Climate Chaos Hitting Homes & Communities

"People are beginning to understand that climate change is here in the United States, here in my state, in my community, affecting the people and places I care about, and now."

Anthony Leiserowitz, Director
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication
January 22, 2019 New York Times

Leiserowitz is summarizing above one of the most important conclusions drawn from a nationally representative public opinion survey conducted in December 2018 by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. Their report, Climate Change in the American Mind, described some of the most dramatic and important shifts in public opinion seen on climate change. Far more people believe it is real and may affect them and the things they care about the most - their homes and communities.

For those who fear that approaching the climate crisis from a local angle undermines focusing on the huge prospective disasters we should all be fighting to prevent, consider this possibility. Climate ChaosAs communities work to defend themselves against growing dangers from floods, wildfires, hurricanes, sea level rise, droughts, violent storms, spreading deserts and dust storms, and invading tropical diseases, it will naturally dawn on people to ask, "Isn't there some way to stop these problems from just getting worse and worse?" People are beginning to understand that these dry terms mean raging waters that sweep children to their deaths, that wildfires can and do burn down entire towns killing scores, that hurricanes can and do kill thousands, and so on. These dangers, because they are becoming real to people, are plenty motivating.

It makes the most sense to think about community defense as simply an integral part of the climate crisis. Most people don't think in abstractions and highly discount speculation about long-term risks. The reality is that near term local impacts may well be far more effective at getting people to care about climate change. Once they start to care, they'll demand an approach that at least attempts to reduce the disastrousness of the problems arriving at their doors.

Published: June 2019
Revised: May 2023

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