"Without ever shying away from the scale of the problem, we must combine an accessible communication of the challenge with a positive vision of the future: an honest, evidence-based optimism to give people something to aim for."
Adrian Ramsay, CEO of the Centre for Alternative Technology and 11 London client, tells PR week about the challenge of reporting on climate change in the era of fake news. Originally posted in PR Week.
It was the day of the IPCC report, arguably the most significant global health check-up for years. And yet the glittery misadventures of two Strictly Come Dancing stars appeared to be the main story in town.
Climate silence in the mainstream media is one of the biggest obstacles we face. Combine that with a post-truth, fake news era; a US president prone to climate fudges and a UK government all consumed by Brexit and it could easily appear that the game is up.
Fortunately, our national obsession with weather is beginning to turn the tide. After a summer of soaring temperatures, worrying weather events here and further afield, people are starting to see the early effects of life in a changing climate.
The complex nature of climate science does not lend itself readily to campaigns built on 140 characters or less. And yet, on issues such as plastics, social media is helping to inspire action. The immediacy and imagery of Twitter and Facebook has the potential to harness the urgent need for change.
The once dark, distant future of climate change comes crashing into the now, helping established campaign groups reach a new, broader audience, with millennials leading the way on sharing a growing ethos of concern for our planet and our future.
The arguments for urgent and serious action on climate change cannot rely on doom-laden forecasts.
Without ever shying away from the scale of the problem, we must combine an accessible communication of the challenge with a positive vision of the future: an honest, evidence-based optimism to give people something to aim for. Campaigns must connect global climatic trends with the changes people can see around them and extreme weather around the world.
Global leaders, including the UK Government, have accepted the world must achieve net zero emissions by 2050 to avoid major and irreversible changes to our climate. The UK, having had the benefits of leading the world into the industrial revolution, now has a moral duty to take a global lead in driving a new green revolution.
And the evidence is there that we can and must achieve a zero-carbon Britain by 2040, using technology available today. To communicate this, we need to get across all the social and economic benefits we can achieve at the same time.
A nationwide programme to better insulate homes will keep us warm and tackle fuel poverty. Investment in walking, cycling and modern public transport will address air pollution and congestion. Harnessing the huge potential of renewable energy will create jobs and business opportunities. And crucially a focus on greening up our cities and creating more spaces for nature will improve our wellbeing.
This is the zero-carbon Britain we can and should be creating – glitterballs and fancy footwork aside – we simply cannot afford not to.
About this article
Adrian Ramsay is the CEO of the Centre for Alternative Technology and former deputy leader of the Green Party. To find out more about the Centre for Alternative Technology, visit their website. Their Zero Carbon Report, 'Raising Ambition', is available to read online here.