What we found out about climate deniers and the climate community may shock you

What we found out about climate deniers and the climate community may shock you

Screenshot / Twitter

Anthony Leiserowitz is a human geographer at Yale University who studies public perceptions of climate change. And what he has to say will probably surprise you.

In many respects, the environmental/climate change community is the largest member-based group in the country with the least amount of power. But that may be changing. Leiserowitz says, “We have a group that cares a lot, and they need to be activated.”

22 Million strong… and growing!

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John Englart / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

“We know that there are about 22 million Americans who are both alarmed about climate change and say that they are definitely willing to join a campaign to convince elected officials to act. 22 million,” Leiserowitz explains.

By contrast, how many people are in the NRA? About four to five million, okay? So our community outnumbers them like five to one. But the difference is that they’re organized and we’re not. It’s like the difference between an incandescent light bulb and the laser. In this case, we’re the dim bulbs because our light is all over the place. We have enormous potential power, but not until it’s organized, not until it’s focused, not till it’s directed.

And what group in America is leading the charge to wake up the country about climate change?

Taking the lead in the fight

Xiye Bastida holding a laptop with "Polluters Out" on it

Twitter / Xiye Bastida

Leiserowitz says that the general assumption is that “the only people who care about climate change are white, well educated, upper middle income, latte sipping liberals.” In fact, according to studies over the past dozen years, the group that cares the most about fighting climate change is Latinos.

They’re more convinced that it’s real, they’re more convinced that is human-caused, and they’re more worried about it. They’re more supportive of policy action, they’re more willing to get personally engaged to demand that elected officials act.

He goes on to explain the reasons why this demographic is so focused on climate, “There’s just something about Latino culture that is still very deeply connected to the land, where the identity where one’s identity, itself is still connected to the natural world. And it’s just woven into everything from food to family.”

However, the Latino community doesn’t realize just how much power they wield. “They don’t exercise their right to vote in proportion to their size,” Leiserowitz explains.

The real silent majority

hand with glove holding globe

Unsplash / Fateme Alaie

There are way fewer climate deniers than you’d expect. Many believe that half the country falls into this category. However, they’re way off. Deniers are only about 9-10% of the population.

It seems bigger because they are such a vocal group. They just make their voices heard.

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According to Leiserowitz, most climate and environmental groups tend to treat their members in a transactional way. They ask them for a check or to sign a petition, but little else. What needs to happen is experiences and opportunities to do the real work — not just sit on the sidelines, waiting for the professionals to get the job done.

When we ask, ‘What are the barriers preventing you from getting engaged with these issues?’ Lack of time, lack of knowledge? Overwhelmingly, the number one answer is, ‘No one has ever asked.’

The Citizen Climate Lobby could prove to be a great model. “They recruit people in every single congressional district. They’re organized around congressional districts, and they create a chapter in each congressional district, and then they recruit and train people to advocate to their elected officials for their preferred policy.”

We have the numbers we just need the muscle

Climate demonstrators

Facebook / 350.org

With 22 million members and growing, the climate change movement needs louder voices and better organization. If they can be more laser-focused, the job can get done. Leiserowitz sums it up:

Far too many people have currently seen this as an issue that only they care about. Scientists care about environmentalists care about, Al Gore cares about. I don’t identify with any of them. So it’s not my issue. It’s their issue. You need to move it from their issue to our issue. And ultimately, to my issue. We’re actually much closer to being at some important political inflection points if we can organize and exert the power that we actually have already in hand.

Ready to join the movement? Get ready to vote for candidates with science-based action plans:

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