Climate Change in the American Mind

The way to save the environment and the climate around us is to make climate change apparent to the non-believers, according to Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, who spoke at the Many Nations Longhouse Wednesday evening.

Approximately 74 people attended the event, which aimed to increases awareness about climate change and how the American people perceive what is happening. Leiserowitz, who is a graduate of the University of Oregon, explained that many people in the U.S. still aren’t even in complete agreement that there really is climate change at all.

“Many Americans see climate change as a distant problem, as a problem for small islands, polar bears and penguins,” he said. “Not a problem for me.”

Anthony Leiserowitz speaking about climate change at the Many Nations Longhouse.

Leiserowitz went on to say that there are many factors as to why less people are believing in climate change today. The main contributors include a down economy, declining media coverage, and the unusually cold weather that has been occurring around the world. He also says that the way we portray climate change in the media adds to the way people see it.

“Climate change has become a more and more prevalent term,” said Leiserowitz. “However, global warming has a greater connotative meaning.”

The University of Oregon Environmental Change Research Group, who sponsored Leiserowitz’ presentation, were delighted with the turnout. Ronald Mitchell, who was in charge of the lecture and is a Political Science professor here at Oregon, knew that he had to get Leiserowitz  for the presentation.

“He is one of the top experts on global warming in the world,” said Mitchell. “He is doing top research on public opinion of climate change.”

One person who also sincerely enjoyed the talk was John Baumann. A courtesy instructor in the Environmental Studies department here at Oregon, Baumann is a longtime friend of Leiserowitz.

“Tony is the clearest describer of how America feels about climate change,” said Baumann.

Even people who have never heard the term “climate change” know that something is changing in the world around them. Leiserowitz has been around the world with the Yale Project, and has spoken to many people on the subject. According to him, 4 out of 10 people on Earth haven’t heard of climate change, but have seen it. They just don’t have the proper terms in their own language to describe what they are seeing. He concluded his presentation by saying that is important to not force your own values about global warming on other people.

“In Eugene, we live inside the green bubble,” said Leiserowitz. “It’s really hard to change people’s values, and getting awareness of global warming started by changing people’s values is the wrong way to go.”

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