Bad Sales Job on Climate Change

24 Oct

Today is the International Day of Climate Action. Don’t feel bad, I didn’t know either.

Thousands of Canadians burn tons of fossil fuels to travel to Ottawa to protest climate change . . . only to tragically freeze to death in this pose.

Thousands of Canadians burn tons of fossil fuels to travel to Ottawa to protest climate change . . . only to tragically freeze to death in this pose.

Buffalo had a protest/teach-in today at D’Youville College to spread the word that, like, climate change is totally bad. 

I poke fun not because climate change isn’t a problem, but because the local representatives unfortunately did nothing to break any stereotypes. The Western New York Climate Action Coalition (didn’t know we had one of those either) sponsored the event, titled Buffalo 350, meaning 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Never mind for a second that the 350 number is completely arbitrary, with nary a shred of scientific evidence that 350 is “better” than 300, or 400, or any other number (this is what passes for proof -“science” and Desmond Tutu say 350!). Also ignore for a second that our current CO2 count is 385, that we passed 350 in 1998, and none of us alive will see 350 again.

The problem to focus on right now is the awful, terrible job climate change protestors or environmental activists do selling climate change. Or more specifically, getting the public excited enough, or scared enough, or both, about climate change that they stop throwing out cereal boxes and start recycling them.

The protestors today made the classic mistake: explaining that hurricanes, droughts and blizzards are the product of current levels of CO2, and just you wait, things will get worse. Call it the Inconvenient Truth mistake. I wish I could prove this to you, but unfortunately YNN Buffalo (where I saw the WNYCAC rep on the teevee) does not yet have a website 6 months after creation. But that’s another story.

Everyone repeat after me. “Weather is not climate!” Weather is today. Climate is long term. Climate change did not cause the droughts in the south east last year. Global warming did not cause Katrina. Climate change may be causing massive snowpack melt and the melting of the ice caps, but even that is tricky – pack ice has been increasing lately. The point is, you can’t look at any specific thing today to see proof of climate change. We need to look long term.

Climate change may well be bad, and has some man-made component, but when Al Gore said the earth would heat up, massive hurricanes would hit, and the seas would rise, people checked the thermometer. This summer, they discovered it was 1) cold, and 2) we had no hurricanes. The lack of hurricanes was the biggest non-story story this year.

This all comes on the heels of a new poll that show fewer and fewer Americans believe there is evidence of global warming. Said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press:

“It’s a combination of poor communication by scientists, a lousy summer in the Eastern United States, people mixing up weather and climate and a full-court press by public relations firms and lobby groups trying to instill a sense of uncertainty and confusion in the public.”

Yeah, I think its more the former. And the people mixing up weather and climate include the advocates. The problem with selling climate change with hurricanes is that when there are no hurricanes, then there must not be climate change.

The cause is not hopeless. Think how easily the frame “climate change” has been substituted for “global warming.” Because, of course, not everywhere will get warmer. Some places will get colder. Glaciers on Iceland today grow while glaciers in Glacier National Park shrink. But while we are still fighting the change, rather than preparing for its coming, the sales job has to get better.

10 Responses to “Bad Sales Job on Climate Change”

  1. K9 October 25, 2009 at 10:42 am #

    Brian – you really need to do your homework instead of spouting republican talking points. Here’s a site to get you started

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Do-growing-glaciers-disprove-global-warming.html

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/hurricanes-global-warming.htm

  2. Brian Castner October 25, 2009 at 12:04 pm #

    K9 – You need to read what I wrote instead of spouting defensive talking points. I said the sales job is bad, because the salesmen misrepresent the science too. When the climate change advocate says more hurricanes are a result of climate change, you have a sales problem. And if you report on shrinking glaciers, you are asking the skeptic to find the one growing. If you are passionate about the cause, I suggest you (collectively) improve your sales pitch. And I challenge you to find a single R talking point in any of my statements.

  3. K9 October 26, 2009 at 9:42 am #

    Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, March 20, 2009.
    “We are cooling. We are not warming.”

    Weekly Standard co-founder Fred Barnes, February 16, 2009.
    “The more the case for man-made warming falls apart, the more hysterical Gore gets about an imminent catastrophe.”

    Washington Post columnist George Will.
    Will wrote an article for the Washington Post misleadingly referencing scientific data to suggest that climate change didn’t exist.

    FOX News anchor Steve Doocy, March 2008.
    “Despite it being bitterly cold outside in the northern plains, we hear a lot about global warming. Is there another side to this story? Many scientists would say yes, but most media outlets — the mainstream media — only cover Al Gore’s ‘Earth has a fever’ perspective. This is the worst winter in some parts of America and around the world and perhaps we should be worried now about global cooling.”

    And, although you didn’t say this, I’m throwing it in just for fun:
    Rep. John Shimkus, March 30, 2009.
    “The earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over.”

  4. Brian Castner October 26, 2009 at 10:51 am #

    Wow K9 – I wish you spent as much time reading what I wrote as you did doing research.

    “Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, March 20, 2009.
    “We are cooling. We are not warming.””

    I said some places are cooling and some places are warming. Climate is more localized. The artic is warming is faster than anywhere else. Bad for ice. But other places are getting colder. That is consistent with the first link you gave yesterday.

    “Weekly Standard co-founder Fred Barnes, February 16, 2009.
    “The more the case for man-made warming falls apart, the more hysterical Gore gets about an imminent catastrophe.””

    I never mentioned Gore – I did mention his movie. That movie doesn’t change, so I don’t know how it could get more hysterical. And I said, the sales job sucks, not the overall case. But while we’re on it, and since we you’re good at Google searches, can you find me the study that shows what percentage of CO2 increase is due to normal natural factors (we are coming out of a mini-ice age) and what percentage is man made?

