There was the Tweet, from Andy Revkin: “Scientists Call For Stronger Global Governance To Address Climate Change.” Revkin linked to a Forbes story, that, in turn, linked to a new paper in Science by the “Earth System Governance Project,” described as “the largest social science research network in the area of governance and global environmental change.”
So why, then, don’t these scientists seem to know much about the social science when it comes to communication?
If you are a U.S. conservative, then “global governance” is automatic fighting words. Conservatives have individualistic values, as per Dan Kahan; they interpret the moral foundation of “liberty/oppression”—as per Jonathan Haidt–as a cry to resist power grabs by big government, and even more, global government.
This is deep seated, emotional, and powerful. And scientists have just brazenly triggered it by talking about “global governance.”
Look: I’m no purist about communication. I know it is partly theory, and partly an art form. It requires creativity and humor as much as it requires listening to what science has to say about what persuades people (and what doesn’t).
But there are a few obvious tripwires that by now, people really should be aware of. And triggering the Tea Party’s “don’t tread on me” reflex surely ought to be one of them.