Time to Shift the Climate Change Debate

It’s time to shift the climate change debate. It’s time to move on from circular arguments about whether humans are responsible for causing climate change or not to more productive conversations about economic opportunities. But how can we achieve this type of bipartisan communication about productive responses to climate change effects?

My opinion is that the way to achieve better communication is to first, ignore the human-induced climate change debate. It distracts from the real issues and it doesn’t deserve a response because it is not a valid or productive argument; it is a circular debate and by responding to it, we become participants in the very argument that has the power to delay and prevent policy making that can enhance everyday life and provide increased safety, security, and economic opportunity. But simply ignoring the human-induced climate change debate is not enough. Therefore, instead of responding to arguments about human-induced climate change, we ought to emphasize the need to respond to what we can visibly see (e.g., in the case of South Florida, urban flooding, storm surge, sewer overflow, etc.) and emphasize the exorbitant economic costs of not responding to these visible effects (see this article by Christie Todd Whitman for an excellent, Republican perspective about the need to respond to climate change). I don’t think it will ever be possible to provide compelling enough evidence to a climate change denier (e.g., Governor Scott) to change his/her stance, but I do think it is possible to shift the language of the argument such that the same ends (adaptation and mitigation policies) are strategically achieved. The bottom line here is the need to respond to the problems that we can visibly see, not on the obligation to react to the ever-frustrating, back-and-forth of debate about whether human-induced climate change is a “fact” or not.

Developing these sorts of responses is the work of scholars and researchers in the rhetoric of science policy. I firmly believe that yes, a rhetoric of science policy is possible, and it is the purpose and goal of my dissertation to analyze this debate using decision-making tools that can generate reports of argumentative analyses – the terms of the debate – that can then be used to develop productive political frames showing how to accomplish these goals … in order to answer the following question:


How can we shift the climate change paradigm to emphasize longer-term thinking and the development of robust, dynamic policies that take (inevitable) changes into consideration?




About klangbehn

Doctoral Candidate: Rhetoric of Science University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Avenue Tampa, FL 33620-5550 View all posts by klangbehn

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