Mason 4C: A Think and Do Tank
Our research informs programs that activate the most trusted voices in America.
We prioritize research in service of solutions. Our research identifies new opportunities to enhance public understanding of climate change and increases public engagement with climate solutions. Our communication initiatives train, mobilize, and elevate some of America’s most trusted voices in local news and medicine, as well as ordinary citizens who expect more from their elected officials. We confront and combat misinformation and misdirection with simple, clear, and effective messages delivered by trusted messengers.
Our theory of change is simple: by activating trusted voices at scale with proven messages, we help build public and political will for equitable climate solutions.
As a result of human activity – primarily the burning of fossil fuels – the earth’s climate is becoming dangerously disrupted and destabilized. Our mission is to develop and apply social science insights to help society make informed decisions that will stabilize the earth’s life-sustaining climate, and prevent further harm from climate change.
Our first study—a nationwide survey of local public health department directors—was conducted in partnership with climate and health expert John Balbus, who at the time was with Environmental Defense.
We conducted our first Climate Change in the American Mind (CCAM) national public opinion poll with Yale.
Our analysis of CCAM poll data revealed six distinct sets of climate beliefs, attitudes and behaviors among American adults—thus, Global Warming’s Six Americas was born.
Ed Maibach was awarded a Health Policy Investigator Award by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which allowed us to do research on how to communicate the human health relevance of climate change.
With climate scientist Heidi Cullen (Climate Central) and broadcast meteorologist Joe Witte, Ed Maibach was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to explore the potential of TV weathercasters as local climate educators.
Findings from our first-ever national survey of TV meteorologists appeared on Page 1 of the New York Times—in a story that, regrettably, stressed the challenges rather than the opportunities of working with TV weathercasters as climate educators.
We launched a one-year pilot-test of Climate Matters—a local climate change reporting initiative—in partnership with WLTX (Columbia, SC) chief meteorologist Jim Gandy and news director Marybeth Jacoby.
We partnered with Climate Central, American Meteorological Society, NOAA, NASA, and Yale to develop a plan to turn Climate Matters into a nationwide, localized climate reporting initiative.
The Climate Matters pilot-test concluded successfully—WLTX viewers had learned more about climate change than viewers of competing stations in Columbia, and WLTX was committed to continuing to air Climate Matters stories indefinitely.
Ed Maibach was recruited to serve as a member of the National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee, and he co-chaired its Engagement and Communication Working Group.
Connie Roser-Renouf began advising museums—eventually including the Science Museum of Virginia, Science Museum of Minnesota, and the Smithsonian Museum—on climate change programming.
Former Congressman Bob Inglis (Republican, South Carolina) and Alex Bozmoski (who coined the phrase “EcoRight”) joined our faculty to create the Energy & Enterprise Initiative—which in 2014 was relaunched as RepublicEn—an initiative by conservatives, for conservatives, that seeks to build support for free-market solutions to climate change.
As reported by National Journal correspondent Coral Davenport, our polling helped convince President Obama that it makes political sense to talk about climate change.
With the National Park Service, we launched a climate change communication summer internship program and placed interns in DC-area national parks to design climate education programs for the parks.
Mona Sarfaty—an academic family medicine physician who had previously served as a key health staff member in the US Senate—joined our faculty to explore the potential of engaging physicians as educators about the human health relevance of climate change.
We surveyed the members of the National Medical Association, and found that most African-American physicians are already seeing the health harms of climate change on their patients.
Connie Roser-Renouf served on a National Academy of Science committee charged with reviewing the findings of National Climate Assessment.
Teresa Myers joined our faculty as a research professor, after finishing a post-doctoral fellowship with us—during which she conducted groundbreaking research on public trust in climate science conducted by federal agencies.
Climate Matters recruited its 100th TV weathercaster, and our team committed to increase the number to 300 by 2017.
Ed Maibach spoke at a White House press event to launch the National Climate Assessment, while Climate Matters meteorologist Jim Gandy (WLTX, Columbia, SC) interviewed President Obama about the assessment in the White House Rose Garden.
We surveyed the members of the American Thoracic Society—and later the American Association of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology—and found that they too were already seeing the harmful impacts of climate change among their patients.
Bob Inglis was awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award “for the political courage he demonstrated (as a Republican member of the U.S. Congress) when he reversed his previous position on climate change.”
Politico named Bob Inglis and our climate scientist friend Katharine Hayhoe to its Politico 50 list—“a guide to thinkers, doers, and visionaries transforming American politics in 2016”—for articulating “the conservative case for fighting climate change.”
We convened representatives of nine medical societies to discuss the possibility of forming a consortium of medical societies to address the health harms of climate change and the health opportunities associated with climate solutions—all agreed to work with us to make this happen.
John Kotcher joined our team—after successfully defending his dissertation—to give us extra communication science bench strength; he immediately began cutting-edge research on how best to explain the myriad health harms of climate change.
