Americans and Climate Change: Intro and executive summary
We’ve talked a great deal on this site about how best to “frame” global warming. How can we shrink the gap between what science tells us about the dangers of climate change and the relative disengagement of the American public? How can we get the public fired up and thus spur more aggressive policy responses?
That’s the subject of "Americans and Climate Change," a new report from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, based on a conference held late last year. The 200-page report can be ordered in book form or downloaded for free as a PDF (uh, PDF). (It’s written by Associate Dean Daniel Abbasi, based on notes from the conference.)
Now, normally, a post like this would end here. I would recommend the report and move on.
But let’s face it. None of you are going to pay $20 to order a conference report. None of you are going to read a 200-page PDF.
And here’s the thing: I actually read this one. The whole thing. And it’s extraordinary: lucid, insightful, and practical. So I don’t want to let it pass by. (Incidentally, thanks to the NYT’s Andy Revkin for recommending it.)
I contacted the folks at Yale, and they’ve agreed to let me reprint some or all of the report (depending on how it goes), in small chunks that are easier to read than, say, a 200-page PDF.
I hope it starts some discussion. And I hope it isn’t, as my wife tactlessly suggests, the dorkiest, wonkiest thing anyone’s ever done, ever.
Below you’ll find the beginning of the Executive Summary, which frames the rest of the report.
Why has the robust and compelling body of climate change science not had a greater impact on action, especially in the United States?
From the policy-making level down to personal voting and purchasing decisions, our actions as Americans have not been commensurate with the threat as characterized by mainstream science.
Meaningful pockets of entrepreneurial initiative have emerged at the city and state level, in the business sector, and in "civil society" more generally. But we remain far short of undertaking the emissions reductions that scientists say are required if we are to forestall dangerous interference in the climate system on which civilization depends.
In late 2005, the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies convened 110 leaders and thinkers in Aspen, Colorado, and asked them to diagnose the reasons for this posited action shortfall and to generate recommendations to address it. This report discusses findings from that gathering of extraordinary Americans.
Part I of this report is a synthesis that highlights eight selected themes from the Conference, each of which relates to a cluster of diagnoses, recommendations, and important lines of debate or inquiry. Part II describes the diagnoses and 39 recommendations from the eight working groups. The eight themes and ten of the most prominent recommendations are spotlighted below.
[I’ll post these in the coming few days.]