How we can use evidence from opinion polls and strategies from political campaigns to turn apathy into action.
The Climate Majority is not about the climate deniers or the climate activists. It's about apathy, about those who don’t talk about global warming – the billions of people who have heard plenty about climate change and acknowledge there’s a problem, but who are just not engaged enough to stimulate the change required to stop it.
This is the first book to investigate climate apathy, to describe how it prevents action to stop climate change and to show how it can be beaten with an approach developed for political campaigns. Drawing on opinion polls, psychological research and examples of successful campaigns from across the globe the author asks 'Who are the "swing" voters?’, ‘What do they think and why?’ and ‘How can we talk about climate change in a way that will provoke action?’
Preventing extreme climate change is one of the hardest tasks humans have ever faced. Rising nationalism and the US withdrawal from the Paris agreement are blows to progress. But only by influencing those who have, so far, remained outside the debate will we have a chance of building a climate majority to back the measures required to avoid disaster.
PART 1: Why climate apathy matters
Chapter 1 – The wrong target
Few people think climate change is a hoax. Instead of feeding a fringe conspiracy theory, we should focus on the people who can be persuaded to support the measures that will be needed to prevent disastrous global warming.
Chapter 2 – Who cares about climate change?
Around half of the population accept that climate change is happening yet are apathetic about it. Unlike climate deniers, these 'swing voters' could be persuaded that the issue requires urgent action – but at the moment it is not obvious to them why it matters.
Chapter 3 – Maps and roadblocks
Despite the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world is heading towards dangerous warming. Many countries are now cutting their greenhouse-gas emissions. But these measures won’t be enough and some measures that will be needed to avoid disaster would be opposed by most people.
Chapter 4 – The stakes
Even rich countries risk disaster from climate change. If the world radically cuts emissions, rich countries would face more extreme weather but would be able to cope. If it only meets its current emissions pledges, those extremes would be more destructive. And if it fails to cut emissions, no country would escape catastrophe.
PART 2: The causes of apathy
Chapter 5 – Sight and mind
Climate change is rarely mentioned in everyday life. Even when it is talked about, apathy is usually not challenged, as most people are inclined to dismiss threats that appear complex, distant and slow-moving. But this link between psychology and climate apathy is not inevitable.
Chapter 6 – Nothing to worry about
Apathy is worsened by the way climate change is often talked about by people worried about the problem. Descriptions of climate change often focus on distant places and animals and use apparently unthreatening small numbers to describe average global-temperature change and annual sea-level rise.
Chapter 7 – Do you have to be leftwing to worry about climate change?
Climate change is widely seen as an interest of leftwing environmentalists, and some campaigners do little to resist this label. But many people who are apathetic about climate change don’t identify with the Left and so assume that the threat is exaggerated for political reasons.
PART 3: How to beat apathy
Chapter 8 – The pointy end
People who are apathetic about climate change will only begin to pay attention to the problem if they see what extreme warming would mean for the people and places they care most about. They also need to see that it is not too late to avoid disaster.
Chapter 9 – Tear down this wall
Discussions about climate change should give more prominence to people who are not seen as leftwing, and should encourage high-profile debates about possible solutions. This is essential if more people from the Center and Right are to be persuaded to take the problem seriously.
Chapter 10 – Yes we can
To overcome apathy we also need to show that cutting emissions will bring benefits beyond avoiding dangerous climate change. Leaders need to prove that the burden is distributed fairly and that dealing with the problem is not just self-interest but a moral imperative.