Changing the Climate Conversation

The conversation about climate change is no longer a dispute about what volume of scientific evidence qualifies as abundant and overwhelming; the conversation is starting to focus on which are the best choices for action to reduce the risk.

My work with Citizens Climate Lobby has taught me that only by engaging all people, of all political persuasions, in a conversation about solutions, will we arrive at solutions that emerge from such a conversation. Though it may seem an obvious truth, the necessary work of building trust among people of varied political interest is no easy task.

So, as the latest IPCC report sweeps the news cycle, I want to share important evidence of the gathering force of our effort to change the conversation and to free conservatives, and conservative news outlets, to talk solutions with respect to climate change.

Today on the FOX News blog, we read “like the leaders on whose watch World War One started, today’s climate change policies of denial and delay are ‘supremely dangerous’.” Read it all the way through; it will likely give you goosebumps, when you realize where it was published.

Also today, the Guardian is reporting that two UK newspapers that have long been instrumental in promoting climate science denial have changed camps and are now calling on stalwart skeptics in Parliament to recognize the threat.

On the day after the Senate Climate Policy All-nighter, leading Republican senators talked about the threat of “greenhouse gases” (the science) and put the blame on China (human cause). They criticized Democrats for “not debating an actual bill” to deal with the issue and talked up the need for “environmental stewardship”. We have more leaders stepping up, sometimes cautiously, to start talking about solutions.

Last year, CCL members published 1,267 letters to the editor and 251 op-eds. Putting his many years of newspaper experience to work analyzing the data, our Communications Director Steve Valk found that a conservative estimate of circulation for the average paper where those pieces appeared would be 80,000. Each paper, on average, is seen by three people.

Roughly 40% of those 240,000 readers read the editorial pages. So, our 1,518 articles would have been viewed by an estimated 96,000 readers a total of 145.7 million times. Assuming some of these views were individual readers repeated, we can estimate 20 million individual readers read CCL writing last year.

Major insurers and institutional investors have been explaining to policy makers that the IPCC reports are well-founded, conservative projections of already observable and escalating risks from long-term climate destabilization. There is, in fact, a global lifetime carbon emissions “budget” we cannot afford to run over. Major investors are saying the facts require that we take action to limit future liabilities.

Last year, the CERES group asked fossil fuel companies to both assess carbon asset risk and disclose their plans for solvency in a low-carbon future economy. Just this week, Exxon-Mobil began to disclose some of the data showing its exposure to carbon asset risk. Though more is needed, the conversation is now openly taking place.

Patient persistent engaged non-partisanship is working, and I am proud to say that the efforts of hard-working CCL volunteers are at the leading edge of this transformation in political consciousness.

Our 710 meetings with legislators or staff in the US Congress and the Canadian Parliament, in 2013 alone, allowed us to build this transformational thinking into the day-to-day policy discussions in the corridors of power.

Citizens Climate Lobby is comprised of people of conscience, looking for opportunities to work with those who will lead on solutions. Our volunteers are directly helping to mobilize the political will required to solve this global crisis; they are making the world our kids and grandkids will inherit safer, freer and friendlier to all that we value.

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