Home Adaptation Climate Change in Metaphor (Revisited)

Climate Change in Metaphor (Revisited)


In the at-the-time environment of the Paris Climate Change Conference of 2015, it was made clear through media treatment of the event that some citizens still don't really understand climate change.

So I created the following metaphor to illustrate climate change concepts and impacts: Climate Change in Metaphor

Revisited: Climate Change in Metaphor

In reviewing the original metaphor, I don't think there's anything that there's anything that's proven to be inaccurate about the presentation. But to enhance it, I think I would add the following features:

The Occupants

You have a brother in the room with you. Your brother, as he looks around the room in which you live, sees an entirely different world than you do.

  • To him, lighting the candle is the greatest thing that's ever happened
  • To him, the soot on the walls and ceiling are invisible
  • To him, the warming of the room is random and of no concern
  • To him, the depletion of the goldfish will not become visible until the last goldfish is gone
  • To him, he had nothing to do with causing the changes in the room.

The Discussion

You view the room much differently, of course, and so you engage your brother in a discussion of the state of the room and actions that could be taken to restore the room to a livable, healthy equilibrium. But you are immediately stunned by the fact that your brother does not acknowledge that there is any problem at all; that he is resistant to the knowledge that you could provide him about the changes; and that he refuses to discuss what he perceives as your effort to be a drama queen.

He perceives what you say to be pretty offensive; you perceive what he says to be pretty offensive; and so you retreat to your respective corners of the room, glare daggers at each other, and end up doing nothing.

The Metaphor

Your brother, of course, is the climate change denier. He wears blinders, is unmotivated to act by any sort of facts or evidence, takes any discussion of his perspective to be a personal attack, and worst of all: Actively works to prevent YOU from doing anything to make the situation better and the room more livable.

The Resolution

In Valley Girl terms: As if.

The one thing that we've learned in discussion with our brothers about this issue is that they're as committed to their denial as we are to solutions. Where do we go from here? I have no idea. What we can NOT expect is that any denier will ever change his stance. Experiments on the topic have indicated that the more you assail a denier with factual information, the more becomes entrenched in his denial. So that doesn't work.

The solutions appear to be twofold:

1) Remove deniers from positions of influence, such as political office.
2) Educate the young with the facts and evidence so that they make informed decisions and never become deniers.

Number two is underway: knowledge of climate change, the scientific method, and similar tools are now being taught in our schools. That's a good thing. However, there's also pushback. Every initiative to teach evolution as science, or to restrict and eliminate discussion of climate change in school curriculums--is our brother's ongoing initiative to prevent his perspective from being disturbed.

Number one is our choice: We have the option of voting every climate denier out of office, every time we have an election. However, here again, our brother's influence--in the form of fossil fuel industry donations, dark money SuperPACs, voter suppression, and so on--are pervasive and influential--and require much more effort to overcome than they should.

But it's worth the investment. This is still the only SpaceShip Earth we have.

Randall Cuthbert Dr. Randall Cuthbert is a retired APUS Professor of Emergency & Disaster Management. He has also worked as a Red Cross Shelter Supervisor, and spent a 20-year career as a US Air Force Civil Engineer Officer. His blogging interests include: protecting & enhancing the EDM profession in the areas of integrity, honorable public service, and social justice; education regarding the 'big picture' role of EDM in our society; educating our professionals and neighbors with regard to the greatest threat to our civilization--climate change; and in general terms, creating a better world for our children and grandchildren.