Editorial: Why nobody cares about climate change and what to do about it

By The Easterner, Editorial Board

Under President Trump the Environmental Protection Agency has inspected fewer industrial facilities than at any time over the past decade, according to a report released by the agency on Feb. 8. The Trump administration has been littered with climate change skepticism and denial, with Trump calling it a “hoax” and even saying “nobody really knows.”

With the overwhelming amount of messages the average American receives throughout the day, ranging anywhere from 300 to 3,000, it’s not surprising most turn a blind eye to one of the biggest challenges humans have ever faced: climate change.

This creates a difficult obstacle for activists. How does one motivate and inspire people to participate in combating climate change, while not leaving others feeling hopeless and unempowered?

The problem

“The challenge is figuring out how to connect with people about the urgency of the problem in a way that inspires them instead of gets them to pull away,” said Jesse Piedfort, Washington chapter director for the Sierra Club in an interview with The Inlander.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but it does begin with how we communicate the complex issues surrounding climate change. For starters, climate change is not as controversial as some may believe.

According to NASA’s website, “multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree, climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”

Assistant Professor Stephen Tsikalas, who teaches geography and covers climate change in various classes, thinks that humans didn’t evolve to be able to process the large amount of information we get exposed to daily, resulting in an apathetic perspective toward global issues.

“We’re just too distracted. We have a comfy lifestyle for the most part, the average American,” Tsikalas said. “We get overwhelmed when most of our time budget is spent at work, thinking about work … or family concerns … it’s like ‘I don’t have time to think about these big world issues that I pretty much have no influence over’…  it can be depressing.”

Even though today’s lifestyle doesn’t make it easier to raise awareness, it’s not the only reason for a disconnect between the general public and climate change activists.

When asked to describe the way the scientific community has been communicating climate change to the public, Tsikalas replied “poorly,” but says it’s at the forefront of their minds.

“If you have someone who is a professional climatologist… their day-to-day isn’t about trying to communicate to the general public, it’s trying to communicate their research to the scientific audience,” Tsikalas said.

Tsikalas gives credit to all of the the journalists, authors and other influencers trying to bridge the gap between the public and what scientists are doing.

But sometimes, even these groups can send the wrong message.

Following a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October 2018, The Easterner published an editorial titled, “Is the Earth doomed?” This is just one example of the many ways that climate change has been poorly represented.

Yes, the negative effects of climate change will drastically change our environment, economic and political systems but no, the Earth (and us with it) is not doomed.

If we take action.

“It’s not like there’s necessarily a hard line where if we meet it, we’re totally safe, but if we miss it by just a little bit, the planet is doomed,” said Piedfort. “There are actually degrees of consequences, so everything we can do, every little piece we do makes the future consequences that we’re gonna have to deal with just a little bit less extreme.”

With the Fourth National Climate Assessment saying climate change could cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars, it’s something that everyone should be worried about. Yet, with an EPA administrator who is a former coal lobbyist, things seem glum.

So again, how does one motivate and inspire people to participate in combating climate change, while not leaving others feeling hopeless and unempowered?


Tsikalas points to public figures like Bill Nye, a notable mechanical engineer, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist. These two are considered “science communicators,” who are people who educate the public and raise awareness about science.

Tyson hosts a Netflix series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” which explores all aspects of the universe and is a reboot of the 1980s PBS series “Cosmos,” hosted by the late astrophysicist and science communicator, Carl Sagan. Nye, who is best known for his series “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” created a Netflix series called “Bill Nye Saves the World,” which focuses on how science impacts politics, society and pop culture.

Documentaries, podcasts, TV shows, articles and books are all effective ways to raise awareness about climate change says Tsikalas, but he admits that they do have their weaknesses.

Tsikalas says it’s relatively easy to find research and other climate change related work if you are already aware of it, but for the average person, who may have their family and jobs in mind, it’s difficult to raise awareness.

For the average American, the influence an individual can have on the overall carbon footprint of the nation is low. But consumer, voting and lifestyle choices can add up.

Taking time to think critically and reflect on the energy it takes for you to perform your daily routine may lead to a more eco-friendly life. Leading by example is always a great way to inspire others, but it’s important to remember that you don’t have to be perfect to make an impact.

So don’t beat yourself up about that hot shower.