With increasing recognition of the health impacts of climate change the World Health Organization was invited to COP 23, and reached out to the Institute and Governor Schwarzenegger who have long advocated that connecting to human health to environmental protection is the most impactful way to motivate people to act.
In a second keynote speech delivered at COP 23 Governor Schwarzenegger encouraged environmental activists and international policy makers to devote more time, energy and attention to discussing the health impacts of pollution. Speaking at an event co-organized by the World Health Organization and the UNFCCC the former Governor praised the two organizations for the important work they are doing to link fossil fuel pollution to tragic health statistics effecting people across the global.
“Pollution kills more than 9 million people worldwide,” said Schwarzenegger. “It kills three times as many people as HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria combined. It kills 15 times as many people as all wars, murders, suicides, and every form of violence. This is a massive tragedy and as depressing and terrifying as it is we are not talking about it enough. We must talk about it all the time.”
Schwarzenegger contrasted this argument with much of the messaging used by the environmental community. He explained that the term ‘climate change’ does not resonate with the public and cited the work of Norwegian psychologist and economist Per Espen Stoknes that found that the more facts people learn about climate change the less they care. Schwarzenegger also referenced the Proposition 23 campaign in California and explained how the campaign to protect limits on carbon emissions almost lost because of incorrect messaging focused on traditional climate change issues.
“We had many arguments: climate change, national security, rising sea levels, droughts, food shortages and jobs,” said Schwarzenegger. “But just a month before the election, a respected poll showed that we were behind and that the oil and gas interests could in fact prevail and keep California from moving forward with our landmark climate change bill. So we started thinking outside the box. In the final month of the campaign we put an ad on the air from the American Lung Association. It was a simple message – pollution is killing us. We noticed the momentum shifting on our favor and on November 2nd, the people voted and it wasn’t close. 62% to 38% the people of California overwhelmingly chose a clean energy future.”
Schwarzenegger closed his speech by reminding the leaders at COP 23 that they have a responsibility to the next generation to leave the world in better shape than we inherited it and that creative thinking and well-crafted messaging can help make that possible.