As noted in this blog, much climate communications (especially media reporting) has gone for exaggerated hyperbole click-bait stories disconnected from the reality of climate change. A professor of atmospheric sciences comments on how incorrect climate communication is not leading to solutions but to unwarranted anxiety and desperation:
So why are all these people so anxiety-ridden and desperate? I believe it is the unconscionable exaggeration, hype, and fear-mongering of our media, special interest groups, some activist scientists, and a number of politicians. And it is unethical, ungrounded in science, and hurting the most vulnerable among us.
The Seattle Times is one of the worst offenders. I can provide a few dozen examples of fear-mongering headlines, completely adrift from the truth. Like the June story claiming heat waves will claim hundreds of lives (actually 725) for each heat wave later in century (see below). It was complete nonsense, with extreme assumptions about warming rates and assuming no one would buy an air conditioner.
Climate communications has flown off the rails and is leading to dysfunction rather than to intelligent and appropriate solutions. Errors in climate communications are the subject of an going series of posts on this blog that illustrate the real world impacts of bad propaganda messaging efforts.
Standard Disclaimer Applies: How to Do Climate Communications – Never Cry Wolf
The Nature Conservancy should focus on facts of atmospheric CO2 levels rising, land and sea surface temperature anomalies, ice pack changes, ocean Ph and sea level change (IPCC Synthesis Report, Figure SPM.1) – as reported by reputable scientific bodies, but they did not. Instead they went straight for hyperbole and making untrue claims to promote fear and hysteria.
Stick with the facts of CO2 rising, sea level ice and temperature changes, ice mass changes or risk tuning all of us out. Shrill terminology designed to create emotional outrage and responses is a total turn off.
The facts are sufficient. The impacts of untrue propaganda hysteria, on the other hand, are to turn off the target completely. We have learned nothing from the parable of the boy who repeatedly cried Wolf!
The propaganda messaging methods in use are leading to public opinions that are not based in facts, logic or evidence. In the U.S. 51% of those aged 18-34 believe humanity may become extinct within 10-15 years, even though there is zero evidence to support such a conclusion. This disconnect between belief and reality risks the potential for major backlash against taking action to reduce CO2-equivalent effects on climate.
Some suggest focusing on solutions and opportunities – instead of unrealistic, dystopian catastrophes designed primarily as click-bait – would be a more effective and positive way forward for climate communications. Instead, we get intense negativity – and falsehoods – that have led to children and adults to seek mental health treatment for induced anxiety.
Personal Notes on Climate Realism
We are taking direct actions to reduce our CO2-equivalent emissions. In late 2019, we are spending US$18,000 (before credits) to install a solar PV array that will reduce our home’s annual grid-provided electricity to net zero (likely less). Our utility generates 56% of its electricity by burning coal and 14% by burning natural gas (about half the emissions of coal). Solar PV directly cuts our portion of those GHG emissions to zero.
We are spending over $5,000 to upgrade 40 year old R-19 attic insulation (which has settled such that it is less than that) to R-49 building code standards. For an all electric house, we currently use 1/3d the amount of electricity of similar homes. We heat using locally sourced wood pellets and our home is cold most every winter day. I drive a Honda Fit averaging about 42 mpg. While spending an amount similar to a low end electric vehicle, our solar and attic upgrades will have a far greater reduction in CO2 emissions than buying an EV. About half of an EV’s lifetime CO2 emissions occur during its manufacturing and if you live where your electricity to charge your EV is generated by burning coal, your overall CO2 emissions reductions are small. While EVs will generally reduce CO2 emissions, for many they are primarily a virtue signaling device (a survey by Volvo found about 75% of purchasers said this, and selected an EV because paradoxically it “helps them to feel better about making less environmentally conscious decisions in “other areas of life.”.)
I post this at the end of each climate communications post because merely mentioning climate results in being called a climate denier or a Nazi.
Call me a climate realist but don’t call me a denier or a Nazi.