• Written by Chloe Lucas, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Tasmania

So much for Australia’s “climate election”. In the event, voters in last month’s federal poll didn’t put climate policy at the top of their wish list.

Contrary to opinion polls predicting a groundswell of support for Labor’s relatively progressive agenda on climate and economics, the election results revealed that Australians are more divided on climate change than we thought.


Read more: Australians disagree on how important climate change is: poll


Voters for progressive climate policy were dismayed at the re-election of a prime minister who famously brought a lump of coal into Parliament. Perhaps understandably, one of the immediate responses among these progressive voters was to express anger at those who don’t share their concern.

But anger feeds a divisive politics that cannot help us to address our big collective challenges. By retreating into social media echo chambers where mockery and disrespect are the norm, we risk losing entirely the social cohesion and trust needed for democracy to work.

A whole-of-society discussion about our collective future is urgently needed. Now is the time to reinvent how we communicate about climate change, particularly with those who don’t see it as an urgent concern. Here’s how.

Addressing the ‘climate-unconcerned’

Contrary to the assumption that unconcern about climate change is evidence of selfishness or politically motivated denial, our research shows that people who resist climate concern are just as likely to be caring, ethical and socially minded as anyone else.

While there is a small minority of people who actively campaign against climate action, within society at large, those who are simply unconcerned about the climate crisis encompass a broad range of political views and levels of political engagement.

Far from being prejudiced, unreasonable, apathetic or ignorant, our studies in Australia and the UK show that many people who are unconcerned about the climate nevertheless care about issues including justice, the common good, and the health of ecosystems.

Belonging to a social group that doesn’t have its own narratives of climate concern is one of the most common reasons for unconcern. People who are unconcerned about climate change often see it as a “greenie” issue. If they identify themselves as opposed to green politics, they are unlikely to prioritise calls for climate action.

The rural/city divide also plays a key part in polarising narratives of climate action, as regional and outer-urban Australians, who are more likely to be economically dependent on natural resources, feel ignored and devalued by policies designed to appeal to capital city electorates. If we want to break down polarisation on climate change, we need to understand what matters to rural and conservative social groups.

Bridging the divide

Our findings suggest a set of principles for engaging with people who are unconcerned about climate change:

  • Respect difference. Don’t assume that being unconcerned about climate change is a moral failing. People have other active concerns that are no less valid.

  • Listen. Build relationships with people who have different life experiences to your own, by asking what is important to them. Appreciate that some people may find social change more threatening and immediate than climate change. Empathising with this feeling can foster understanding of the core concerns that underpin resistance to change, and potentially help identify ways to address these concerns.

  • Value values. Avoid arguments based on appeals to the authority of science, or the consensus of expert opinion. “Debating the science” is a red herring – people’s responses to claims about climate change are motivated primarily by what they value, and the narratives of their social group, not their acceptance of scientific fact. Focus on values you might have in common, rather than getting caught up in disputes over facts.

  • Move beyond Left and Right. Don’t conflate political ideology with stance on climate. Showing that climate is not a defining issue for social groups is really important to avoid polarisation. We need to work against the idea that action on climate is an exclusively left-wing or “greenie” agenda.

Adopting these principles can help to build a political culture around climate science and policy that responds to the different priorities of Australians, all of whom are simply seeking a safe and secure future. This approach recognises that no action on climate change is possible without public trust and involvement in democratic institutions.

What can we learn from the UK?

Australia’s parliamentary system and media environment have much in common with that of the UK. Although the UK has not been immune to political divisions on climate change, with levels of concern typically higher on the political left than on the right, Britain has maintained a bipartisan approach.

With the help of intiatives supporting a pluralistic approach to climate policy discussions, the UK Climate Change Act passed into law in 2008 with almost unanimous cross-party support.


Read more: The UK has a national climate change act – why don't we?


Research in the UK has provided an evidence-based set of language and narratives to use when discussing climate change. This is focused on core socially conservative values such as maintaining the status quo (protecting it from a changing climate), avoiding waste (of household energy), and investing in secure (renewable) energy. There is also a push to reinvigorate democratic debate through citizens’ assemblies on climate change.

