If climate scientists want to maintain an inkling of credibility on global warming issues, then they’ll need to limit their own carbon footprint before they ask others to limit theirs, according to a survey from climate researchers.
Shahzeen Attari of Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs surveyed 3,000 Americans to see the impact climate scientists’ credibility had on their messages and advice. The results were published in Springer’s journal Climatic Change.
The participants read scenarios in which a fictional climate researcher is giving a discussion about how drastically reducing air travel and ratcheting down home energy use can help save the environment — after which the researcher suggests ideas to help people be better stewards of Mother Earth.
The participants were then asked: “During the question period a member of the audience asks the researcher whether he flew across the country to give this talk. He replies that he regularly flies to lectures and conferences all over the world. It is part of his job, though flying like this does lead to negative impacts on the climate.”
Subjects who read this statement were much more interested in advice on how to save household energy, and less so on transportation.
“Credibility may require climate researchers to decrease their carbon footprint,” Attari noted.
“Effective communicators about climate change do sometimes discuss their own behavior and our research indicates that this can be a good way to enhance their credibility,” she added. “Whether the climate scientists are male or female, what they do in private can have a pronounced effect on how their message is perceived by the public.”
In order to communicate effectively, “advocates of energy conservation need to be the change they wish to see,” Attari said. “Climate researchers, including the three authors of this study, need to make strong efforts to reduce their own carbon footprints.”
Attari’s findings bring to mind many instances of Hollywood-types and climate change justice warriors acting inconsistent with their anti-global warming messages.
Hollywood actor and part-time environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio, for instance, got into some hot water in May when it was revealed the actor expanded his carbon footprint when he flew 8,000 miles from Cannes to New York City to secure an award for his green advocacy. The Oscar award-winning actor then flew back to France a day later to attend an AIDS benefit gala.
DiCaprio burned more than 17,000 gallons of jet fuel during the trip, which, according to the Environmental Protection Agency Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies calculator, equals approximately 169,400 lbs. of coal burned, or about 90 tons of coal.
“The Revenant” actor has a history of imploring people to shy away from coal, among other fossil fuels, because, according to DiCaprio, Americans “simply cannot afford to allow the corporate greed of the coal, oil and gas industries to determine the future of humanity.”
Former Vice President Al Gore has also been chastised for acting hypocritical – the environmental warrior traveled to United Nations’ international climate talk in 2015, which was, of course, held next door to a luxury airport. Gore’s documentary 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth” has been used in schools and elsewhere to admonish people and governments to reduce their carbon footprint to reduce so-called man-made global warming.
Gore has also mentioned in the past that he does use private jets, but only when commercial airplanes are not available.
The former Vice President has repeatedly mad claims that he invests money in projects to reduce energy consumption around the globe to offset his jet setting.
“In general, I applaud his efforts to reduce energy consumption, but if he is going to be a spokesman for global warming, he has to be willing to make the same sacrifices,” Drew Johnson, president of the free market group Tennessee Center for Policy Research, said in 2007 about Gore’s energy consumption.
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