Tackling Disinformation on Climate Change
To avert devastating climate change impacts, we need to make dramatic lifestyle changes. Lance Bennett, Professor of Political Science and Communication at the University of Washington and currently IASS Senior Fellow, explains how better communication can help us succeed in changing course.
IASS: Why should we focus on communication rather than specific problems such as recycling or meat consumption?
Lance Bennett: We know a lot about the political and economic changes that are needed for a more livable future, but what seems currently missing is a communication model that helps citizens, civil society organizations, progressive think tanks and political parties become better aligned. Environmental activists are good at talking about environmental problems, but they lack a broader political strategy and a strong economic message. That is a problem because you cannot dismiss economic needs and political realities if you want to solve the environmental crisis.
IASS: Communicating climate policies is not getting any easier as organized attacks on climate science are on the rise.
L. B.: Disinformation is being produced both by social movements, such as groups that fight immigration or defend fracking, and right-wing parties and politicians. Without the political link to elected offices, the disinformation about migrants, climate change, globalist conspiracies and other nationalist issues would not be as much in the daily news. Journalists can’t stop reporting what Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro or Alexander Gauland says. To counter this daily disruption of our public spheres, what we need is an environmental movement that stops acting like a collection of special interests promoting this problem or that solution. What is missing is a coherent movement with a broad economic message that can engage political parties and leaders. This requires efforts from leading organizations, think tanks and funders to forge stronger idea networks that develop more positive economic ideas in which investment and growth are better balanced with resource consumption, waste processing, and social well-being.
IASS: Have you observed any recent developments that integrate economic, political and environmental targets successfully?
L. B.: The Green New Deal being discussed in the U.S. and by some Greens in Europe is a good example of how the intersections between politics, economics and the environment can work. This simple idea creates positive images of jobs, family and community in productive economies that better serve people and the planet. The impact of these ideas is much greater – particularly among young citizens – than just continuing to sound alarms about a dying planet, or offering narrow and negative-sounding solutions like carbon taxes, which anger many voters. Following its promotion in the US by Democratic politicians – Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey – most of the party candidates in the 2020 US presidential debates stressed the need to take global warming seriously, and to find ways to better integrate economic and environmental policy.
The complete interview for your use can be found here: https://www.iass-potsdam.de/en/news/tackling-disinformation-climate-change
Prof. Lance Bennett, firstname.lastname@example.org