This message from Nobel Laureate climatologist Steven W. Running was prompted by Climate Messager Sean Frenette, who recently played a concert in Missoula, Montana. Dr. Running was in the audience, and cheered loudly when Sean made a mid-performance Climate Service Announcement. The guitarist and the scientist met again later, and Dr. Running wrote the following words:
Many surveys have found that roughly 2/3 of adult Americans understand that climate change is real, though they have varying motivations to actively pursue solutions. For the other 1/3 of American adults facts, graphs and stern lectures by scientists are not going to reach them or they already would be engaged. These people are either very disengaged from modern information, or they simply do not mentally process quantitative material well.
I have become convinced after giving hundreds of scientifically based public lectures that reaching this final 1/3 of Americans can be the role of the artistic and/or entertainment community. Images of polar bears teetering on a melting iceberg leave a strong visual impression to some. Others may be informed by well-crafted music or paintings that convey a message about global warming. I also understand how important the role of celebrity behavior (showing up to the Oscars in a Prius instead of a Hummer) is for people that never listen to hard news. So I encourage our arts/performance/entertainment communities to realize that they have a critical role in educating society that we scientists simply cannot fill, and I hope they feel compelled to make the global warming message part of their material where appropriate.
Good Luck! Humanity badly needs you to succeed,
Steven W. Running received his Ph.D. in Forest Ecology from Colorado State University and has been with the University of Montana, Missoula since 1979, where he is a University Regents Professor of Ecology. His primary research interest is the development of global and regional ecosystem biogeochemical models integrating remote sensing with bioclimatology and terrestrial ecology. He is the Land Team Leader for the NASA Earth Observing System, Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, and is responsible for the EOS global terrestrial net primary production and evapotranspiration datasets. He has published more than 280 scientific articles and two books. He is a co-Lead Chapter Author for the 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment. He currently Chairs the NASA Earth Science Subcommittee, is a member of the NASA Science Advisory Council, and the NOAA Climate Working Group. Dr. Running was a chapter Lead Author for the 4th Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Dr. Running is an elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and is designated a Highly Cited Researcher by the Institute for Scientific Information. In the popular press, his essay in 2007, “The 5 Stages of Climate Grief” has been widely quoted.
If YOU speak out at your next gig, who might be in the audience? Only one way to find out!