Numerous Americans are dismissive or doubtful about the scientific consensus on climate change, frustrating efforts to promote meaningful discussion on adaptation and mitigation. Initial Extension efforts on climate change in Kentucky were based on an information-deficit model, which assumes that citizens fail to accept climate change because they don’t understand the science. However, social science research indicates that the topic is imbued with cultural meaning for many Americans, such that sound scientific information may be unpersuasive. In light of this, our more recent communication efforts emphasize: (1) less reliance on geophysical data; (2) positive messages as frequently as possible; and (3) messages that speak to core identities of citizens with diverse worldviews. While we recognize that our current efforts may not quickly result in increased action on climate-change mitigation, our approach is designed to build awareness of climate change as a legitimate topic of discussion across a wide range of citizens. Our working assumption is that promoting discussion on this highly divisive topic requires sensitivity to, and respect for, the diversity of worldviews held by Americans. We also recognize the importance of avoiding criticism, blame, demonization, or arrogance in building a more inclusive community of public leaders on climate literacy.
Extension Professor and Provost's Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA
Private Clinical Therapist, Consultant, Lexington, KY, USA
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