Dr. Edward Maibach is Director of the Center for Climate Change Communication (Mason 4C), and a distinguished University Professor at George Mason University
In 2021, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called out climate change for exactly what it is, a “code red for humanity.”
Hopefully Mr. Guterres’ call to action will prove to be a turning point in humanity’s response to the climate crisis. His simple, clear message is being amplified by many trusted voices in our country and around the world—which is the basis of all effective public communication campaigns. For all of us working to prevent further harm from climate change, this is our moment to reinforce his message of urgency and opportunity to respond to the “code red for humanity.”
At George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication, we are rising to the “code red” challenge—with cutting-edge research on public understanding of climate change, and high-impact public education and engagement initiatives involving some of America’s most-trusted voices.
Our Climate Change in the American Mind polling data shows there has been a large increase in public concern about climate change over the past 5 years. Americans who understand that global warming is happening outnumber those who think it is not by a ratio of more than 6-to-1. And, for the first time in 2021, a majority of Americans (52%) say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming.
Our Climate Matters in the Newsroom program (in partnership with Climate Central and others) is now helping more than 1,000 local TV weathercasters—nearly half of America’s weathercasters—to educate their viewers about the local relevance of global climate change.
Our Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health is comprised of 37 member medical societies—that collectively represent 70 percent of all physicians in the U.S.—and we are actively supporting 17 state-based “clinicians for climate action” groups. Our recommendations for advancing equitable climate and health solutions through federal programs—made to the Biden Administration and to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—found purchase, including in the creation of the new DHHS Office of Climate Change and Health Equity
Our engagement initiative for Republicans, by Republicans—republicEn—continues to attract and activate conservative Americans concerned about climate change. Dozens of events, podcasts, conversations and collaborations have grown the republicEn community to nearly 13,000 people.
Our climate communication internship program hosted in partnership with the National Park Service graduated an outstanding cohort of interns and launched a new website, which curates the climate communication products and toolkits developed by interns over the life of the program.
Although the climate crisis is truly a “code red for humanity”, the prospects for both an informed electorate and for science-informed climate policies are improving. Although much work remains to be done, my optimism is sustained by the progress I see in our programs that engage so many trusted voices in American life, and beyond.
Please explore our website for more details about the work of our Center. I’m so proud of the creative and dedicated faculty, staff and students who do the work, and of our wonderful fiscal sponsors who make it possible.
Onward and upward!
Fairfax, Virginia, 2022