I didn’t know that a video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez yelling about climate change was what I needed until I saw it. Climate change has always been an issue to take extremely seriously, but in the decades since it was first identified, it has definitely suffered from a communication-related PR problem.
I’m not the first to say this, but the way that scientists communicate about science tends to be measured and tentative and lacking in concrete projections or emotional appeal in a way that makes them hard to parse and easy to ignore for the average person. This is in large part because a more strident style of communication would undermine the certainty with which they can say things, and a scientist would prefer to use qualifiers in order to say something with certainty than to state absolutes that leave room for argument or aren’t supported by data.
To a scientist, “The global temperature has a 95 percent chance of increasing by 2.5 degrees over the next 100 years” is strongly preferable over “The temperature is going to go up and people are going to die,” though both are true (realistically, no one is going to leap into action to help us thread that 5 percent chance of avoiding catastrophe). Unfortunately, scientists have long been the only ones communicating about these problems, and it’s not technically their job to contextualize their findings so far out of their fields, but that synthesis is absolutely critical for understanding the full scope of the problem.
Because of this, until very recently, communication around climate change has sorely lacked. Now things have become urgent enough, finally, to get the attention of people who will talk about them without the qualifiers that make it sound to the average ear like it’s far less serious than it is.
The circumstances that gave rise to this video are annoying at best: Conservatives rushed in a vote on a Green New Deal, and it was preceded by some snide counterargment presentations from representatives about cows and other extraneous, distracting garbage. But Ocasio-Cortez, rather than being shamed accepting the place they tried to put her in, fired back:
“People are dying. They are dying. And the response across the other side of the aisle is to introduce an amendment five minutes before a hearing in a markup? This is serious. This should not be a partisan issue. This is about our constituents and all of our lives. Iowa, Nebraska, broad swaths of the Midwest are drowning right now. Underwater. Farms, towns that will never be recovered and will never come back. And we’re here, and people are more concerned about helping oil companies than helping their own families? I don’t think so. I don’t think so.”
Man, is it great to feel actually represented in our government. Watch this next part, watch both parts, watch them again, watch them a third time, show your friends, learn to be this confident in your knowledge of this issue that you can be just as passionate and strident as she is because it’s our only hope, frankly:
"We talk about cost—we’re going to pay for this whether we pass a Green New Deal or not. Because as towns and cities go underwater, as wildfires ravage our communities, we’re going to pay. And we have to decide whether we’re going to pay to react, or pay to be proactive."— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) March 27, 2019