With the Cop26 conference being held in Glasgow, climate change is unsurprisingly dominating the media headlines this week.
I think most people acknowledge that pollution and the increasing use of fossil fuels is harmful to human health and detrimental on other parts of the planets fauna and flora.
However, it is my view that in order to achieve any meaningful impact, on a global scale, there requires some sensible and realistic actions and targets that will have an impact without causing extreme hardship for people today.
I believe part of the problem is very much the way in which the message is being presented to ordinary folk. For over 30 years I have been involved in sales, marketing and PR, so would like to think I have a pretty good idea how to promote a message to a certain target audience. Regrettably, for quite some years now, I think the powers that be; ‘could do better’.
I’ve noticed when our erstwhile leaders and their advisors want us to accept a particular policy or course of action they resort to using very negative phrases and vocabulary. The problem with this strategy, if it’s used too much, can yield the opposite effect. Akin to the ‘Boy who cried Wolf’ tale. And we all know how that ended.
Indeed, this week we have been told again we’ve only a few years left to save the planet. The problem is, doomsayers have been predicting a cataclysmic climate for some time. Indeed, in 1969 it was reported in the New York Times that if pollution wasn’t stopped mankind would die out within 20 years. In the early 1970’s we were warned there’ll be another Ice Age by the 21st Century. In the 1980’s experts changed the mantra from an impending Ice age to one of extreme heat. As we entered the 21st Century we were warned that Britain would be plunged into a Siberian landscape by 2010 and let’s not forget Al Gore’s broadcast of “Inconvenient Truth” warning the North Pole will have completely melted by 2018.
None of the extreme apocalyptic predictions of the past 50 years have come true. An inconvenient truth indeed.
For the past two years many people have suffered great hardship due to the pandemic restrictions and lockdowns. As businesses and communities slowly start to pick up they now have to endure the hammer blow of the government’s harsh target to be Net Zero by 2035. These include a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030, all electricity from renewable sources by 2035 and green taxes on gas bills and meat within the next decade. All being sold on the mantra that if we don’t undertake this then we risk the lives of future generations.
Many people, struggling to get by now, may interpret this latest policy pitch along the lines of “In the name of protecting the planet for future generations we must destroy the livelihoods of todays!”
I have to say, in promotional and marketing terms, that is certainly the impression many will see this as. Particularly given, as mentioned earlier, previous predictions of doom haven’t materialised.
The situation is further hampered by the rather crass hypocrisy of the very people demanding we must endure these climate policies. The likes of Billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson lecture us on the dangers of burning fossil fuels yet quite happy to sell trips into space for the wealthy. Readers may be interested to know that Musk’s rocket emitted 358 tonnes of CO2 in a six-minute flight.
Then we have the wealthy celebrities telling us all to be more eco-friendly, while they jet around the globe and drive gas guzzling cars. Not forgetting the barking Extinction Rebellion activists who like to cause traffic chaos by repeatedly blocking main roads. By causing severe traffic jams they are increasing the very pollution they claim we need to reduce. Then we have our very own Prime Minister who, after setting punitive and expensive net zero targets for the UK and lecturing the world on cataclysmic climate change, decided return from the Cop26 climate summit by aeroplane.
Virtue signalling form leaders and celebrities who, in the name of climate change, expect ordinary folk to suffer hardship, but aren’t prepared to endure likewise is making it more difficult for many to buy into this latest climate agenda.
I believe reducing man-made pollution is important and think if the powers that be used different promotional strategies they’d get more people embracing it.
Starting by reigning in the ‘end of the world’ mantra. To coin characters from Dad’s Army, we need to hear less from the “We’re all doomed” Private Fraser and more from the “Don’t panic” Corporal Jones.
Make the message more personal, emphasising how less pollution is good for our collective health.
Be realistic about the targets and timescales. There is no benefit from bankrupting this country on unachievable net zero objectives when the UK only accounts for 1% of greenhouse gas emissions, whereas China and Russia collectively account for around 35%. Countries, incidentally, whose leaders have decided not to attend the Cop26 conference.
Above all though, we must acknowledge that severe climate change is also natural, it cannot be stopped and will happened again at some point. We need to invest as much creating an infrastructure to cope with that change when it comes as we do reducing health harming pollution today.
This column was published in the Newcastle Journal on the 4th November 2021.