5 min read

Carrots vs Sticks, the Sankey Diagram, Behavior Change Psychology, and #PlantBased4Climate (I mean it)

Carrots vs Sticks, the Sankey Diagram,  Behavior Change Psychology, and #PlantBased4Climate (I mean it)
Photo by Jeremy Bezanger / Unsplash

Welcome to the latest issue of Climate Influence, where I share a few stories and resources and add a bit of context about why they matter with ideas on how to more strategically communicate YOUR climate acting work.

The intense heat of this summer across the U.S. and around the globe must be making a difference in the minds of even the climate-change-denier community. Right? Well, as the Yale Climate Communications research I share below shows, maybe not. As the world gets hotter, the obstacles and weird politics that make Americans, especially, not admit the truth or change their behavior or policies seem to expand too. So, how can we translate what we are each up to in nonprofit work or corporate sustainability efforts into more "carrot-like" incentives?

Ponder that. Read up. And, please share this newsletter with colleagues. I'd also love feedback, topic ideas and tips on where you are seeing surprising climate action validators in your worlds.

Let's Celebrate The Inflation Reduction Act (and then get back to work)

Well, hallelujah to the IRA getting past the Senate, and to the New York Times coverage on how that particlar governing body finally made this happen. Turns out, politicians respond more to carrots than sticks.

But they also pointed to a shift in strategy, which set aside what experts consider the most efficient way to cut carbon dioxide emissions, a tax on pollution, for the less-effective but more politically palatable approach of monetary incentives to industries and consumers to switch to clean energy. Essentially, lawmakers replaced the sticks with carrots. - Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, New York Times

Pretty Colors and GHG Facts

Lloyd Alter digs in for Treehugger, and shares this really pretty-colored (source: World Resources Institute), updated Sankey Diagram graphic that tells the GHG story we all keep ignoring. Stop building crappy buildings and fix what we have. Stop driving so many cars. And, stop eating meat.

The Psychology of Inspiring Everyday Climate Action
+++lead-in-text When Kimberly Nicholas, a sustainability scientist at Lund University in Sweden, decided that she needed to confront the climate effects of her frequent flying, she took a scientist’s approach. She spent hours making meticulous spreadsheets comparing the costs of all the modes of tr…

One-On-One Conversations Help Nudge Social Norms

Getting louder, and leveraging your own climate influence is key for changing social norms. Excellent WIRED piece on behavior change, social norms and climate action:

In the end, the spreadsheets were for naught. Instead, what it took for her to make a change was an hour-long conversation with a friend who had himself stopped flying. Seeing how a fellow academic made his career work without air travel convinced Nicholas she could do the same, so she quit flying within Europe (although she still flies to visit her family in the United States.) Now she takes trains across the continent, extending trips when she can to justify the travel time. She joins events virtually when the travel math doesn’t add up.
New Study Confirms — Again — Plant-Based Is Better for the Planet
University of Oxford researchers examined 57,000 foods and deemed plant-based options better for the environment than meat.

Plant-Based Is Better For The Planet, Reconfirmed

If you haven't been paying attention to what Sentient Media is up to, you've been missing out on stellar reporting about the food systems transition and the power in moving away from animal agriculture for ALL of the reasons. As most of you know, one of my key focus areas is the #PlantBased4Climate solution, and the latest from editor Jenny Splitter knocks it out of the park.  If you are a climate change advocate - or, especially, a leader in the climate action space - and still haven't moved your own diet in a plant-based direction, what are you waiting for? Dig in with this piece, and amplify the truth. (Remember at COP26, how there were basically crickets when it came to talking about the methane from animal agriculture while making a huge fuss about the fossil fuel sources of methane?)

What the findings of this and other studies reiterate is the point that the largest food-sector emissions sources are the farmed animals themselves, especially cows, and also the massive amounts of farmland that go to feed these animals. It is not fuel for tractors or processing in a factory or even transportation.
More Educational Outreach on Extreme Heat Needed in the Midwest and Southwest - Yale Program on Climate Change Communication
This new research points to a need for more educational outreach on extreme heat, especially in the midwest and southwest. Due to global warming, people around the world are experiencing a greater number of extreme heat events. More than 150 million […]

Climate Communications Efforts Just Not Reaching The U.S Target

How is it possible that almost half of Americans don't see themselves ever being impacted by global warming ? Yale Climate Communications presents the data and great graphics in this recent piece to help us understand this state of affairs. When I read it, the first thing I thought was how even after years of consumer-facing campaigning and endless nonprofit/NGO attention and huge global climate events, this story is just not being told in a way that mainstream America takes in. So, what about the power in finding ways to integrate climate change storylines into the places where much of America is already: taking in movies, TV, sports, music. Who is doing the work to leverage THOSE mediums/sectors much more strategically? Arts and culture creators and packagers have huge climate influence. Efforts to dig into these sectors deserve the funding and investment (or support of any kind) from any organization saying they are "all in" on climate action.

"Nationally, only 47% of Americans think they will be personally harmed by global warming." - Yale Climate Communications research

Onward From The IRA

That's it for this issue. Let's take the carrot strategy from the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and quickly find ways to make what we all do more tasty. We haven't done well in reaching consumers, so how about leveraging a more strategic community as our tool for impact? Leaders.

A focus on leaders and "peer-to-peer" messaging means we have fewer people to reach with more clout to amplify once we do reach them. Let's move more effectively than our lagging consumer-facing efforts by "naming and faming" the corporate and political leaders who are taking even one bold, public step in their own lives and work. Peer pressure at that level is a tool, I'm convinced (and I'm happy to talk with anyone who asks about my theory).  

Please share, amplify, continue to read! (Thank you!) See you on Twitter or LinkedIn in the meantime!