Construction, Design, Global Climate Crisis, New York, People, UGC Event
September 18, 2012 | By Cecil Scheib |
The following was blogged live from our Fall Conference on September 18, 2012 – Cooling on Climate Change: Designing the Message. Dan Lashoff, Director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the NRDC, discusses different approaches to communicating the urgency of climate change’s threats to the unconcerned audiences.
A Ph.D., Lashoff says he’s spent 20 years trying to “unlearn scientific communication and learn how to talk to the public.” He demonstrated that skill at Urban Green’s Fall conference today.
Should we focus on the problem? For instance, pictures of shrinking ice caps are very compelling. On the other hand, they make climate change seem like something very far away.
What if we focus on solutions instead? Dan points out that talking about efficiency, solar power, and so forth can be exciting. But, just focusing on the immediate things to do may not help us scale to the size of the solutions we actually need to address the problems.
As a result, NRDC emphasizes “healthy communities” as something that everyone can relate to. Dan calls “greenhouse gases” a “terrible term” that he’s been trying to avoid since it was invented; instead, he focuses on the carbon problem as one of “pollution” that threatens public health. For instance, warmer temperature worsens smog and triggers asthma attacks.
Additional health problems from climate change include heat waves, droughts, floods, and wildfires; NRDC thinks more than 150,000 Americans could die in heat waves by the end of the century. The good news: since buildings cause 40% of US carbon pollution, green buildings are a big part of the solution.
Some of the needed change in buildings can come from individual choices (ie better lightbulbs) but some will have to be from policy, says Dan. A good place to start might be solar panels on schools; it easily scales nationally, but relates directly to local communities. It’s bigger than the personal but far less abstract than federal policymaking choices, so it’s an excellent middle ground.
NRDC is working on taking New York City’s great example of greening its commercial building stock nationally. Dan uses it as a example of something not just good for reducing carbon pollution, but good for the economy as well.