in Change Agents, Politics and Plans

Climate Change of Mind

The term “climate” defines emotional and psychological conditions in group settings. It also describes variations in the Earth’s atmosphere. The word “viral” describes a disease-causing condition and an effort to capitalize on the influence of ads within marketing strategies. The duality of language is an excellent place to examine the “climate change of mind” problem.

In a diverse culture, growth in the depth of shared principles is an excellent place to explore opportunities and draw a line in the sand. Journalism may be the best place to call wide attention to them as separate from values, but what steps would be needed to draw that line? The argument here is to take the opportunity to review “climate change” and “information” in tandem. Communication in this context is the first rung on a ladder of indeterminate height but getting up the first step makes it shorter.

“What if all major newspapers in the USA took one day or several weeks to state American principles unanimously?”

A rule of journalism is not to become the story. However, today’s news business needs to grab the stage on this issue and produce some valuable viral content. Climate change is an excellent place to examine the climate of American principles in response to problems before entering the murky world of values.

  • values are internal, and therefore subjective, and may change over time, whereas
  • principles are external rules that are permanent and unchanging
Why doesn’t everyone know this?

Why Five Times

Asking “why” five times, such as “Is climate change dangerous, and how will it affect us?” is an exercise for defining issues with a group of people in problem-finding/solving situations. For instance, a Pourquoi story would produce an essential etiological diagnosis of papers by climate scientists and speeches by political leaders solely for their viral potential for solving climate change problems. Likewise, it could be beneficial to root out how the climate for discourse leads to confusion and violence or positive action with practical results.  

Why(1) is climate change dangerous?

The “affect us” question has infinite climate change locations and well-known impact zones. Floods, forest fires, and a rising sea have likely geographies; to a lesser degree, high winds and drought severity are also shared concerns. The conditions for a direct “affect us” situation then falls to historical odds and the number of potential participants in a tragedy. Climate scientists recognize this as a Game of Roulette over which they have little influence. Wondering if that ball (or bullet) can affect “me, my family, and community” creates a complex social climate of “them and not me” and leads to the illusion of location security.

Why(2) is climate change dangerous?

When a dangerous weather event occurs, services involving the city, state, and federal government, charitable organizations, and the help of family and neighbors provide recovery efforts. Without a robust response, the number of economically and physically displaced households increases, and local private and public institutions struggle to provide safety net services. The term resilience describes all types of defensive actions to increase security; however, post-trauma assistance in the name of resilience does not contribute, nor does it prevent, ongoing damage to future generations. The alternatives are vague renewable energy concepts and lifestyle changes. None of these choices feel essential and leads to the “out of our hands” rationalization for the ordinary observer. 

Why(3) is climate change dangerous?

The first two examinations of ‘why’ involve the emotional climate of a scientifically predicted change in the Earth’s atmosphere. Using the term existential threat is accurate but unhelpful. The news business examines threat conditions as a “daily history” written to describe events using the other journalistic questions — who, when, what, and how. News of the energy production business, GHGs in the air, and the complexity of that air’s relationship with the star we call our sun are abstract. Some of this news leads to factual information. Examples are the assignment of a personal climate/carbon footprint for households, communities, cities, and nations. The physics of GHGs is well understood, while the demand for scientific authority in governance remains ineffectual. There is no airbag for the planet.

“Information disorder is a crisis that exacerbates all other crises. When bad information becomes as prevalent, persuasive, and persistent as good information, it creates a chain reaction of harm.”

Aspen Institute on Information Disorder

The focus on American principles is disappointing for its sole focus on the U.S. Constitution. But, quickly, they are the rule of law, civil and human rights, free speech, privacy, a procedure for accurate information, and the responsibility to think critically in the public interest through democratic action. As standards of civil society, they allow all people to learn and become their “better selves.”

Institutions that herald these principles can never know the “truth,” only the joy of searching for it with sufficient vigor toward good decisions. The alternative is to accept an authoritarian power over what can be learned. All forms of communication combine mis- and disinformation. False or misleading information that is not necessarily intentional has the prefix “mis” to express the message from the Latin root – wrong. The prefix “dis” means “not.” It is information suggesting that it is something else. The motive of disinformation is to persuade with a purpose. It is a symptom of complex inequalities composed of anger, fear, and distrust. Climate change is dangerous because the information is a product of ineffective, short-term experience and slow scientific methods.

Why(5) is climate change dangerous?

Distressing the Earth’s entire system allows direct actions for change. However, this includes factions in science and public dialogue with the capacity for suppression that narrows characteristics of a problem by furthering a reductive narrative. As a result, the climate of political discourse tends to overlook or underplay the need to respond. For example, the “thoughts and prayers” emotion with low-cost recovery loans are reactions that cannot be rejected, but it diminishes the debate on alternatives. Modern science also contributes to this response by narrowing the evidence needed for selecting solutions with merit and efficacy[1]. The combination of these behaviors limits a vision of new ways to live and how to achieve them.

In this climate of interaction, a realignment of values is needed. The demands of children openly complain about the lack of action, knowing full well that the scientific solutions to eliminate atmospheric GHGs are simple. They are born in the Age of Information, and for them, the answer is simple, end the use of fossil fuels. They know this is a threat to everyone everywhere, and it is on a schedule composed of atmospheric tipping points and geographic disruptions. Yet, the instructions for a radical pivot in alternative energy are wrapped up in its cost.  

Once Again, Together or Separately

“What if all major newspapers in the USA took one day or several weeks to state American principles unanimously?”

The Report

If that idea is to get legs, it must confront the values as separate from principles so that both can be openly expressed and held throughout the USA, perhaps the world. The climate state of mind today exacerbates the actions needed now. Traditional American values and principles conflict with the illusion of location security by accepting “odds” coupled with out-of-our-hand rationalization. These beliefs automatically accept catastrophic outcomes in preference to authoritarian controls. The failure to fully understand the “slowness” of established scientific methods contributes to ineffective, short-term mitigation experiences—finally, these points limit a vision of new ways to live and how to achieve them.

The science of predicting what goes “viral” in communications across the new media sphere is impressive, and studies are developing. Terms such as “web-crawling” for critical words offer major media providers an opportunity to produce viral messages using search engine optimization (SEO).

These words establish emotionality, positivity, awe, anger, anxiety, and sadness. Other predictors are messages with practical utility, general interest, and surprise. Related factors involve fame, gender, a missing source, or a byline. Tweet/click counts are aggregated by the time of day, then correlated with related events. In addition, information is developing on the difference between reading a digitally presented text and using a typical book or newspaper. The “Journal of Research in Reading” made such a comparison (here) to find that paper pages offered an advantage in reading nonfiction. At the same time, the benefit of digital services (word definitions, comprehension quizzes) opened up rabbit holes. While useful, they distract from what the whole newspaper page offers in synthesizing the facts.


[1] An example of climate change reductivism is in the title of this article:: Demystifying the roles of single metal site and cluster in CO2 reduction via light and electric dual-responsive polyoxometalate-based metal-organic frameworks. Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader ( 1/2015 – 1/2021), is equally reductive as a consistent climate change denier with statements such as, “For everybody who thinks it’s warming, I can find somebody who thinks it isn’t.”

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