    “Washington Post columnist George Will.
    Will wrote an article for the Washington Post misleadingly referencing scientific data to suggest that climate change didn’t exist.”

    I didn’t ref George Will, or say that climate change doesn’t exist. I said the sales job sucks because often “proof” is weather related, not climatological. What George Will does say often is that the average global temp has gone up over the last 100 years and down over the last 10. That’s statistically correct and ultimately irrelevant Thus the problem with using weather as your ref to sell the program.

    “FOX News anchor Steve Doocy, March 2008.
    “Despite it being bitterly cold outside in the northern plains, we hear a lot about global warming. Is there another side to this story? Many scientists would say yes, but most media outlets — the mainstream media — only cover Al Gore’s ‘Earth has a fever’ perspective. This is the worst winter in some parts of America and around the world and perhaps we should be worried now about global cooling.””

    Thank you for proving my point – every time there is a hurricane or a heat wave and the climate change protestors yell about global warming, you are inviting idiot Steve Ducey to talk about global cooling when it snows outside. Let me say again: the sales job sucks.

    “Rep. John Shimkus, March 30, 2009.
    “The earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over.””

    Now there is something worth talking about. If you care to have a comparative theological discussion about the Unmoved Mover, and whether He is therefore responsible for the end of the world, let me know.

  5. NCD October 26, 2009 at 11:47 am #

    Sales job indeed. The Climate Change Denialists and associated Fossil Fools pushers largely own the Main Stream Media (MSM), so the default means of getting some attention and a couple of nanoseconds of MSM time is via actions like 350.org. But, to try and get a substantive debate on this in the MSM, or on the cures for Global Warming/Global Meltdown that also happen to be cures for Peak Oil (you surely are not a POD – Peak Oil Denialist – person, right?) and a wretched real economy – well good luck on that one. If you do lean towards the POD person status, try this one on for size – the POD person affliction is curable:
    http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/5899#more. The people at ASPO also have the same problem as the folks pushing for Climate Sanity.

    By the way, you’ve no doubt read the report outlining the basis for the upcoming Copenhagen Climate negotiations – COP15 – right?. The report, by the WBGU organization, would probably cause a bit of a moan and groan in the U.S. – especially by the right wingnuotosphere. What is your opinion about this important document?

    Anyway, in case you’re a bit lacking with respect to knowledge on this, here’s a bit of a primer, with a link to the WBGU document:
    http://www.dkgreenroots.com/content/solving-climate-dilemma-wind-ramifications

    After all, ignorance is not supposed to be bliss, right? Happy reading.

    NCD

  6. Brian Castner October 26, 2009 at 12:50 pm #

    @ NCD: I complain about the sales job, and you send me to a wonkish policy report from a German think tank. You also do a very good job of proving my point. You need to convince 150 million Americans that climate change is real and bad. Inferring that they are ignorant and nuts and then asking them all to read a report will not work. Al Gore at least got closer with a movie, but as I said, it caused its own unintentional effects.

    I’m also not impressed by the evil MSM argument. The Right was mocked for claiming liberal bias for years. Now its the other way? The MSM can’t be simultaneously too liberal and too conservative, too beholden to Big Oil and too beholden to left wing interests. Get over it.

    I’ll ask you since K9 didn’t have a chance to get back to me. The two reports I would like to read are: 1) the one showing what percentage of CO2 change in the last 200 years is manmade and what is natural variation (climate is always “changing”, after all), and 2) what is the ratio of CO2 increase to avg temp increase (every extra 50 ppm is 1C? 2C?). Seem like pretty important questions if you are going to ask the world to a) set a target, and b) take steps to reach it.

    And since you actually asked what my opinion is, instead of assuming it, I’ll give it to you. Its my opinion any Copenhagan report and any Copenhagan agreement isn’t worth the paper its printed on. It will mean as little Kyoto. If you didn’t sign on to Kyoto, you were villified (note 99 US Senators voted againt Kyoto). But if you did sign Kyoto, you missed your target anyway. CO2 levels has shot up significantly in the last 20 years, and the talk has meant little. I don’t how the world will eventually get on board, but I think it will take an economic solution, or, worse, horrific tragedy.

  7. Ethan October 26, 2009 at 1:08 pm #

    It’s not a sales problem, it is a science education problem; we shouldn’t have to “sell” people on, um, I believe it used to be known as, objective reality.

  8. Brian Castner October 26, 2009 at 1:40 pm #

    Ethan – there is certainly a science education problem part of it. But even if everyone agreed on the problem (climate change), would everyone agree on the solution? If you want 300 million Americans, or 6 billion people in the world, to modify their behavior, you have to sell something, even if they all agree on the objective reality (an almost meaningless assumption, as I can think of almost no examples where that is the case).

  9. Ethan October 26, 2009 at 3:10 pm #

    would everyone agree on the solution?

    I guess I’d address that two ways. One is, since people have so much difficulty seeing the problem in the first place, does that even matter? When it does start to matter, we can grapple with it, which leads me to… Secondly, I’d suggest that if the solutions, like the identification of the problems themselves, are treated scientifically, than it’s not really a matter of agreeing, is it?

    I’m not a Libertard; I actually think people are motivated to do things for very complex reasons beyond (but sure, including) money. I do not think you have to, (or should have to,) “sell” science. You sell widgits. Or beer. You do not “sell” the informational outcome of a process that has reliably and consistently shaved the falsehoods away from our general store of knowledge for several centuries now.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Al Gore as Skeptic | WNYmedia.net - November 20, 2009

    […] reducing our carbon, and specifically CO2, footprint. Can’t have one without the other. To question the usefulness, scientific backing, or efficacy of setting an arbitrary 350 ppm CO2 goal is to question climate […]

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