October 2, 2020

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Joel Nodelman

More Lessons from 2020 – Sometimes Quick Action Delays Effective Action

About the author

Joel is an engineer and risk management specialist with over forty years of professional practice. He is committed to helping his clients achieve climate resiliency and sustainability.

This week, more lessons from 2020

Sometimes our feelings of urgency drive us act quickly but delay reaching our goals. I am not saying we should put off urgent action. That sort of delay can be deadly. Rather, I am pondering about our tendency to bully others to move things along more quickly. Often this backfires, resulting in conflict and push-back.

We may mark anybody who doesn’t support us as an enemy, treat them with disrespect, and push them aside. Then, they fume on the sidelines, looking for opportunities to derail progress. Instead of things moving along more quickly, they stall.

Climate Change Lessons in 2020

Earlier this year Joan and I were chatting about the nonsense we read about climate change, the crazy games folks play to resist action, and how easily others buy into this stuff. Before we knew it we were on a six-month journey to understand the climate dialogue and how to do things better.

More Lessons from 2020 - Sometimes Quick Action Delays Effective Action

2020 - Winning Hearts and Minds

We learned the climate dialogue is not a debate to decide who is right and who is wrong. This approach is drummed into us at school. Often we believe any other form of discussion is unprofessional.

But discussions about climate are something quite different. We are not trying to win a debate; we are trying to win hearts and minds. We want to change deniers into doers.

We Don't Need to Debate Climate Science in 2020

In this, it isn’t our job to debate climate science. The science is proven. And, like all good science it will continue to evolve, we will discard older theories and accept new ideas, as we come to a better understanding of how the climate works.

Instead, our job is to negotiate action. Here, it’s OK if folks don’t agree with us. All ideas are still on the table. 

There is no silver bullet that’ll fix everything. This is messy and political. Emotional detachment may not work. We need empathy and understanding.

2020 - Making Connections

Our technical training doesn’t prepare us for this. In fact it goes to great lengths to drum out the softer skills we may need. We are trained to challenge ideas and find fault with arguments. The only good argument is one that can withstand the rigours of the process. Unfortunately, this is the way we approach climate negotiation. Then we wonder why folks say we’re unfeeling and disconnected from reality.

We learned that many folks don’t care about the science because we fail to make a connection with them. We don’t show that climate change is personal. We don’t “indulge” in empathy. That would be unprofessional. But this is scary stuff and folks are worried about their family, their homes, and their jobs.

More Lessons from 2020 - Sometimes Quick Action Delays Effective Action

2020 - Making Connections

Promoting Action in 2020

All too often, as climate specialists, we criticize folks about their carbon footprint. We’re proud to have scored the point but we can fail our more important mission — promoting real action.

Scoring debate points doesn’t promote climate action. Instead, it creates opponents who believe they are fighting for everything that is good; home, family and jobs. With those motives they’re fierce opposition.

We learned that we have transcend many of the approaches drummed into us in our training and professional careers. If we do this we will have more success and shorten the timeline to concrete, effective action on climate change.

Learn More About Climate Negotiation

If you’d like to read more about our research on effective climate negotiation, check out the links below. We have developed a self-directed, online course based on our work.

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