White House website could undermine climate change motivation

Jonathon Schuldt, professor of communication in Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and an expert on effectively communicating environmental issues, says while the new White House website provides accurate data, it could give people a false sense of security and undermine motivation to stop climate change.

Schuldt says: 

“A real barrier to effective climate change communication is that the public tends to think about climate consequences as a very distant thing — something that threatens faraway countries or the North Pole.

“The new government website may be an attempt to shrink this distance, to psychologically put climate change in Americans’ backyards, so that we are more motivated to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and take other climate-mitigating actions.

“Although there’s good reason to expect this could be an effective strategy for promoting more progressive climate policy, it might not be a magic bullet. For example, the website might make some citizens and businesses realize that while their neighbors will be negatively affected, they will fare relatively well, which could give them a false sense of security and undermine their motivation to stop climate change.”

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