Now What? Showing People the Research Doesn’t Work, Here’s What to do Instead

“Fear is not a particularly good motivator for creativity and open mindedness. You need to give people agency and hope.”

Andrew Jones is an expert on international climate and energy issues. He is a system dynamics modeler, keynote speaker, and designer of simulation-based learning environments. He is also the co-founder and co-director of Climate Interactive, an organization with a mission to provide better ways for people to understand the complex and interconnected issues of climate change, through experiential learning.

On this week’s episode of the podcast, I spoke with him about the motivations that led him to start his non-profit, and why he now understands that we need to go beyond simply showing people the research. After spending his own career as a systems modeler who knew the impacts of climate change in the long term, as well as the limitations in science communication to large audiences, he decided to find a different way. His simulations and tools now reach thousands of people across the United States and around the world, and have inspired them to understand and want to take collective action in finding solutions.

Something else Andrew focuses a lot of his time on is underlining the so-called co-benefits of climate action. That is, the positive outcomes of making a switch to clean energy, cleaner transportation, and overall more sustainable systems. These things will benefit communities, the economy, which is why it is always crucial when communicating climate impacts to also emphasize the massive potential of climate action. “We have overemphasized the long term impacts of taking action on climate change, when the reality is that many of the actions we need to take, moving away from coal, oil and gas, bring us benefits in the here and now. Specifically they benefit some of the most vulnerable within our societies.”

We also spoke about the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to the climate movement. “We need the artists, we need the storytellers, so many types of disciplines are necessary. Art is able to bring what could seem as distant to the here and now, and make those messages very powerful.” He has incorporated a lot of this thinking in developing the tools climate interactive uses, and helping spread the important message of climate change, and importantly also, climate action.

Behind this episode:

Stopping Climate Change Is Hopeless. Let’s Do It. NYT Opinion by Andrew Jones

Play the World Simulation – Climate Interactive