"When the fear-producing message describes danger but the audience is not told of clear, specific, effective means of reducing the danger, they may deal with the fear by 'blocking' the message or denying that it applies to them. As a consequence, they may indeed by paralyzed into taking no action at all…. The more clearly people see behavioral means for ridding themselves of fear, the less they will need to resort to denial."from Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Noah J Goldstein, Steve J Martin, and Robert B Cialdini (Free Press, 2008).
This, to me, has been the downfall of the climate change movement from Al Gore to Bill McKibben and almost everyone else. I've said for twenty years that climate change is moot. I don't care whether or not you believe it's real or man-made as long as you are as energy and resource efficient as possible. Fact is, we waste about 56% of all the energy we produce. Fact is that energy efficiency and reducing short term climate forcers like black carbon, tropospheric ozone and methane as a precursor of tropo ozone can forestall much of the expected temperature increases over the next century, or so say the Int Energy Agency (efficiency) and the UNEP (short term climate forcers). (Incidentally, BU recently published a paper on methane leaks around Boston and found thousands of them. I expect that methane sniffers will soon be available for cell phones and know that the state and utilities are interested in stopping these leaks on a consistent basis.) That these measures pay for themselves and have almost immediate effects make them eminently reasonable and possibly attractive even to those who don't care about the environment.
Might be another way to reach out to and move the public. I am curious as to whether any of the large environmental groups have consulted with Robert Cialdini, author of Influence, and one of the principals at Opower, a company that has been working on motivating people to become more energy efficient. He's studied how to persuade and influence people all of his professional life. Might be worth the effort.