Weather -- a conversation topic reserved for quick elevator rides and filling awkward first-date silences -- is becoming far too complicated a subject. But why does weather now seem like an issue suited more for scientists than small talk?
Sure, it has a lot to do with how erratic weather's become -- with Hurricane Irene top of mind, tornadoes in Massachusetts and heat waves across much of the U.S. and world. But there's another reason that a basic concept like the weather is becoming more complex than ever before, and it's not that the issue is too overwhelming for us everyday Joes to understand. It has to do with today's cluttered conversations around climate change and global warming.
Greenhouse gases. Carbon footprint. Global warming. Climate change. Ozone depletion. Cap and trade. The jargon is enough to make any head spin -- including those who work in the space. Our understanding -- or lack thereof -- of climate change certainly isn't aided by the incoherent vocabulary used to describe it. The head-scratching caused by this terminology overload isn't helping the green movement to advance its practices and policies. The issue itself is in serious need of a PR campaign just to get its messaging buttoned up.
In general, most Americans (well, outside of San Francisco) only really understand that all this "stuff" is bad, but unfortunately not much more. That confusion is hurting the cause. For the first time since public polling began on the issue, American concern over climate change is actually declining. A lack of fundamental understanding is no doubt slowing the education process in this country and globally. Confusion around climate change is leading to cases of consumer disregard (which is most likely causing the 97% of scientists convinced global warming exists to trade in their daily multi-vitamin for Xanax).
Though for some, this confusion is providing precisely the smoke and mirrors needed to push an opposing agenda. According to recent Pew research, 75% of conservative Republicans say there is no evidence of man-inspired global warming, with 72% of the same group agreeing that oil, coal and natural gas should be the nation's only energy policy priority. Democrats nearly mirror these results, just in the opposite direction. This appears to be the latest example of policymaker's moving farther and farther apart from a unified vision of progress when it comes to the environment, even with the scientific community's stark warnings begging to be heard. Policy views aside, the right has done an effective job of spinning the confusion around the issue into sizable devaluation (DNC: take note).
So where does this leave us with educating the public about the issue? Well, unfortunately not in a place of momentum, as shown by declining concern. Consumers need a champion organization or entity with mainstream notoriety to simplify and streamline the issues of global warming, or climate change, or whatever they are calling it these days.
Since Washington can't seem to agree on the weather (literally), maybe San Francisco or Silicon Valley can lead the charge. Word on the street is that Steve Jobs may have some time on his hands. All joking aside, the cause needs a champion, company or organization with Jobs' or Apple's cachet and respect for Main Street to take a non-partisan interest. The point is that there is a real opportunity for leadership here, and the company, organization or government entity that can tackle that will be handsomely rewarded with powerful reputation gain.
The reality is that something needs to be done to make this issue easier for people to understand, and in turn be more concerned -- if not for the well-being of our planet, then to have something easier to talk about in elevators.