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Scientists keep warning climate change is real and threatening, but the message doesn't universally sink in and stir a significant response.

Using Language and Examples that Relate to Everyday Life

Translating the impact of climate change for average Americans has proven difficult, despite record heat waves, atmospheric rivers and prolonged droughts. One simple act of translation might help – describing rising temperatures in Fahrenheit rather than Celsius.

Most of the world thinks of temperature on the Celsius scale, including scientists who write global warming reports. The United States is an outlier relying on Fahrenheit, which has higher numeric values. To untrained American eyes, temperature increases in Celsius don’t seem all that catastrophic.

Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe takes that into account when she analogizes projected global warming temperature increases. She translates the projected 1.5 degree Celsius increase into a 2.7 degree rise in Fahrenheit, then relates the increase to a human temperature reading – 98.6 degrees plus 2.7 degrees equals 101.3 degrees, a cue to call the doctor.

Hayhoe says most Americans grasp the fever analogy based on personal experience. “It is absolutely essential to communicate in terms and language that people understand.”

Evangelizing About Climate Change
Hayhoe, who was in born in Toronto to a missionary family, is an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University and wife of a pastor in Lubbock. In an interview with Rolling Stone, she said she honed her climate change communication approach through talking with evangelical Christians.

“I don’t try to convert people on climate change as much as show them they already care,” Hayhoe said. “They just haven’t connected the dots.”

Climate change denial, in her view, centers more on politics than facts. “I’ve literally had people say, ‘I agree with everything you say, but if I agree with you, then I would agree with Al Gore. I could never agree with Al Gore,’ ” she told Rolling Stone. Hayhoe added it’s the reason she also is a member of the Texas Tech political science faculty.

Hayhoe specializes in translating climate projections into actionable information on the local level. “The finer scale you go to, the more you’re able to talk about visible, tangible solutions, and the easier it is to bypass politicized rhetoric,” she says.

Hayloe led a landmark 2006 study that compared two futures for California: one weened off fossil fuels and one that wasn’t. “It really brought it down to the nitty-gritty” on water supply, agriculture and air quality, prompting the state to pass the nation’s first cap on greenhouse-gas emissions.

Latest Global Warming Update
The latest global warming report, issued  by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warns temperatures could rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels as early as the next decade. That increase could be mitigated by reducing greenhouse gas emissions using existing technologies, even though scientists hold a pessimistic view of that actually happening. Instead, the report forecasts more flooding, crop-destroying droughts, species extinction, record heat waves and other forms of extreme weather.

The report points a finger at China and the United States as the two largest contributors to global warming. It says existing and currently planned fossil fuel infrastructure – coal-fired power plants, oil wells, factories, cars and trucks across the globe – will produce enough carbon dioxide to warm the planet by roughly 2 degrees Celsius this century. To keep warming below that level, many of those projects would need to be canceled, retired early or otherwise cleaned up.

The new report draws on six previous reports issued by the UN panel since 2018, compiled by hundreds of experts and based on thousands of studies. Despite gloomy predictions of continued global warming trends, scientists concede progress has been made. More green energy is being produced. Technology to capture or bury carbon is being actively pursued. Electric cars and trucks are becoming more affordable and viable as EV charging infrastructure expands. But that may not be enough to arrest global warming and its impacts such as melting glaciers and warming oceans.

Politics and Climate Change
Global warming denial is more fundamental to inaction than confusion over Celsius and Fahrenheit temperature readings. Some deny the science underlying global warming predictions. Much of the world and many national economies are heavily dependent on fossil fuels, a main source of greenhouse gases causing global warming. Poor countries insist their number one priority is feeding their populations by whatever means it can.

The political campaign to villainize considering environmental and social issues in investment decisions as “woke” was dealt a setback this week when President Biden issued his first veto on a resolution that would overturn the retirement investment rule.

Backed by congressional Republicans, the resolution sought to thwart a “liberal agenda” of prioritizing ideology over investment criteria to the detriment of retiree investment accounts. Biden said he vetoed the resolution to preserve the ability to consider climate change as a material factor in investment decisions affecting retirees.

About Celsius and Fahrenheit
Both temperature scales were developed in the early 1700s. The scales were named for Swedish astronomer and physicist Anders Celsius and German physicist and inventor Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit. Both systems were based on the freezing and boiling points of water

Celsius measured the freezing and boiling points of water at sea level and divided the difference into hundredths. OºC was the boiling point and 100ºC was freezing. Scientists later reversed the scale to what is used now.

Fahrenheit used three points – the temperature when water, ice and ammonium chloride stabilized became 0ºF, the temperature when water turned to ice became 32ºF and the average human body temperature was set at 96ºF. Later the average human temperature was converted to 98.6ºF to ensure there was exactly 180º difference between the temperatures of water freezing and boiling.

To convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply the temperature by 1.8 and add 32. To save time and aggravation, Google the conversion.