Video: Reframe Climate Change Debate, Says Simran Sethi, and Bridge the Divide

Last week, U.S. presidential hopeful Mitt Romney drew hearty applause when he stated, "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family." Climate change, one of most pressing global problems of our time, was reduced to a punch line — one that received raucous laughter from attendees of the Republican National Convention.

These remarks, made available to the press before they were actually spoken, are problematic for a number of reasons. A healthy human population requires a healthy planet. We are not separate from our ecosystem and cannot thrive without it. The perceived polarity between climate mitigation and economic growth is false. Also false is the belief that climate change is the purview of Democrats.

Farmers from Leavenworth, Kansas to Karnataka, India are suffering the effects of a warming planet. The World Bank's latest Food Price Watch report indicates high temperatures, reduced rainfall, and drought have pushed the cost of maize and soybeans to record highs. Between June and July, the prices of maize and wheat each increased by 25 percent, while the price of soybeans jumped 17 percent. The report states that these prices are expected to remain high "as a consequence of increasing supply uncertainties." Political rhetoric cleaves one party from another, but we all suffer the impacts of climate change.

It does not have to be this way.

What I have learned — through six years in Kansas and three years of research on the psychological barriers to environmental engagement — is that the opportunities for reaching diverse constituents and engaging on climate change lies in the framing of the issue. You can learn more on how to bridge these schisms in my recent TEDx presentation in Madrid. The well-being of our oceans, our planet and, yes, our families depends on it.

Watch: Simran Sethi at TEDxCibeles (26 min., 17 sec.)

In conjunction with the opening of the 67th UN General Assembly later this month, Asia Society New York hosts a special program on the Climate Vulnerability Monitor on September 26.

About the Author

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Simran Sethi is a journalist and academic who teaches and reports on sustainability, environmentalism and social media for social change. She is an Asia Society Associate Fellow.