The Hidden Inclusivity Issue in American Climate Change Dialogue

Not only Celsius but also Fahrenheit

After several months of worldwide record-breaking temperatures, an unprecedented need exists across the world for efficacious climate change activism. To prevent the chilling effects of extreme climate change, American climate change supporters can contribute to the cause by promoting awareness of the climate issue. Activists can accomplish this through establishing meaningful dialogue with fellow Americans unaccustomed to conventional climate change conversation.

Suppose a situation wherein an activist is about to discuss climate change with another person and that this person knows little concerning climate change. With a quick mental nod to rationalism and empiricism, the activist begins with the fundamentals:

“Well, I think that the issue of climate change is pretty important. For instance, we’re nearing the 2 degree Celsius limit whereat scientists say extreme climate change will be nearly unavoidable. Things will get even worse if we get into 4 degree Celsius territory! I think it’s best to act now about climate change. What do you think?” asks the activist.

“Um, I guess 2 degrees isn’t a good thing…” admits his counterpart, staring vacantly at the region near the activist’s left ear. At this unfortunate response, the subject dies, and the activist is left wondering whether what went wrong was his fault.

He shouldn’t, because it isn’t.

In this scenario, the activist is a victim of climate conversation’s hidden inclusivity issue: The majority of Americans conceptualize and communicate temperature in Fahrenheit, not Celsius. Consequently, many climate change arguments — frequently provided in Celsius with no reference to Fahrenheit — tend to confuse or alienate a potential proselyte, rather than acknowledge and incorporate conceptual and linguistic differences.

By framing climate change arguments in Fahrenheit, activists ensure their audience’s understanding, a cornerstone goal of effective communication. That scientific conversation possesses an unfortunate potential to devolve into jargonistic aphorism is no secret — and climate change is no exception. Referencing Fahrenheit keeps climate conversation on a layman’s level.

Ensuring understanding allows an activist to gain an audience’s respect, which is subsequently bolstered by echoing familiar language and concepts within the message itself. An audience that sees themselves in a message more readily sees the messenger — to a degree not inconsequential! — as themselves. Seeing and hearing themselves in another naturally instills an audience with a sense of inclusivity; an organic idea, born of the deliberate spoken word, that someone else values how another thinks and speaks.

In a political landscape dominated by rhetoric of bigotry and divisiveness, the climate movement desperately needs a message that’s not only ideologically factual but also linguistically inclusive. When conversing with those unfamiliar with climate change, activists must act as vehicles not only for rationalism and empiricism but also empathy. Presenting climate change arguments with references to Fahrenheit not only ensures understanding of an activist’s message but also brings people together.

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