Does the climate crisis need a rebrand?

4th February 2020 |

2019 was unquestionably a big year for eco-warriors, with the climate crisis dominating headlines. Throughout the year, while activists like Greta Thunberg became more prolific and sizeable demonstrations made the news, there has a been a backlash towards individual environmentalists and groups such as Extinction Rebellion.

Warnings over the changing climate are not new. It was all the way back in 1896 that Swedish scientist, and the first Swede to win the Nobel prize, Svante Arrhenius, predicted that the mass use of coal would warm the planet. Over the years, several articles and research pieces forecasted similar trends, and in 1988 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was formed.

Unfortunately, almost as old as climate change itself is climate change denial. Despite all the facts and scientific consensus, we are still faced with a large number of people who simply refuse to believe in the climate crisis. Pair this with the people who do believe, but who cannot see or agree upon solutions, and we reach something of a stalemate. A change in perception is needed, and who better to influence this change than a discipline created to do exactly that?

Necessary and possible

Research shows that the number of people who do believe in human-caused climate change is increasing. A huge amount of ecological disasters, coupled with high-profile protests and powerful film-making, has enabled people to appreciate the devastating impact the climate crisis can have, in a way that reports on rising ocean temperatures could not. Belief ranges by country – perhaps unsurprisingly citizens of the USA are most likely to be climate change deniers – but just 0-6 per cent of people do not believe in the climate crisis.

The next step, then, is convincing those people that slowing and reversing the effects of climate change is not just necessary but possible. Belief that anything can now be done ranges from 50-80 per cent, a good sign according to climate change writer and activist, Naomi Klein. She claims that the general feeling shared by much of the population is that change on the scale demanded by the climate crisis is just not possible.

However, if we go back in time again – to the 1930s and Roosevelt’s new deal – there is plenty of evidence to suggest a country can change in response to a man-made environmental disaster. The dustbowl preceded the Great Depression, which led to FDR’s new deal – a series of financial reforms, public work projects and environmental regulations. It’s this that inspires several politicians – including Jeremy Corbyn, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders – to use the term “green new deal”.

Cleaner and cheaper

Alongside extolling the environmental virtues of green initiatives, governments and organisations must promote the other benefits. The electric revolution in the automotive industry is a great example of this – electric vehicles are much less popular in the West than in Asia, at least in part because of the way they have been marketed.

In Europe, manufacturers have concentrated on promoting the environmental benefits of electrification, which – while important to some consumers – does not appeal to a wide audience. Countries such as China have instead focused on highlighting the affordability, reliability and innovation of electric vehicles, all of which appeal to the mass market.

As we’ve seen with other global social issues – diversity and inclusion, for example – individuals and businesses need more than one motivating factor to make impactful changes, and often this comes down to financial incentives.

With great power comes great responsibility

Marketers have the power to drive real change, and if we are to prevent the terrible effects of the climate crisis, these must be put to good use. Inspiring global change will require global effort, and scientists, governments and businesses of all industries will need to work together. By helping to improve communications around the climate crisis and green initiatives, marketers can have a huge impact on lessening the effect of environmental disaster.

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