Climate action and the message

Wordle: PM Press release climate change frameworkThree quarters (76%) of Australians believe it is important to take action on climate change. This support, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean action and Australia is trying again to introduce a price on carbon.

So how important is the pitch? Here’s PM Julia Gillard on talkback radio (Feb 25 2011):

The government, in a methodical, careful, structured way is doing the right thing to create a clean-energy future for this country, to make sure we’ve got jobs in the future. I don’t want this country to be left behind.

The pitch mirrors what we know from climate change polling. Words and perspectives are important. This Stamford University study on USA attitudes illustrates just how important. The study asked the following questions with significant changes in results. And you’ll see some of the lessons mirrored in the statements above.

1. What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?
In this traditional question, about 49% answered economy or unemployment. Only 1% environment or global warming.

2. What do you think is the most important problem facing the world today?
This increases environmental issue responses to 7%. 32% say economy issues.

3. What do you think will be the most important problem facing the world in the future?
With the future, 14% chose environment/global warming. Economic down to 21%.

4. What do you think will be the most serious problem facing the world in the future if nothing is done to stop it?
Now, 25% say environment issues. Only 10% pick economic.

Picture: Word cloud from Feb 24 PM press release.

One health

Human health is profoundly affected by the animals and the environment in which we all live. That’s the starting point for the One Health initiatives – a holistic slice of health with connections between human disease, animals and sustainability.

One side of this is predicting disease drivers and outbreaks from environmental losses and human connections. EcoHealth Alliance highlights two big factors for disease outbreaks land use change – if we chop down a forest you change the dynamics of wildlife in that forest, you put people in there and they make contact with wildlife and you get these diseases – and travel and trade. Mapping the impacts guides intervention and prevention as well as protection.

One Health also encompasses practical action, including environmental awareness, preventing future animal to human diseases epidemics (e.g. like SARS). For more see this February’s 1st International Conference on One Health in Melbourne and this Australian Health Report story about it.

Loss not gain?

Nick Stern, in his ground breaking economic review, prescribes three essential elements for addressing climate change. We’re familiar with the price and technology approaches. But less is said about the third – behaviour change.

The American Psychological Association’s Global Climate Change task force report is a great addition to this behaviour space. It includes strategies for delivering action.

For example, people cut their energy use competitively if their neighbours are doing it. But not so well when asked to use fans instead of a/c, turn off lights or look after future generations. And financial savings are not too effective either, the influence of your neighbours can be far more important.

How cost is framed is also important. Many business cases, showing the profitability of energy efficiency, inexplicably gather dust. These cases often focus on savings. Yet future loses are a more compelling motivation. It’s better to tell people and businesses they are wasting $100,000 a year than we can save 100 grand.

Naturally, there’s a lot more – such as identifying whether your stakeholders respond best to the influence of neighbours or are a group of globally minded and motivated citizens – see The Mind.

Also see Climate Change Leadership and Worldenergyblog (picture above) on psychology. But… for a quick (unscientific!) snapshot …

Vote for the most compelling Murraylands Life sales pitch. I’d buy this home if told (click if you can’t see poll):

Simple supply chains

Business knows supply chains are vital. For both direct profit and, in an increasingly connected and information rich world, the embodied environmental impacts.

But, these are not easy assessments. The ecological backpsck concept helps. It creates one measure for the total amount of materials that go into producing a product or service.

As you’d expect services tend to have a smaller backpack. 2kg of materials are used to let you watch a movie for an hour. Versus 53kg to create a coffee machine.

There’s some obvious wins here as society changes. It takes two and a half times less material to download music versus buying the equivalent CD. And some rather staggering numbers. A ten gram wedding ring has a five tonne backpack.

For business, as the Harvard Business Review highlights this month: societal needs, not just conventional economic needs, define markets, and social harms can create internal costs for firms. Concepts like the ecological backpack help define the connection between society and economic progress – unlocking a wave of innovative growth.

Picture: Screen shot from ecological backpack video. Volkswagen Autostadt exhibition.