Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Rebranding global warming

Overheard on the radio this morning, another member of the public expressing the view that "this global warming stuff must be nonsense, all we're getting is rain". As the need for climate action becomes ever more urgent, there's a strong chance that a misconception about the manifestations of global warming might convince many that the threat isn't real. Of course as anybody who has watched Al Gore's magnificent movie knows, the result of global warming is disruption weather patterns rather than warmer weather as such. The poles may become warmer - and thus sea levels rise - but in fact the UK could face a mini ice age if our warming Gulf Stream changes its route. Extreme weather like floods and droughts, typhoons and hurricanes will become more common, too.

As a marketer I understand the power of labels to shape people's perceptions and I think adopting the term global warming undermined early efforts to promote awareness. It's just not threatening enough. Ask any bunch of Brits over 40 what it means to them and a good proportion will smile as they recall the long, hot summer of 1976 and murmur "bring it on". The term climate change is less friendly, with fewer positive connotations, but still rather too neutral to describe a process which could ultimately mean the end of civilisation as we know it. I'd like to propose that we all adopt the term "climate crisis" as a more accurate representation of the situation - then perhaps more people would understand the enormity of the challenge that we face together.

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