In Copenhagen in 2009, representatives from all countries in the world arrived to discuss a universal common response to the issue of global climate change. These representatives included heads of state and senior diplomats. The world was preparing for a deal to be done that would provide a framework for collective action going forward, as had been done in Japan a decade earlier when the Kyoto Protocol was developed.
However, this deal important deal did not happen. The collective world leaders did not meet expectations, and there is no recognized follow-up program of action to carry on from when the Kyoto Protocol expires next year.
Why not? Why did this extraordinary group of states assemble but not meet the objective? There are many reasons why the Copenhagen Conference of Parties did not reach a successful conclusion in 2009. However, one of the important reasons was the perpetual issue the poor public relations record of that follows climate change.
A question of branding
It is an uncomfortable truth, but people in our modern times use a very sophisticated set of filters in order to understand the world around us. These sets of filters have been honed and trained after years of advertising and highly elaborate marketing messages. Our new understanding of the world uses advertising branding as a way of interpreting quality and filtering information.
For an idea of how powerful our current view of advertising sophistication is, compare advertisements for the same product from different eras. Even the most sophisticated advertisement in the 1960s or 1970s would be pretty clumsy when compared to the nuanced messages of today. The advertising component of marketing is the most explicit part of the brand, but it is hardly the only part. Excellent branded identity is consistent, thorough in its message and ubiquitous in its reach.
Climate change needs a brand overhaul
Climate change is an issue, not a marketing strategy. However, it is clear that the important parts of the climate change message are struggling against many people’s message filtering. There are important reasons for this.
First of all, climate change as an issue needs a marketing strategy. The best that has been developed was Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, but that has suffered a large amount of backlash due to the association with that specific politician. For the climate change issue to really start to take root, a sophisticated marketing strategy must be put together. This strategy would have to appeal to regular people, and this likely means keeping the appearance of scientists and public intellectuals down.
The second major problem has been the relatively successful smear campaign against climate change. Negative campaigns like this one are much easier to put together than their positive counterparts. They promote inertia, and use a simple but effective strategy of undermining. Also, climate change detractors don’t all have to agree on anything – they own the status quo. They only have to point out the negatives of the climate change campaign from their individual positions. This means that creating a force against the issue has been relatively easy.
Going forward on the climate change issue
There is no question that climate change is an issue that requires addressing. Even if the greenhouse effect is not as dire as scientists claim it is, the scale of risk is too great not to act. The fact that there is any possibility of potential risks associated with global climate change becoming a reality means there is ample reason to act.
Furthermore, the trade-offs can be beneficial. Energy efficiency is a great way of reducing dependence on a volatile resource. Wind and solar power are so available that harnessing them ensures a long-term sustainable supply of energy. These make business sense, and in another time this would have been accomplished without hesitation. However, in our modern marketing lead world, the ineffectiveness of the climate change issue as a brand has stalled action. This must be addressed as we move forward on this issue.