29 April 2012

The real climate message is in the shadows. It’s time to shine the light.

Updated 28 April 2012

The presentation '"Saving Lives: reframing climate change around health and livelihood" explores the issues presented in this post.  It makes the case for reaching out to conservative audiences so as to widen the political space for the necessary social-economic transition. It takes a critical look at climate change messaging to date, identifies its shortcomings, and, drawing on the cognitive sciences, outlines a human-centred communication that acknowledges the threats, demonstrates agency and inspires empathy.

by Daniel Voronoff


Posted 30 August 2011

There was more than one kernel of truth in the speech made by the Shadow Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull at the Virginia Chadwick Foundation back in July. But the one I’d like to look at is the analogy about how not listening to the science on climate change:

Climate News

Week ending 29 April 2012


Chart of the week:  Collapse of US Network News Coverage of Climate Change
PICKS OF THE WEEK

Taking Action On Climate And Clean Energy In 2012: A Menu Of Effective And Feasible Solutions
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/04/26/459844/taking-action-on-climate-and-clean-energy-in-2012-a-menu-of-effective-and-feasible-solutions
Jason Walsh and Kate Gordon, Climate progress, Apr 26, 2012
Last year threw into stark relief America’s interlinked economic, energy security, and climate crises.

24 April 2012

Rethinking climate communication and engagement

by David Spratt / Concluding a 5-part series

PDF download
IN THIS SERIES...
“Always look on the bright side of life”: Bright-siding climate advocacy and its consequences

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: What bright-siding climate advocacy looks like
Part 3: Is all “good news” and no “bad news” a good strategy?
Part 4: The consequences of failure
Part 5: Rethinking climate communication and engagement
‘Happy talk’ was not the approach taken by Lincoln confronting slavery, or by Franklin Roosevelt facing the grim realities after Pearl Harbour. Nor was it Winston Churchill’s message to the British people at the height of the London blitz. Instead, in these and similar cases transformative leaders told the truth honestly, with conviction and eloquence. – David Orr, preface to “Down to the Wire”
In The real climate message is in the shadows. It’s time to shine the light, Daniel Voronoff drew on lessons from health promotion to argue persuasively what effective climate messaging requires. He identified the problem as bright-siding:
“The risk we face with the present suite of messages is that without stating the problem – namely the severity of the threat and our susceptibility to it – there is no argument for change. Without stating the threat, the public mind is led to question, why a tax for innovation and jobs when the mining industry makes jobs anyway? Imagine the anti-smoking advertisement that fails to mention mouth and lung cancer, telling the smoker they should give up a pleasurable habit of ten years because, well, they’re certain to feel better. The evidence shows this appeal just doesn’t work.”

23 April 2012

Bright-siding: The consequences of failure

by David Spratt / Part 4 of a 5-part series
"Political reality must be grounded in physical reality or it's completely useless."
Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute

PDF download
IN THIS SERIES...
“Always look on the bright side of life”: Bright-siding climate advocacy and its consequences

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: What bright-siding climate advocacy looks like
Part 3: Is all “good news” and no “bad news” a good strategy?
Part 4: The consequences of failure
Part 5: Rethinking climate communication and engagement
If you avoid including an honest assessment of climate science and impacts in your narrative, its pretty difficult to give people a grasp about where the climate system is heading and what needs to be done to create the conditions for living in climate safety, rather than increasing and eventually catastrophic harm. But that’s how the big climate advocacy organisations have generally chosen to operate, and it represents a strategic failure to communicate.
     Climate policy in Australia is trapped in a culture of failure and low expectation. The reason given for advocating solutions that would still result in dangerous climate change is that what really needs to be done is "too big” to message effectively.The Australian Conservation Foundation, for example, adopted a 350 policy several years ago, but never made in part of their advocacy because (unofficially) “the comms people couldn’t find a way to message it”.
     Ken Ward, a former deputy-director of Greenpeace (USA), identifies "a consensual public policy hallucination that abrupt climate change can be addressed without great conflict". Everybody from the UN Secretary-General to business commentator Alan Kohler now calls climate an emergency, but it is still a non-no for most climate campaigning organisations.

22 April 2012

21 April 2012

Is all “good news” and no “bad news” a good strategy?

by David Spratt / Part 3 of a 5-part series
"If people don’t know there’s a problem, they won’t try to solve it."
– Bill McKibben

PDF download
IN THIS SERIES...
“Always look on the bright side of life”: Bright-siding climate advocacy and its consequences

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: What bright-siding climate advocacy looks like
Part 3: Is all “good news” and no “bad news” a good strategy?
Part 4: The consequences of failure
Part 5: Rethinking climate communication and engagement
Bright-siding climate advocacy is based on the view that:
  • Only positive "good news" messages work. Don't mention “bad news" such as climate impacts and don’t communicate the magnitude of the problem, because people can't deal with it; and
  • The good-news story is first and foremost about “clean” or renewable energy, so construct public messages dominated by renewables and economic benefit, not about about replacing fossil fuels.
An example of trying to avoid “bad news” was the decision by the Australian government not to call the carbon tax a carbon tax.  Instead it used the confusing term, a “price on pollution”. This left the discourse about taxes entirely to opposition leader Tony Abbott, with devastating consequences. And then the government, having avoided the “tax” word, made its core pitch about…  how you will get a personal tax break: “How much support will my family get? Estimate your assistance here…” 
     If ever there is evidence that “bad news” can work, it is Australian federal opposition leader Tony Abbott’s unrelentingly assault on the Gillard government.
     The proposition that only "good news" messages work will be looked at again in Part 5 of this series. Of course, the good news about renewable energy is a key component in engaging people, and in reducing emissions.  As renewables move towards becoming cost competitive with fossil fuel energy sources at a speed unimaginable just a few years ago, it is an even more compelling story. But the point here is that it is not the ONLY story, nor a sufficient one.