We launched the Medical Society Consortium for Climate and Health—which initially included 11 leading medical society members—and released the Consortium’s initial public statement: Medical Alert! Climate Change is Harming Our Health.
RepublicEn recruited its 5,000th member—each one a conservative climate realist.
The Climate Matters team recruited its 400th TV weathercaster.
We added five important journalism professional societies to our Climate Matters partnership—RTDNA, SEJ, NABJ, NAHJ and the Kneeland Project—with the aim of expanding the reach of Climate Matters materials and facilitating more local climate reporting.
At the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Ed Maibach issued a call to action to health professionals worldwide to advocate for doubling the world’s GHG emission reduction commitments—to achieve the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement and thereby spare humanity from a sustained, catastrophic public health disaster.
We celebrated our 10th anniversary by releasing our first ever annual report.
The Climate Matters team recruited its 500th TV meteorologist; on-air climate change reporting by weathercasters had increased 1,500+% since 2012.
Mona Sarfaty and our Climate and Health Team hosted the first public meeting of the Medical Society Consortium for Climate and Health. Nearly 300 health professional participated in the educational event on our Arlington campus.
With National Center for Science Education and Alliance for Climate Education, John Cook developed a high school curriculum to teach climate science and critical thinking by addressing common misconceptions about climate change. We trained teachers in the method at our first Turning Misinformation into an Educational Opportunity workshop.
We launched a Health and Climate Solutions initiative to help communities advance equity and sustainability. Mark Mitchell—a leading climate, health and environmental justice expert—joined our faculty to co-direct the initiative with Ed Maibach.
With Climate Central, Climate Communication, NOAA and NASA, we launched Climate Matters in the Newsroom—an extension of our highly successful Climate Matters reporting resources program. Climate Matters in the Newsroom provides journalists with climate reporting training and a range of localized climate change reporting resources, because climate change isn’t just a weather story.
RepublicEn.org held their 500th event about free-enterprise climate solutions, earned their 1000th media story, published their 700th EcoRight News Alert, and recruited their 7000th republicEn member, over 20% of whom took action in 2018 to educate their lawmakers or friends about climate change.
The Climate Matters program recruited its 625th TV weathercaster, and number of other local journalists into the Climate Matters in the Newsroom program reached 200.
The first report from our December 2018 Climate Change in the American Mind survey showed that more Americans than ever were worried about climate change. Indeed, for the first time, half of Americans indicated that people in the United States were already being harmed by climate change. If “parody is the sincerest form of flattery”—as suggested in a Tweet by John Cook—we were flattered that The Onion felt moved to comment on our findings.
Another major medical society—the Infectious Diseases Society of America, which represents the nation’s top medical experts in infectious diseases—joined the Medical Society Consortium for Climate and Health, bringing the total of member societies in the Consortium to 23. Over the past year, the Consortium, its member societies, and our physician advocates worked to oppose every attempted EPA rollback (including fuel economy and vehicle pollution, carbon pollution from the power sector, efficiency of coal plants, and restrictions on regulatory science), engaged with hundreds of federal and state policy makers, and worked tirelessly to educate the public about the human health relevance of climate change and climate solutions.
Our Climate Matters program recruited its 900th TV weathercaster, and the Climate Matters in the Newsroom program recruited its 600th journalist.
Our Spring 2020 Climate Change in the American Mind survey showed that, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a near record number of Americans remained worried about climate change—a finding covered by the New York Times. We also found that support for climate action is likely to be a significant voter winner in the 2020 election. Mid-pandemic, our survey team showed our support for America’s health community by conducting a poll to help focus their COVID education efforts.
The Medical Society Consortium for Climate and Health continued to grow briskly—despite the pandemic—bringing the total of member societies to 29. With our partners, we greatly expanded support for the Climate, Health & Equity Policy Action Agenda, with more than 150 organizations endorsing the policy agenda. Our focus on states grew briskly as well—with educational activities in 19 states.
Our in-house misinformation expert, John Cook, released Cranky Uncles vs. Climate Change, a humorous cartoon-based book that teaches people how to spot and debunk climate misinformation. He also crowd-funded and developed the Cranky Uncle smartphone game to help younger people become master misinformation debunkers.
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 grew to 37 member medical societies—that collectively represent 70 percent of all physicians in the U.S. 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. We also helped develop the Healthy Climate Prescription—national policies necessary to protect human health and our climate—which was endorsed by more than 600 health organizations worldwide and delivered to heads of state and their delegates at COP26 in Glasgow.
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.
Support Our Work
The work of Mason's Center for Climate Change Communication (4C) would not be possible without the generous financial support we have received from philanthropic foundations and individual donors.
You too can support our important work by donating via a secure online donation form. Your financial contribution will be processed on our behalf by the George Mason University Foundation, and is tax deductible.