Goodall.
“It is only when our clever brain, and our human heart, work together in harmony,” Hayhoe said, “That we can achieve our full potential.”