Two climate scientists, in a comment in Nature, note the media (and many climate scientists too) have been incorrectly presenting the RCMP8.5 “worst case scenario” as the most likely case. Data show this worst case is extremely unlikely, but its use in climate communications propaganda messaging has led to a mental health crisis as up to half of various population groups believe humanity may be extinct in ten years, and many youth are now medicated for anxiety caused by exaggerated climate communications efforts.
The media’s focus on scary, fear-based propaganda messaging – and avoidance of discussing workable solutions that are already underway – leads to intense negativity and anxiety. The result has been a majority of young people believing humanity may be extinct in ten years, even though there is zero evidence to support such nonsense. We are literally scaring people to death via false and inappropriate propaganda messaging. Some journalists are looking to “solutions journalism” moving away from the whining negativity of current news reports that focus on problems and seldom examine workable solutions,. This new approach offers hope and a positive way forward.
Public climate communications has gone so far off the target that people now believe in apocalyptic end of life scenarios (in the near term!) that are not supported by any science at all (while telling us we must listen to the scientists). This then, is a summary and link to comments from another actual climate scientist. Because without listening, this is what we get: “I genuinely have the fear that climate change is going to kill me and all my family, I’m not even kidding it’s all I have thought about for the last 9 months every second of the day. It’s making my sick to my stomach, I’m not eating or sleeping and I’m getting panic attacks daily. It’s currently 1 am and I can’t sleep as I’m petrified.” – Young adult in the UK.
A professor of atmospheric sciences weighs in on the exaggerated, hyperbolic click-bait inducing media news stories and the negative impact they are having on mental health as many suffer severe climate anxiety. Many such stories are not merely exaggerated but false, which has led to the bizarre situation where a majority of younger voters in the U.S. believe humanity will be extinct within ten years. There is no scientific justification for these beliefs, illustrating how climate communications has gone off the rails.
Excessive exaggeration in climate communications is leading to “a situation where no one listens anymore. Without trust, we are lost.” Hyperbolic and unrealistic scenarios lead to the impossibility of reaching workable solutions. Coupled with the salesman’s technique of a false sense of urgency, we create unnecessary stress – which leads the target to give up and tune out. Under urgent pressure, we make bad decisions with even worse outcomes. That’s a summary of comments from the late Dr. Hans Rosling, in his book Factfulness.
“Climate change is real but it’s not the end of the world. And increasingly extreme statements by activists undermine environmental progress, say climate scientists.” – another post in our continuing look at poorly done climate communications tactics that are leading many to ignore the climate topic altogether.
A branding expert says climate communications must adopt even scarier sounding propaganda terminology, not based on the actual science, in order to frighten people in to taking action. He proposes terminology such as Global Meltdown or Scorched Earth, neither of which is accurate. He’s advocating the use of lies to persuade targets to adopt an agenda. This approach, however, is likely to backfire and turn people away from even listening to climate communications.
Media, notably spearheaded by The Guardian and the George Mason School of Journalism, have applied specific methods of propaganda messaging to create a campaign of carpet-bombing us with the invented terms “climate emergency” and “climate crisis”.
A paper in a journal published by the National Academy of Sciences faults journalists for focusing on dystopian, catastrophic, fear inducing dramatization of future climate projections – while failing to present the likelihood (or lack of likelihood) of such scenarios and the uncertainty presented in the science papers and conferences. It is gratifying to see others at a higher pay grade than I are also seeing that stories designed to create emotional outrage and responses are a turn off and counter productive to effective climate communications.
Time Magazine engaged in deliberate, and false, propaganda messaging to influence readers to take action. After contacting the magazine, they did, at least, revise the headline (for the 3rd time). They began with the accurate headline “How Asthma Inhalers are Contributing to Climate Change” but immediately changed it and promoted this rude and 100% false headline: “How Asthma Inhalers are Choking the Planet”.
First, making crude humor of asthmatics “choking” is not funny and is rude and insensitive. Second, it is physically impossible for inhalers to be “choking the planet”. In homes where someone uses an inhaler, annual inhaler usage produces about 1% of the total CO2-equivalent gases emitted by the home and life activities during the course of a year. If all inhalers were eliminated tomorrow, there would be no measurable impact on weather or climate over the next 100 years. A worst case inhaler, using data cited by Time and BMJ, produces about half the CO2-equivalent GHC as does a person breathing and exhaling CO2. Seriously. Just breathing is a bigger threat than using inhalers.
Time eventually changed the headline to the better, but still misleading “How One Commonly Used Asthma Inhaler is Damaging the Planet”. Their fiction story also referenced the wrong gas used as a propellant, cited an exaggerated greenhouse gas effect multiplier from an environmental activist group rather than the more modest IPCC AR5 science-based estimate, and then omitted many article changes from their Corrections List. The text itself continues to climate shame asthmatics with the false “Choking the Planet” claim.
This is an example of garbage journalism and how not to do do climate communications.