Losing the Frame on Global Warming: Fear of a #ClimateEmergency

Interestingly, while 2019 was the Year of #ClimateEmergency, many in media and the political world are very very afraid of this word and still using the term "#ClimateChange.

By: Malik Russell, Director of Communications at The Climate Mobilization

Interestingly, while 2019 was the Year of #ClimateEmergency, many in media and the political world are very very afraid of this word and still using the term “#ClimateChange.

This term became popularized due to a deliberate strategy by conservative strategist Frank Luntz to find ways to push back against the growing push for environmental protections.

According to cognitive linguist George Lakoff, “the idea of climate change, actually, was introduced by conservatives, by Frank Luntz in the 2004 campaign. He found that global warming alarmed people whereas climate change sounded fine. It was just change, as if it just happened, and people weren’t responsible. And climate is a nice word. It sort of gives an image of palm trees and nice climate, as opposed to hurricanes and, you know, and huge snowstorms and floods.” #globalwarming 

Luntz was also responsible for terms like “death tax” instead of the estate tax and advising the current administration to use the term”border security.” Like Charlie Sheen, Luntz continues to win the framing battles. The framing of issues is not simply wordplay, as Lakoff talks about in his breakthrough book “Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate,” its a powerful tool for reaching people.

“When we successfully reframe public discourse, we change the way the public sees the world. We change what counts as common sense,” he argues.

It’s sad and perplexing watching politicians and media stumble around this issue while the planet burns. The Climate Mobilization believes the right term to use at this point in time is #ClimateEmergency because when you look at places like Australia, California or the Amazon – that’s exactly what’s happening.

Many in the U.S are way behind in understanding what needs to happen to sustain our society. In many cases, including media, European outlets are far ahead of where we are and it doesn’t make sense. There are some good things happening with Columbia Journalism Review’s Covering Climate Now initiative, Climate Nexus and the townhalls from CNN and MSNBC, but they are not enough because #ClimateEmergency is framed as some “special” news and not a part of regular coverage -which in the opinion of many advocates focuses way too much on Trump – and according to Lakoff’s logic AMPLIFIES his frames exponentially. When we repeat his frame – guess what? We reinforce it.

We’ve got to do better, I mean it’s only the planet we’re talking about.

Utilizing #ClimateEmergency puts people in an emergency-mode of mind, where casual actions and incrementalism won’t work if we are going to protect our communities and planet. We need to mobilize -quick, fast and in a hurry and do it in a way not seen since WWII. We’ve got about a decade to move with all deliberate speed to counter global warming and the Climate Emergency or face a possible extinction-level climate-related disaster.

If we move with force we can transform our society and utilize the process as a means to create a Green New Reality and remedy anachronistic concepts of the 20th Century ranging from inequality, racism, and militarism. We can begin this journey on the right foot by simply agreeing to wake up and telling the world we’re in a Climate Emergency! Speak the words and break the silence.

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Kristen Cashmore

Senior Director
Kristen brings more than 25 years of social justice advocacy to Climate Mobilization. Her previous positions at human rights, public health, environmental justice, and clean energy organizations inform her work with the variety of stakeholders she is engaging with to bring an accelerated response to the climate emergency. Kristen earned a BA in Peace and Conflict Studies from UC Berkeley, where she was a teaching assistant in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management.

Malik Russell

Communications Director

Malik leads Climate Mobilization’s press and communications strategy. He formerly served as Communications Director for the NAACP. He is a journalist, author, community-based educator, and former lecturer in the Department of Strategic Communications at Morgan State University. The former editor of the Washington Afro-American newspaper, he has worked as a journalist in the Black Press for over two decades.He has a BA in American history from Brandeis University and earned a Master of Public Administration degree from Baruch College in New York, where he was selected as a National Urban Fellow.