19 April 2012

What bright-siding climate advocacy looks like

by David Spratt / Part 2 of a 5-part series


PDF download
IN THIS SERIES...
“Always look on the bright side of life”: Bright-siding climate advocacy and its consequences

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: What bright-siding climate advocacy looks like
Part 3: Is all “good news” and no “bad news” a good strategy?
Part 4: The consequences of failure
Part 5: Rethinking climate communication and engagement
What do the Obama administration, Australia’s Labor government, the 2011 “Say Yes” campaign and many national climate advocacy organisations, share?  They share a common view on how to market action on climate:
  • Only positive "good news" messages work. Don't mention “bad news" such as climate impacts and don’t communicate the magnitude of the problem, because people can't deal with it; and
  • The good-news story is first and foremost about “clean” or renewable energy, so construct public messages dominated by renewables and economic benefit, not about about replacing fossil fuels and closing down coal.
    The Obama administration tried, unsuccessfully, to frame legislation to reduce greenhouse emissions as being about “energy independence”. It did not pass, but that was not principally Obama’s fault. But taking climate off the agenda was, says Jonathan Lash of the World Resources Institute:
    I don’t blame the president for the failure of climate legislation, but I do hold him accountable for allowing opponents to fill the void with misinformation and outright lies about climate change… By excising ‘climate change’ from his vocabulary, the president has surrendered the power that only he has to explain challenging issues and advance complex solutions for our country.

    17 April 2012

    “Always look on the bright side of life”: Bright-siding climate advocacy and its consequences

    by David Spratt / Part 1 of a 5-part series

    At a forum in Melbourne this February on “Saving lives... reframing climate change around health and livelihoods”  (powerpoint with audio), Daniel Voronoff summed up our dilemma:
    People of vision, working together patiently and persistently, have inspired their community and changed the course of history. These leaders, recognising the threat to civilisation posed by climate change, have successfully alerted many of the public to the danger it faces. After many years and great resistance from powerful and ruthless people, an empowered community has achieved an epic win. The country has taken its first steps towards a ‘clean energy future’. But time is running out and much more needs to be done to prevent the catastrophe. Also, their enemies are using lies and fear to win the hearts and minds of the people, and destroy their hard won gains. Everything may be lost – unless the leaders reach out to a resistant public in new ways and tell them the truth about the threat to health, lives and livelihoods that we face.

    15 April 2012

    Climate News

    Weeks ending 8 April and 15 April 2012 

    QUOTE OF THE WEEK
    "We're in an emergency: you can see what's on the horizon... with ecosystems, sea level and species extinction" – Dr James Hansen, Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/apr/06/nasa-scientist-climate-change

    PICKS OF THE WEEK

    Nasa scientist: climate change is a moral issue on a par with slavery
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/apr/06/nasa-scientist-climate-change
    Severin Carrell, Guardian, 6 April 2012
    Prof Jim Hansen to use lecture at Edinburgh International Science Festival to call for worldwide tax on all carbon emissions
    AND
    Global warming projections from 1981 prove tellingly accurate
    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/rooted/2012/04/12/global-warming-projections-from-1981-prove-tellingly-accurate/
    Amber Jamieson, Crikey, 12 April 2012
    A seminal article by climate scientists in 1981 has proved eerily accurate at predicting global temperature rises over the past three decades, with its lead author James Hansen telling Crikey that his early research on global warming "seems to hold up remarkably well".

    10 April 2012

    Triggering permafrost meltdown is closer than we think

    • Current levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are probably sufficient to trigger large-scale permafrost carbon feedbacks and global warming that human effort would be unable to contain.
    • The time to slash emissions was a long time ago but now is still much, much better than later, which may, as new studies suggests, simply become too late.
    Thawing permafrost
    Two future climate impacts above all others will overwhelm human efforts to mitigate global warming should temperatures and carbon dioxide levels reach critical levels, which in the latter case we are already close to achieving.
           The last time carbon dioxide levels were apparently as high as they are today — and were sustained at those levels — global temperatures were 3 to 6 degrees Celsius higher than they are today, the sea level was approximately 25 to 40 metres higher than today, there was no permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and Greenland.

    02 April 2012

    Pretending more severe sea level rise scenarios don't exist is a poor way to manage risk

    by David Spratt

    Sea-level rise projections are being ignored in a foolish bet by Australian governments that the more severe outcomes won't occur. Tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on risk assessments and adaptation reports that may soon be superceded.

    How much sea levels will rise with climate change is fundamental to planning the future of our coasts, with more government money being spent on coastal adaptation studies than any other global warming impact in Australia. Hoping the worst won't happen is a risky approach, because the worst possibilities have the greatest impact on people, property and infrastructure, with possibly incalculable damage. Ignoring the science also opens the way to litigation for a failure to exercise duty of care by planning authorities.

    01 April 2012

    Climate News

    Week ending 1 April 2012

    QUOTE OF THE WEEK

    From Giles Parkinson on the race to the bottom by three State Liberal Premiers:
    “There is a saying going around that the world did not leave the Stone Age because it ran out of stones. But what is the chance of it returning there if it runs out of brains?”
    http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/five-things-we-learned-this-week-74612

    PICKS OF THE WEEK

    National US Record Events For March 2012
    http://wx.hamweather.com/maps/climate/records/2012/03/us.html
    An amazing map!