Now is the time for Australians to listen to each other, and develop a pluralistic approach to discussions on our shared future. The alternative is to sink deeper into partisan hostility and recrimination. And after a decade of division on climate policy, is that really the best way forward?

Chloe Lucas is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Tasmania. Her research on unconcern about climate change was funded by the Australian Government Research Training Program. She currently receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a member of the Institute of Australian Geographers and the International Environment Communication Association.

Adam Corner (as a member of staff at Climate Outreach) receives funding from a number of philanthropic foundations including KR Foundation, and the European Climate Foundation, as well as UK Research Councils including the Economic and Social Research Council.

Aidan Davison receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

Peat Leith currently receives funding from the Soil CRC and has previously had research funded by various State and Commonwealth Government agencies and Rural Research and Develop Corporations.

Authors: Chloe Lucas, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Tasmania

Read more http://theconversation.com/not-everyone-cares-about-climate-change-but-reproach-wont-change-their-minds-118255

Should all aged-care residents with COVID-19 be moved to hospital? Probably, but there are drawbacks too

COVID-19 is continuing to devastate Victorian aged-care homes, with 1,435 active cases now linked to the sector, and at least 130 residents having died.The question of whether to automatically move re...

Jed Montayre, Senior Lecturer (Nursing), Western Sydney University - avatar Jed Montayre, Senior Lecturer (Nursing), Western Sydney University

how New Zealand got rid of a virus that keeps spreading across the world

On SundaYour heading here, New Zealand will mark 100 days without community transmission of COVID-19.From the first known case imported into New Zealand on February 26 to the last case of community tr...

Michael Baker, Professor of Public Health, University of Otago - avatar Michael Baker, Professor of Public Health, University of Otago

INDUSTRIAL EQUIPMENT BUILT FOR EFFICIENCY

Delivering project outcomes on time and on budget comes down to two things: efficiency and effectiveness of resources utilised. This could not be more true for the mining & resources sector ...

News Company - avatar News Company

We need to Close the Gap on health. But even official dietary advice disadvantages Indigenous people

ShutterstockRecently announced Closing the Gap targets aim to improve the health and well-being of Indigenous people.But if that’s to happen, we need to provide health advice suitable for First ...

Odette Best, Professor, Nursing, University of Southern Queensland - avatar Odette Best, Professor, Nursing, University of Southern Queensland

How should I clean my cloth mask?

ShutterstockFace coverings, such as cloth masks, are mandatory for all Victorians and are being recommended for public use in some other parts of the country.Wearing a face covering helps prevent the ...

Brett Mitchell, Professor of Nursing, University of Newcastle - avatar Brett Mitchell, Professor of Nursing, University of Newcastle

why are Melbourne's COVID-19 numbers so stubbornly high?

Melburnians have now been wearing mandatory face coverings in public for two weeks. Yet Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday announced another grim milestone in Victoria’s second wave of COVID-19 in...

Erin Smith, Associate Professor in Disaster and Emergency Response, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University - avatar Erin Smith, Associate Professor in Disaster and Emergency Response, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University

Tested positive for COVID-19? Here's what happens next – and why day 5 is crucial

With cases of COVID-19 on the rise, many Australians are asking: what happens if I test positive? With no known cure and no vaccine, what are my treatment options?Finding trusted answers amid the wide...

Julian Elliott, Executive Director, National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce, and Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University - avatar Julian Elliott, Executive Director, National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce, and Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University

Sweden eschewed lockdowns. It's too early to be certain it was wrong

Per Bengtsson/ShutterstockSweden has become something of a cautionary tale for what happens when you attempt to tackle coronavirus without lockdowns.In The Conversation last week The Grattan Institute...

Andreas Ortmann, Professor, UNSW - avatar Andreas Ortmann, Professor, UNSW

Remote interpreting services are essential for people with limited English — during COVID-19 and beyond

ShutterstockAccording to 2016 Census data, 3.5% of Australians have limited English proficiency.When they’re receiving health care, it’s essential these Australians have access to interpre...

Judy Mullan, Associate Professor, School of Medicine, University of Wollongong - avatar Judy Mullan, Associate Professor, School of Medicine, University of Wollongong



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion