Friday, September 11, 2015

Climate Cognition notes

I attended the San Francisco Commonwealth Club's Climate One meeting yesterday, on "Climate Cognition" with George Lakoff, Kari Norgaard, and Per Espen Stoknes.

Lakoff did his usual thing on framing, YMMV. I think the idea of framing is correct although I'm less sure that the frames he says categorize the political spectrum are accurate. Both he and Espen Stoknes had some useful things to say on ways to communicate (emphasize climate health, risk management as opposed to uncertainty, etc.). Espen Stoknes has a book on climate communication, and I think it looks worthwhile - he may be further down the road of Dan Kahan/cultural cognition stuff then I like, but it's not completely off-base. Lakoff was very negative towards climate scientists for failing to teach "systemic causation", that the inability to attribute a particular weather event with 95% certainty to climate change doesn't eliminate a systemic level of causation of bad things.

I got a much less clear sense of Norgaard's message, not sure whether that's her fault, the moderator's fault, or my fault. Fairly usual ratio for such things, three white men and one (white) woman on the stage.

I'll say this for Lakoff - after the taping, a long line formed to talk to him, and he stayed to answer every person's question. I stopped Espen Stoknes to ask him about my hobbyhorse, the fact that many children alive today will live to see the world's climate in 2100 and whether that might make the distant problems of climate seem more real. He said it's not enough to refer people to real children they may know, that you have to tell a story and give a sense of what kind of life that child will face in 2100.

The podcast should be up soon, and you can also watch the video at some point.

UPDATE:  one thing in particular that Lakoff said that I found interesting - the only style of argument found to appeal to conservatives regarding climate change is to associate unchanged climate with "purity". I don't think the term has a lot of scientific meaning, and on one level maybe that doesn't matter. OTOH, if climate "health" and climate "integrity" are useful buzzwords for conservatives, they at least have a nodding acquaintance with the real world.