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.
Survey finds that people who are being constantly told that a recession is near, start to believe that a recession is near:) Numerous predictions of a near term recession, or some that proclaimed us to already be in a recession this past year, have proven wrong. In fact, no one has demonstrated any ability to accurately forecast future recessions. But constant fear mongering may actually create a recession! Fear mongering causes a reduction in spending, causing a reduction in economic activity and a slow down in business activity, leading to cut backs and layoffs.
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.
We all have “frames” of reference that describe various life scenarios. When we walk into a restaurant we have a “frame” that pretty much explains how we expect the restaurant experience to go. We each carry around a lot of subconscious “frames” about how we think the world works. Effective propaganda messaging links to the frames we expect the target to already have. This is not all that surprising but what is old is now new again 🙂
Social media has become a vector for epidemics of mass hysteria.
Active propaganda messaging has persuaded Americans they are living in the darkest hours of history and life itself will be wiped out within 10 years. In reality, we live in the best of times in world history as measured across a wide range of critical metrics. Yet the constant barrage of negativity and hostility motivates individuals’ stress response.
The Guardian announces that it requires their staff to use pejorative propaganda terminology rather than the facts of atmospheric CO2 levels rising, sea level ice and temperature changes, ice mass changes and so on. Anyone who does not 100% adopt The Guardian’s perspective is to be labeled a “denier” (name calling, transference from “Holocaust denier”, get on the bandwagon). The word “climate” should be associated with “crisis”, “emergency” or “heating” (transference, fear). Shrill terminology designed to inflame and create emotional outrage is a turn off and causes readers to tune out from the issues.
We live among the best of times in world history yet even positive economic news, as in this article, are all translated into negatives. Journalism focuses on negativity, causing anxiety and a culture of outrage where everyone is upset all the time. The linked article is an amazing example showing how the news was deliberately spun into negatives; each item listed is then rewritten in the positive, dramatically improving the emotions of the reader.
A classic illustration of how exaggerated, hyperbolic and untrue statements about climate lead to people conclude that projections of human-induced climate change are not true. Our own thesis is that improved communication comes from honest and accurate presentation of facts and logical arguments. Unfortunately, the climate communications community has, rather consistently, engaged in increasingly shrill propaganda messaging that eventually results in the “The boy who cried wolf” phenomena where no one believes anything anymore. This item illustrates how climate communications has backfired, circled back on itself, and produced an outcome opposite to what was intended.
Two professors took a look at how the media has reported on the topic of climate and found that almost all news reports leave out critical and basic facts about climate. A corollary is that instead of reporting facts and the use of logic that supports anthropogenic climate change, most turn to propaganda methods such as appeal to authority, fear, name calling (“deniers”), get-on-the-bandwagon and so on. Incredibly, as I was writing this post The Nature Conservancy sent an email fundraising solicitation which illustrates the point: the first sentence of the email makes 4 demonstrably false claims to create fear about changes in climate. “Factfulness” teaches us how to detect when we are being misled – this turned out to be classic example of a charitable organization making exaggerated claims not supported by reputable science organizations (IPCC, NOAA, The Royal Society).
This post may be the first of several on how climate communications has been badly bungled by reliance on propaganda methods, rather than sticking with facts and logic.