Have you ever heard about the frog in the pot of boiling water? According to the story, if you drop a frog into the pot while it’s boiling, it’ll jump out but if you drop the frog into cold water and slowly heat it, the frog won’t notice until it’s too late.
I've heard this metaphor applied to humans and climate change: that because we don’t always see the impacts immediately, it’s easier to disregard climate change. Maybe this explains why only 29% of Americans said addressing climate change should be the top priority for the US government.
The problem with using the frog analogy for climate change is that the water isn’t boiling slowly anymore. We’re seeing the drastic impacts of climate change on a regular basis. We’ve already seen the first wave of climate refugees fleeing rising sea levels. Here in the states, we’ve seen record-breaking floods and droughts in the same year. Even insurance companies are taking note, raising premiums and even suing cities for not adequately preparing for climate change. Despite these direct impacts, public opinion is still divided. Why?
The public’s opinion is only as good as the public’s information and unfortunately, when it comes to climate change there are powerful forces working to keep the public misinformed. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen several states work to block the implementation of NGSS standards and the teaching of climate science in school systems. Sadly, these states are actively working to deny young people the opportunity to address what will be one of the biggest challenges of their lifetime.
What about the military? Since they consider climate change a threat to national security, they must be on top of it, right? Unfortunately, the House is trying to block science in the Pentagon too, working to pass a bill that will prevent the military from studying the effects of climate change. While there is a good chance that this bill will not make it through the Senate, it is an indicator of the magnitude of the problem we face. If we have given U.S. Armed Forces the mandate to protect society and proactively identify threats to national security, then we need to give them the authority to do their job well. That includes understanding the impacts of climate change.
If American schools and the federal government face resistance to increasing knowledge about climate change, can we rely on our news media? Unfortunately, it looks like we can’t. Last week, when asked about his channel’s lack of coverage on climate change, CNN’s president, Jeff Zucker said “when we do do those stories, there does tend to be a tremendous amount of lack of interest on the audience's part.”
CNN is missing the point. Climate change is incredibly relevant, regardless of ratings. It’s costing billions of dollars and immeasurable damage to property and lives. It should be CNN’s responsibility to report on those costs and inform Americans how climate change is directly affecting them. Since access to climate science is being blocked in schools and in the government, we need the media to report on it.
If you’re like me, it’s not enough to understand what’s holding us back from solving climate change. I need an invitation to take action. What can you do? Here are some ideas:
- Support climate education. The more people know, the faster we will get to a tipping point in public will, and the faster we can scale solutions to protect our families and our future. ACE is one piece of the solution and the leading organization educating American youth on climate.
- Think before you vote next November and support candidates who will act on climate change. You can learn more here.
- When you see a news network failing to cover climate change, call them out on their Twitter and Facebook accounts or shoot them an email.
- Learn how to live green.
ACE has proven that knowledge makes a difference, now it’s time for the government and media to take notice. Given the very real impact of climate change on people around the world, it’s time for us to address the serious gap in public awareness, before the pot finally boils.