In Thoughts

It’s been said that we have the solutions to climate change but the only thing missing is the political will. I would argue that the only thing is the public will. If more Americans were concerned to a degree commensurate with the risks, we wouldn’t have a President, with a 40% approval rating, who is doing everything in his power to make the problem much worse.

Meanwhile, Americans are flying and driving more miles than ever and sales of gas-powered SUV’s and pickups are increasing — as are greenhouse gas emissions. Even among those who are concerned, too many are waiting for others — politicians, entrepreneurs, or scientists — to “fix” the problem.

The ultimate solutions to climate change are workable, cost-effective technologies…. yet scientific, engineering, and organizational solutions are not enough. Societies must be motivated and empowered to adopt the needed changes.      —-       Jeffrey Sachs

I would add that many of the necessary solutions won’t see the light of day unless the public understands and feels the urgency and acts accordingly with their consuming choices, driving habits, votes and more.

How do we engage the public when it’s so easy not to think about climate change? How do we reach those segments of the public who don’t want to hear about this issue and avoid all climate messages?

This website proposes that a marketing approach, modeled after the successful anti-smoking campaign, The Truth, could reach and engage the public. However, the costs of such a campaign make it unlikely. Here’s a Plan B that could have a similar impact but with minimal costs.

Anthropogenic climate change presents a threat to all life on earth and urgent action is needed to mitigate those threats. The consensus within the scientific community on this is crystal clear.

But the biggest obstacle to action is the myth that to agree with that statement is to take a partisan political stance.

Science is not politics. There can be discussion and disagreement among policy makers about the best approach to achieve mitigation but there should not be any disagreement that doing so is vitally necessary.

Mitigation means to reduce the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something. It’s generally understood that it’s too late to “solve” climate change. The atmosphere already has too high a concentration of greenhouse gases, and these are causing climatic changes and natural disasters, which will inevitably get worse for a period of time. But how much worse and for how long depends largely on what we do now.

What can be done?

The CEO’s of Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Yahoo have all publicly stated that climate change is a serious problem. So have the CEO’s of Netflix and Disney. These companies have contact with almost every American (and those in many other countries) many times a day. And every one of those contacts is an opportunity for a message that informs and reminds the user about the urgency of the climate crisis.

While recognizing that these companies are in competition, I am suggesting that they work together for this purpose. It’s a common theme in movies that warring factions need to combine forces against a common enemy that presents a threat to both. Those with power, resources and influence could join forces and correct the misconception that belief in climate change is a matter of opinion, politics, or a hoax but rather a proven scientific truth.

The messages would be simple: Climate Change is real. The earth is warming and human actions are the cause. We all need to be environmentally responsible and help to preserve the earth’s natural resources. And we should to listen to scientists to better understand the problem and for ideas about what can be done.

The ads and posts would need to avoid any suggestion of political slant and contain no mention of this administration’s environmental policies or the Green New Deal.

Advertising works through repetition of simple messages. Social scientists have researched the elements of climate messages that are most effective and the companies would do well to pay attention to those findings.

The tech companies could lose some advertising revenue for a period of time, although that would be a worthy donation for an invaluable cause. If one company agreed to do this without the participation of their business rivals, it could prevent any from participating. But if all the tech companies worked together to promote these messages, the risks in loss of consumers for any would be lessened.

Why would Big Tech agree to this?

There have been reports that some Silicon Valley innovators and executives feel regret about the unintended consequences of their innovations. The pervasiveness of social media has been implicated in the rise of depression, anxiety, and suicidality. Addictive behaviors have increased with easy access to pornography, gambling, and obsessive gaming. The convenience of online shopping has contributed to the demise of local retail with a negative impact on communities. Conspiracy theories have spread like wildfire and it’s become difficult to separate real from fake-videos and news. Devices intrude on our thoughts and activities with texts, emails and robocalls, and these diversions and distractions could be contributing to a lack of focus and productivity. Mailboxes, both physical and electronic, overflow and overwhelm with junk.

The Tech giants are under attack from many directions and some politicians are threatening to break up their monopoly. And these companies and their owners have become enormously wealthy in an era where the gap between the very wealthy and the majority of citizens has grown substantially and is unhealthy for the wellbeing of society as a whole.

But the dominance of these few corporations also makes this proposal viable, which would not be possible otherwise. And doing so could make the difference between taking meaningful action to mitigate the worst impacts of this crisis – or not. In addition to the obvious goal of helping to save the planet, global catastrophe would not be good for the corporate bottom lines.

It’s both the most and the least that they can do.

In his commencement speech at Tulane University this past spring, Tim Cook acknowledged to the newly graduated that his generation had failed theirs by not acting sooner to curb the devastating impacts of climate change. While it would be terrific if software engineers created an app to drawdown CO2 from the atmosphere, that’s not likely. But what I’m proposing here could make a big difference.

Tim also quoted a speech by FDR: “It’s common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it, and try another. But, above all, try something.”

This is worth a try.