Ezra Silk

Deputy Director

Ezra is co-founder of The Climate Mobilization and Climate Mobilization Project. He authored The Climate Mobilization’s Victory Plan, an influential exploration of how the federal government can organize and implement a mobilization to save civilization from the Climate Emergency and ecological crisis. This document directly shaped the demands of the Extinction Rebellion movement and the Green New Deal framework. Ezra was also a lead author of the climate emergency declaration resolution introduced in Congress in July 2019. A former newspaper reporter, Ezra has a BA in history from Wesleyan University.

Matt Renner

Executive Director of The Climate Mobilization

Matt has worked as a nonprofit executive in clean energy, climate policy, and journalism for over a decade, focusing on the near-term social and economic impacts of climate change. He leads organizational expansion and works closely with the communications and organizing teams. Matt earned a BA in political science from UC Berkeley, where he was deeply inspired by the work of Professor George Lakoff.

Laura Berry

Research & Policy Director

Laura brings over a decade of experience to Climate Mobilization in climate advocacy, organizing, research, and policy. She has worked on climate, environmental, and sustainability issues from local to global scales with organizations including the Stockholm Environment Institute, the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, and 350.org. She is passionate about deepening democratic engagement in response to the Climate Emergency. Laura has a BA in human ecology from College of the Atlantic and an MSc in global environment, politics, and society from the University of Edinburgh.

Rebecca Harris

Organizing Director

Rebecca leads Climate Mobilization organizing efforts. Along with a history of social movement organizing, Rebecca he has worked as a journalist covering equity in Chicago public schools. Most recently, Rebecca worked as Development and Communications Manager at Latino Union of Chicago, an immigrants’ and workers’ rights organization. She is a 2017 graduate of the Reframe Mentorship in strategic communications and a 2019 participant in the Anne Braden Organizer Training Program.

Marina Mails

Operations and Community Manager
Marina manages operations and volunteers for both The Climate Mobilization and Climate Mobilization Project. She brings broad experience working in non-profit organizations, health care settings, and running her own private counseling practice. Before joining Climate Mobilization, Marina maintained a practice focusing exclusively on climate-related emotional coping, helping people make bold choices for lifestyle and professional change in response to the Climate Emergency. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish from Wake Forest University and a Masters in Counseling from UNC Greensboro.

Sydney Ghazarian

Digital Organizer
Sydney leads digital strategy for The Climate Mobilization and Climate Mobilization project. She is also a founder of National Democratic Socialists of America Ecosocialist Working Group and worked to establish climate as a primary focus of the American Left. Sydney has previously worked in journalism and in academic research. Sydney received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of California San Diego.

Cris Lagunas

Strategy Director

Cris is helping to grow the Climate Emergency Movement by supporting creative campaigns and extending the reach of the movement’s message. Cris is a co-founder of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, an organization dedicated to using direct action tactics to expose, challenge and dismantle the immigration detention system.Cris got his start in organizing when he was 15 years old, getting involved in a local group of fellow undocumented youth.

Margaret Klein Salamon, PhD

Founder and Board President

Margaret is the founder of The Climate Mobilization (TCM) and Climate Mobilization Project (CMP) and helped catalyze a worldwide climate emergency movement through her work with both organizations. Margaret now serves as Climate Awakening Program Director. She is the author of Facing the Climate Emergency: How to Transform Yourself with Climate Truth (New Society Publishers, April 2020) and several influential essays. She is also a member of the Climate Emergency Fund’s Advisory Board. Margaret earned her PhD in clinical psychology from Adelphi University and a BA in social anthropology from Harvard. Though she loved being a therapist, Margaret felt called to apply her psychological and anthropological knowledge to solving the Climate Emergency.

AriDy Nox

Organizational Development and Engagement Manager
AriDy brings creativity, enthusiasm and a tremendous capacity for organization to her/their role, assisting the executive director with travel, communication and fundraising. AriDy Nox is a multi-disciplinary black femme storyteller and social activist. They have served as a national representative for The Young Women of Color Leadership Council, the Millennials of Color Leadership Bureau, and held writing positions with Advocates for Youth and RH Reality Check. She has worked as an administrative and executive assistant for a myriad of organizations including the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at Tisch School of the Performing Arts at NYU, the Youth Engagement Fund and the Community Resource Exchange.