Discover more from Briefed by Data
Stop with the climate catastrophizing
and consider better marketing
I had a short exchange on Twitter when someone posted the article Climate Change is Death by a Thousand Cuts and I replied with quotes from the new IPCC chair:
So, we shouldn't listen to the new IPCC president: “The world won’t end if it gets more than 1.5 degrees warmer. However, it will be a more dangerous world. " "Even with 1.5 degrees of warming, we will not die out.”
and in response to that, I got
Dude, nobody said anything about dying out. Did you read the post? There is a lot of suffering and mass death between today and dying out. Anyway, we're on track to pass 1.5C of warming in the next decade or so, so assurances about 1.5C don't really get us very far.
Now, I was responding to the title, but note that the article did not talk about suffering and mass death. The article’s title should have been better The Hidden Costs of Climate Change. Here is the main example of that:
My wife told me about a new group of members at her gym: active 70-ish-year-olds who used to go on walks around their neighborhood. Due to the unbearable heat in Texas, though, they joined a gym and now walk indoors on treadmills. This story embodies several aspects of climate impacts that everyone should understand.
The issue here is that climate change is effectively imposing a new tax because this person must pay for a gym membership instead of strolling outside. That is a great point. Nonetheless, I'll use this example to demonstrate a few points concerning the lack of a genuine response to climate change.
No one is really changing habits
Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth was released in 2006. Since then, we've managed to generate only 5% of our total electricity from wind and solar. Do we have any examples of the wealthy and climate activists changing behaviors in a meaningful way, where people genuinely give up something or reduce their lifestyle? Sure, some people may consume less or no meat at all. Maybe they got a Tesla, but that's just as much status as anything else and doesn't necessitate any lifestyle changes. More confusing is the fact that states such as Arizona and Texas, where our 70-year-old can't walk outside some days, are still rising in population (Figure 1), although Phoenix is now prohibiting construction due to water concerns.
For another example, in April 2019, the New York Times article Want to Escape Global Warming? These Cities Promise Cool Relief suggests people move to Duluth, MN (I lived there for a couple of years; neat place) or Buffalo, NY. Both locations are cooler, have ample water sources, and are reasonably priced. This article must have resulted in a population increase for them. No, as illustrated in Figure 2. The reason for Buffalo's growing population in 2019 is immigration. Our 70-year-old could have chosen to move rather than join a gym, but she did not. When people start moving to more environmentally friendly areas, I'll believe they're serious. I have no evidence that climate activists are taking action in response to climate change; if you have, please share it in the comments.
Why aren’t people changing?
Despite the frightening headlines about climate change, I would suggest that the main reason people aren't changing their behaviors or migrating is that they aren't dying. Figure 3 depicts the average number of world disaster-related deaths per decade. Despite an expanding population, they have been declining.
Again, despite expanding populations, the United States' numbers are flat (Figure 4). Despite the catastrophizing, doom and gloom, and fearmongering about climate change, the average person does not notice it since people are not dying as a result of it. They may be irritated and dealing with various issues, but they are still alive. COVID, which killed far more people than heat waves or hurricanes, has also largely disappeared from people's minds. Perhaps climate activists, who are often educated liberals who believe they are really smart, should explore an alternative message because what they have been doing isn't working. Not only is it not working, but it appears to be a case of crying wolf, and they are being tuned out.
A need for new marketing
Figure 5 is an early Ford Lightening advertisement. The pitch emphasized how the Lightning would assist you in powering your home in the event of a tragedy. Ford was not promoting saving the climate or lowering CO2 emissions. Perhaps climate advocates can learn from this. Consider promoting renewables as a means of diversifying our electricity source, making the system more resilient, and thereby improving national security.
The Just Stop Oil folks are doing nothing but making people angry at them. When you consider that they have no real power to do anything, think about how many working people it affects. There is also no explicit request. What exactly do climate activists want ordinary people to do, and why should they? The majority of people are just trying to get by each day, and they don't see the wealthy or activists sacrificing in any manner.
Please sign up to receive Briefed by Data. You can sign up for free, which is a vote to keep posting.
The bottom line is that climate activists aren’t getting through to the public in any meaningful way. Various versions of we are all going to die, whether by a thousand cuts or otherwise, are unproductive messages, which is why the new IPCC president is suggesting to back off. People don’t change their habits, and moving the needle to reduce consumption is unlikely to happen without being forced. My advice is to look for positive messages: items that use less energy are better and less expensive (my battery-powered mower outperforms gas mowers); and ways to improve people's lives (a smaller house means less cleaning). Meanwhile, adaptation must be part of the plan. A certain amount of warming is already in the system, and global temperatures will go up, so what is the plan to keep death rates from disasters, especially for the poor, down in the meantime?
Please help me find readers by forwarding this article to your friends (and even those who aren't your friends) and by sharing this post on social media. If you're on Twitter, you can find me at BriefedByData. If you have any article ideas, feedback, or other views, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disagreeing and using comments
I'd rather know the truth and understand the world than always be right. I'm not writing to upset or antagonize anyone on purpose, though I guess that could happen. I welcome dissent and disagreement in the comments. We all should be forced to articulate our viewpoints and change our minds when we need to, but we should also know that we can respectfully disagree and move on. So, if you think something said is wrong or misrepresented, then please share your viewpoint in the comments.