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  • How do we get people engaged in solving global warming?

  • I'd like to start with running two short experiments with you all.

  • So your task is to notice if you feel any difference as I speak.

  • OK?

  • Here we go.

  • We are seeing rising carbon dioxide levels,

  • now about 410 ppms.

  • To avoid the RCP 8.5 scenario,

  • we need rapid decarbonization.

  • The global carbon budget

  • for 66 percent likelihood to meet the two-degree target

  • is approximately 800 gigatons.

  • (Laughter)

  • OK, now let me try something else.

  • We are heading for an uninhabitable earth:

  • monster storms,

  • killer floods,

  • devastating wildfires,

  • crazy heat waves that will cook us under a blazing sun.

  • 2017 is already so unexpectedly warm,

  • it's freaking out climate scientists.

  • We have a three-year window to cut emissions, three years.

  • If not, we will soon live in a boiling earth, a hellhole.

  • OK. So --

  • (Applause)

  • Now your task:

  • How did these ways of speaking make you feel?

  • The first, detached maybe or just confused?

  • What's this guy talking about?

  • The other, fearful or just numb?

  • So again, the question I asked:

  • How do we get people engaged in solving global warming?

  • And why don't these two ways of communicating work?

  • You see, the biggest obstacle to dealing with climate disruptions

  • lies between your ears.

  • Building on a rapidly growing body of psychology and social science,

  • I spent years looking into the five inner defenses

  • that stop people from engaging.

  • When people hear news about the climate coming straight at them,

  • the first defense comes up rapidly:

  • distance.

  • When we hear about the climate,

  • we hear about something far away in space --

  • think Arctic ice, polar bears --

  • far away in time -- think 2100.

  • It's huge and slow-moving -- think gigatons and centuries.

  • So it's not here. It's not now.

  • Since it feels so far away from me,

  • it seems outside my circle of influence,

  • so I feel helpless about it.

  • There's nothing I can do.

  • In our everyday lives,

  • most of us prefer to think about nearer things,

  • such as our jobs, our kids,

  • how many likes we get on Facebook.

  • Now, that, that's real.

  • Next defense is doom.

  • Climate change is usually framed

  • as a looming disaster,

  • bringing losses, cost and sacrifice.

  • That makes us fearful.

  • But after the first fear is gone,

  • my brain soon wants to avoid this topic altogether.

  • After 30 years of scary climate change communications,

  • more than 80 percent of media articles still use disaster framings,

  • but people habituate to and then --

  • desensitize

  • to doom overuse.

  • So many of us are now suffering a kind of apocalypse fatigue,

  • getting numb from too much collapse porn.

  • The third defense is dissonance.

  • Now, if what we know,

  • that fossil fuel use contributes to global warming,

  • conflicts with what we do -- drive, fly, eat beef --

  • then so-called cognitive dissonance sets in.

  • This is felt as an inner discomfort.

  • We may feel like hypocrites.

  • To get rid of this discomfort,

  • our brain starts coming up with justifications.

  • So I can say, for instance,

  • "My neighbor, he has a much bigger car than I do."

  • Or, "Changing my diet doesn't amount to anything

  • if I am the only one to do it."

  • Or, I could even want to doubt climate science itself.

  • I could say, "You know, climate is always changing."

  • So these justifications make us all feel better,

  • but at the expense

  • of dismissing what we know.

  • Thus, behavior drives attitudes.

  • My personal cognitive dissonance comes up

  • when I recognize that I've been flying from Oslo to New York

  • and back to Oslo

  • in order to speak about the climate.

  • (Laughter)

  • For 14 minutes.

  • (Laughter)

  • So that makes me want to move on to denial.

  • (Laughter)

  • So if we keep silent,

  • ignore or ridicule facts about climate disruptions,

  • then we might find inner refuge

  • from fear and guilt.

  • Denial doesn't really come from lack of intelligence or knowledge.

  • No, denial is a state of mind

  • in which I may be aware of some troubling knowledge,

  • but I live and act as if I don't know.

  • So you could call it a kind of double life,

  • both knowing and not knowing,

  • and often this is reinforced by others,

  • my family or community,

  • agreeing not to raise this tricky topic.

  • Finally, identity.

  • Alarmed climate activists

  • demand that government takes action,

  • either with regulation or carbon taxes.

  • But consider what happens

  • when people who hold conservative values, for instance,

  • hear from an activist that government ought to expand even further.

  • Particularly in rich Western democracies,

  • they are then less likely to believe that science.

  • How is that?

  • Well, if I hold conservative values, for instance,

  • I probably prefer big proper cars and small government

  • over tiny, tiny cars and huge government.

  • And if climate science comes and then says

  • government should expand further,

  • then I probably will trust that science less.

  • In this way, cultural identity

  • starts to override the facts.

