Mission & Goals
For many years, the U.S. debate on climate change has been stuck in a ‘is not’-‘is so’ shouting match. To move towards constructive policy approaches, we need to focus less on proving the existence of human-induced climate change and more on examining risks and mitigation options. We plan to start this effort by providing summaries of climate science that combine specific projections with risks to community values. To make our summaries more engaging, we plan to frame them within stories about local residents taking steps to mitigate or adapt to climate change. Our Center for Creative Conservation Project Incubator will support two workshops to bring together people of diverse backgrounds and interests in climate change with experts in crafting relevant stories. Our experiences at the workshops will shape an online interactive story map designed to provide information about the consequences of climate change to scientists and resource managers seeking to justify their work to funders and policy makers. An auxiliary benefit of this story map will be to educate the Northwest general public about potential risks of climate change and to move the debate toward adaptation and mitigation. Our workshops and story map will focus on key risk considerations for the Northwest: sea level rise, which primarily affects coastal areas; and drought, which primarily affects areas east of the Cascade Mountains. These two subregions within the Northwest present dramatically different political atmospheres and receptiveness to climate change information. As such, they provide an opportunity to test whether a new communications strategy can bridge the political gap. In conducting the workshops and developing the story map, we will make use of narrative techniques, which personalize the consequences of climate change and engage both interest and empathy. However, we will also take care to emphasize the underlying uncertainties in climate science to establish common ground and facilitate a discussion about the diverse objectives stakeholders bring to climate policy. These discussions are where real progress can be made, because they build empathy and mutual understanding among stakeholder groups, and thus foster constructive negotiations, shared purpose, and long-term policy solutions.