A New Campaign Wants Moms to Join the Climate Fight

Science Moms knows that mothers are highly motivated to advocate for social change.

mother and son

Getty Images/Silke Woweries

There's nothing quite like having a child to make you terrified for the future. You become vulnerable in a way you never were before, and looming catastrophes such as climate change suddenly take on new meaning. What's a mother to do when faced with the irrefutable climate data that suggests the world is hurtling toward more record-breaking disasters than ever before? 

Enter Science Moms, a big new campaign that's spearheaded by six scientist-mothers and aimed at all the millions of American mothers who want the best future for their kids. The goal of Science Moms is to educate mothers about climate science, translating the science into easily-digestible information, and to give them the tools to pass that information on to other parents. Ideally, these mothers would become activists in their own right, advocating and lobbying for climate action.

Dr. Emily Fisher, an associate professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University (CSU), told the Los Angeles Times that "those of us who understand climate change are disappointed by gridlock on the issue":

"The goal of Science Moms is to push through that — to reach directly to mothers and let them know this is a threat to their kids. The kids they make sandwiches for, the kids who crawl into their beds at night, the kids who drive them crazy sometimes. To those kids. Not someone else’s kids."

Part of the campaign includes running TV and online ads that show the scientist moms interacting with their own children and expressing fears to which other mothers will be able to relate. One features Dr. Melissa Burt, an atmospheric research scientist, who can be seen gardening and making spaghetti with her daughter, while additional footage shows a raging hurricane. Burt says, "You don’t have to be a climate scientist to want to protect the Earth." Her voice cracks with emotion as she goes on: "And for Mia, I want you to know that I worked really hard to be a part of the change and to make it a better place for you."

These videos are airing on TV stations across the US right now, ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, and will continue for another six months. Science Moms wants to get the climate crisis onto people's radar as the new administration makes it a top priority. The campaign was created together with Potential Energy, a non-profit marketing firm. It has a $10-million budget and is said to be "the biggest educational awareness campaign around climate since Al Gore’s $100 million ad blitz about the issue in 2007" (via Washington Post).

One of the most well-known names associated with Science Moms is Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a scientist at Texas Tech University and evangelical Christian, whose work bridging religious and scientific communities has been notable. When giving presentations, Hayhoe has encouraged mothers to channel their fear into action: "Talk to your friends and family. Advocate for change in your town, your church, your school, your state." Science Moms takes that same message to a bigger, broader audience.

John Marshall, founder of Potential Energy, says mothers "are the 'sweet spot' for inspiring social change." He cites examples, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Moms Demand Action (against gun violence), that have lobbied successfully for change. Mothers are a passionate, highly motivated demographic that won't stop at anything to protect their children; they're also uniquely positioned to educate the next generation.

The Science Moms website contains helpful resources for parents. The section on Climate Science 101 is especially informative, breaking down often-confusing science into accessible single paragraphs while debunking common myths. See, for example, this response to the argument that climate change is a natural phenomenon:

"The climate has changed naturally in the past, but that’s not what’s happening today. Right now, the world is warming up to 100 times faster than it has previously. That’s because humans have burned billions of tons of coal, oil and natural gas, which release carbon pollution into the air that traps the sun’s heat. That pollution can remain in the air for thousands of years, making the planet hotter and hotter. Right now, it is already comparable to a 10.5 foot thick blanket of carbon pollution surrounding the earth, dangerously warming the planet." 

There are recommended books for adults and children, as well as TED talks and some great short YouTube videos on the Science Moms channel. I particularly liked one called "Trust the Experts" (see below).

So what's a worried mother supposed to do? The takeaway is that it's time to get political, to move beyond the focus on reusable lunch boxes and hanging laundry out to dry, valuable as those actions may be. Mothers can do more than that: "The #1 thing you can do to protect your children’s future is to let your leaders know this is an important issue for you, as a mom. This isn’t about party or ideology. It’s about our kids."