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Talk of banning gas stoves is fueling the flames

Love the idea of a gas stove ban to solve climate and improve health? Here’s a dose of data (reality) about how to message this…

With the onslaught of recent reports, coverage, and media controversy about the health impact of gas stoves, here’s our recent data on how it impacts the average citizen’s support for climate action. Last month we tested support for gas stove bans with an experiment in ten states: AZ, GA, CA, MI, NV, NC, NM, PA, UT, and WI.

What did the data say?

It cost $20.48 to get someone to support a gas stove ban, but only $3.03 to get someone to oppose it. That’s seven times less productive of an argument. Incidentally, the best message didn’t appear to be the health risk (people don’t seem to believe it). Perhaps surprisingly, climate as the reason to replace household gas stoves is 25% more productive than making it about health.

What does it cost to recruit people to...

Why the “ban” isn’t good communications framing

Backlash from the narrative that gas stoves are a household evil is now clearly a real phenomenon. While only 3 states have successfully passed a ban on residential gas*, 20 states now have bans on bans (!), and the social media war on this only furthers the divide.

Is there a better way to frame this issue? In our world, it always starts with human on the other end of the message. Remember, people will believe what they are want to believe. Here’s what people said in our digital focus panels in response:

“Unfortunately, I really didn’t believe it.”

“I looked into it some, and I wasn’t convinced that gas stoves are a health hazard. Seemed more political than an actual health problem.” They don’t want to believe they are a bad parent.

They want to believe they are a good cook. And the idea of a “ban” positions this a threat to a lifestyle. A challenge to their choices. A mistake you must feel guilty for.

What to do about it

Bans like this may be good policy, but they aren’t good messaging. We need to stick to what you gain – not what you lose.

  • Don’t fall into the language trap of a “ban.” Let’s make our future housing stock cleaner, healthier and safer. Let’s electrify our lives with abundance, not tap into sacrifice.
  • Lets’s go to the source and not the use. Blame the producer, not the consumer.

Finally, let’s bear in mind that changing home cooking will accomplish a tiny portion of our carbon pollution goal. The data says it shouldn’t become the centerpiece of climate messaging.

Yes, we need to transition off dependence on gas heating and gas use in homes. But if we are trying to engage people in solutions, let’s go to the source – the “dirty gas” providers who are leaking “super polluters” (methane) that’s overheating our communities. That’s the communications hill to climb. Sweat the big stuff.

As we always say: when you are explaining, you are losing. Legislators: please pass policies that help move us to all electric houses in the future. But climate communicators: let’s take care to avoid adding momentum to the “sacrifice trap.” Because if climate progress is associated with first banning your hamburger, and now banning the way you cook it, we’re just not going to get enough people on our team.

John and Jessica