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Most Americans engaging online about climate change are mired in the debate as to whether it exists. But the conversation is expected to shift dramatically in the next two years, according to new research from The Center for Food Integrity.

The center uses a research tool to analyze millions of conversations online. While the climate-change debate is expected to grow just 3.6 percent in the next two years, the conversation on causes is expected to increase 260 percent. The level of conversation about solutions is expected to increase 202 percent.

“People interested in causes and solutions want to bring about change by taking action on a personal level and being the change,” said Terry Fleck, executive director for the Center for Food Integrity. “They also fear making uninformed choices, want to protect the American way of life, and look to science and innovation to provide solutions.”

Many consumers aren’t currently talking about a link between consumption of animal protein and climate change, but they are talking about the link between greenhouse-gas emissions from livestock production and climate change, according to the research. The research indicates there are about 26 million conversations currently related to the topic, but the level of conversation is expected to increase to about 210 percent in the next two years, according to the Center for Food Integrity.

“While ‘local food’ isn’t associated with improving climate change, topics associated with it include topics such as cattle farming, beef consumption, industrial agriculture, environmental footprint and water use,” Fleck said. “The topics are more related to causes than local food production to improving climate change.”

Engaging consumers on the topic of climate change presents a challenge given the current political environment. But the predicted conversation shift to causes and solutions as well as focus on science provides opportunities for the food industry to communicate its successes and commitment to addressing climate change via technology, he said.

“Provide balanced information, share third-party studies and give them a forum to engage with you on the topic,” he said. “We encourage the food industry to do its part to empower them.”

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