  • The values eat the facts,

  • and my identity trumps truth any day.

  • So, after recognizing how these five D's kill engagement,

  • how can we move beyond them?

  • New research shows how we can flip these five defenses

  • over into key success criteria

  • for a more brain-friendly climate communication.

  • So this is where it gets really exciting

  • and where we find the five S's,

  • the five evidence-based solutions for what does work.

  • First, we can flip distance to social.

  • We can make climate feel near, personal and urgent

  • by bringing it home,

  • and we can do that by spreading social norms

  • that are positive to solutions.

  • If I believe my friends or neighbors,

  • you guys, will do something,

  • then I will, too.

  • We can see, for instance, this from rooftop solar panels.

  • They are spreading from neighbor to neighbor like a virus.

  • It's contagious.

  • This is the power of peer-to-peer creating the new normal.

  • Next, we can flip doom to supportive.

  • Rather than backfiring frames

  • such as disaster and cost,

  • we can reframe climate as being really about human health,

  • for instance, with plant-based delicious burgers,

  • good for you and good for the climate.

  • We can also reframe climate as being about new tech opportunities,

  • about safety and about new jobs.

  • Solar jobs, for instance, are seeing an amazing growth.

  • They just passed the three million jobs mark.

  • Psychology says, in order to create engagement,

  • we should present, on balance,

  • three positive or supportive framings

  • for each climate threat we mention.

  • Then we can flip dissonance

  • to simpler actions.

  • This is often called nudging.

  • The idea is, by better choice architecture,

  • we can make the climate-friendly behaviors

  • default and convenient.

  • Let me illustrate this. Take food waste.

  • Food waste at buffets goes way down

  • if the plate or the box size is reduced a little,

  • because on the smaller plate it looks full

  • but in the big box it looks half empty,

  • so we put more in.

  • So smaller plates make a big difference for food waste.

  • And there are hundreds of smart nudges like this.

  • The point is, dissonance goes down as more behaviors are nudged.

  • Then we can flip denial

  • by tailoring signals that visualize our progress.

  • We can provide motivating feedback

  • on how well we're doing with our problem-solving.

  • Say you improved your transport footprint

  • or cut energy waste in your buildings.

  • Then one app that can share this well is called Ducky.

  • The idea is, you log your actions there,

  • and then you can see how well your team or company is doing,

  • so you get real-time signals.

  • Finally, identity.

  • We can flip identity with better stories.

  • Our brain loves stories.

  • So we need better stories of where we all want to go,

  • and we need more stories of the heroes and heroines

  • of all stripes that are making real change happen.

  • I'm proud that my hometown of Oslo

  • is now embarking on a bold journey of electrifying all transport,

  • whether cars, bikes or buses.

  • One of the people spearheading this is Christina Bu.

  • She is heading the Electric Vehicle Association for years

  • and she has been fighting every day.

  • Now, the UK and France, India and China have also announced plans

  • for ending the sales of fossil cars.

  • Now, that's massive.

  • And in Oslo, we can see how enthusiastic EV owners

  • go and tell their electric stories to friends and neighbors

  • and bring them along.

  • So we come full circle from story back to social.

  • So thousands of climate communicators

  • are now starting to use these solutions

  • all over the world.

  • It is clear, however, that individual solutions

  • are not sufficient to solving climate alone,

  • but they do build stronger bottom-up support

  • for policies and solutions that can.

  • That is why engaging people is so crucial.

  • I started this talk

  • with testing two ways of communicating climate with you.

  • There is another way, too,

  • I'd like to share with you.

  • It starts with reimagining climate itself

  • as the living air.

  • Climate isn't really about some abstract, distant climate

  • far, far away from us.

  • It's about this air that surrounds us.

  • This air, you can feel in this room, too,

  • the air that moves right now in your nostrils.

  • This air is our earth's skin.

  • It's amazingly thin,

  • compared to the size of the earth and the cosmos it shields us from,

  • far thinner than the skin of an apple

  • compared to its diameter.

  • It may look infinite when we look up,

  • but the beautiful, breathable air is only like five to seven miles thin,

  • a fragile wrapping around a massive ball.

  • Inside this skin,

  • we're all closely connected.

  • The breath that you just took

  • contained around 400,000 of the same argon atoms

  • that Gandhi breathed during his lifetime.

  • Inside this thin, fluctuating, unsettled film,

  • all of life is nourished, protected and held.

  • It insulates and regulates temperatures

  • in a range that is just right for water and for life as we know it,

  • and mediating between the blue ocean and black eternity,

  • the clouds carry all the billions of tons of water

  • needed for the soils.

  • The air fills the rivers,

  • stirs the waters,

  • waters the forests.

  • With a global weirding of the weather,

  • there are good reasons for feeling fear and despair,

  • yet we may first grieve today's sorry state and losses