White House report connects the dots on climate change

The White House report on climate change serves as an effective communications tool because it focuses on tangible impacts to people's lives, says an environmental communicator.

The White House report on climate change serves as an effective communications tool because it focuses on tangible impacts to people’s lives, says an environmental communicator.

The National Climate Assessment, released Tuesday, could help Americans better understand the effects of climate change because it talks about "things people can touch and feel and see," says Keith Gaby, climate communications director at the Environmental Defense Fund. For example, the report includes photos of natural disasters as well as a map of the US colored in red to show how temperatures have changed over time.

The report breaks down environmental impact by region.  It also delves into climate change consequences in health, infrastructure, water supply, agriculture, and severe weather events such as floods and drought.

"It talks about what people are experiencing in their daily lives," Gaby explained.  People respond to their immediate needs, he said, so they are likely to pay more attention when climate change affects money, property, or jobs.

"Reports like this connect the dots for people," Gaby said. "Anyone who isn’t motivated to disagree with it should find it pretty convincing."

The report could also help people who are undecided on the issue see what is at stake, Gaby noted. Most people who are on the fence about climate change "don’t know who to believe," he said.

He added that while he does not expect the report to "change things overnight," Americans, especially young people, are increasingly accepting the science and helping to push public opinion in a different direction.

White House officials told media outlets that President Barack Obama will launch a campaign to promote the report by speaking with meteorologists, and he will hold other climate change-themed events in coming days.

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