By Paul Choi, Miguel Garrido, and Lawrence Sun
For several years now, the goal of stopping the planet from warming an additional two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels has dominated international climate talks. According to scientific projections, a “no action scenario” may lead to 4.5C of warming by 2100, so it is imperative to pursue the under-2C path by the end of the century. With climate change, a few degrees can make a significant difference.
However, it can be difficult for the average person to understand the meaning of a couple of degrees in terms of long-term climate change scenarios. Some may wonder what the big deal is with 4.5 degrees, or how that differs from 2 degrees. For some people, this lack of understanding or knowledge may be a barrier to taking more action on climate change.
To address this issue, we designed a flyer that tells a story to contrast two possible climate change scenarios (2C vs. 4.5C) in order to educate and incentivize people to make a personal commitment to combat climate change. In particular, our flyer is designed to convince Boston residents to take part in the upcoming March for Science on April 22 (Earth Day).
Our Flyer: Using Qualitative Data to Personalize Climate Change
To make the 2C and 4.5C scenarios as concrete as possible for our target audience (Boston residents), we picked three different local attractions and illustrated the effects of climate change for each: 1) Back Bay (showing the effects of rising sea levels); 2) MIT campus (showing the effects of severe weather) and 3) whale watching (showing endangered animal life).
The three images at the bottom of the flyer correspond to the under-2C scenario and represent the “normal” Boston that residents know: the streets aren’t flooded, there is regular weather (normal snowfall), and whale watching is a popular tourist attraction. This is the scenario that would result from taking significant action to combat climate change.
The top three images, however, show the catastrophic 4.5C scenario using the same local landmarks and attractions: many streets are permanently flooded (canals have to be built), severe weather is a regular occurrence, and the whale population is severely threatened (beached whales are a lot more common). This is the scenario that would result from simply doing nothing (“business as usual”).
The key message of the flyer is that people must make a personal choice: if they march and take action on climate change, the under-2C scenario may be within reach. However, if they don’t march and don’t take action, the disastrous 4.5 scenario may become reality.
We believe our flyer is effective because it educates people about a concept that is difficult to grasp (small changes in the Earth’s temperature over time) by using relatable local landmarks and attractions to illustrate the impact of climate change. The flyer tells a compelling narrative that clearly contrasts two possible scenarios based on scientific projections. In doing so, it invites the viewer to make a personal choice and commitment to take part in the March for Science and combat climate change.
Granted, only participating in the march on April 22 will not lead to the 2C scenario. Climate change is an incredibly complex and difficult global challenge that requires fundamental changes in human behavior to combat its effects. However, people that aren’t currently taking action have to start somewhere, and the first step is awareness. To that end, we believe our flyer can play a small but critical role in educating and incentivizing people to combat climate change, starting in our community.