Warning: Climate porn is bad for you

Warning: Climate porn is bad for you
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The Institute for Public Policy Research, a UK-based think tank, issued a report yesterday warning environmentalists and communicaters to stay away from alarmist language that may be causing more harm than good when it comes to getting the message across about global warming.

The IPPR report is just another in a series of reports and research urging envrionmentalists and those who want real action on climate change to re-think the way we communicate the issue to the public. In any public relations campaign, there is always a real danger of creating an unwanted or opposite effect from what is intended. If the PR program you design is not grounded in thorough research, usually in the form of such things as polling and focus groups, you will always be in the dark about what the actual effects are of your program are.

In the case of the IPPR report, the authors, a linguist and a textual analyst, make the sound argument that alarmist language can elicit an effect more akin to “climate porn,” than a call to arms by the citizenry to tackle global warming. In other words, many public interest groups assume that melting glaciers and heat waves will scare people to action, when in fact it has the opposite effect of people tuning out the message they are trying to get across. PR professionals have known this for years, but much like smoking, we all know that alarmism is bad for us, but many of us continue to do it anyways.
 
As far as solutions, the IPPR report suggests instead that communications professionals and environmentalists “… make climate-friendly behaviour feel normal, natural, right and ‘ours’ to large number of people who are currently unengaged… the answer is not to try to change their radar but to change the issue, so it becomes something they willingly pick up.”

It is this type of warning that anyone involved in communicating global warming should heed. One of the side-effects of “climate porn” is that it opens opportunities for the fringe element of climate change “skeptics” to pop their heads out of the sand and attack.

Warning: Climate porn is bad for you

Kevin is a contributor and strategic adviser to DeSmogBlog.

He runs the digital marketing agency Spake Media House. Named a “Green Hero” by Rolling Stone Magazine and one of the “Top 50 Tweeters” on climate change and environment issues, Kevin has appeared in major news media outlets around the world for his work on digital campaigning.

Kevin has been involved in the public policy arena in both the United States and Canada for more than a decade. For five years he was the managing editor of DeSmogBlog.com. In this role, Kevin’s research into the “climate denial industry” and the right-wing think tank networks was featured in news media articles around the world. He is most well known for his ground-breaking research into David and Charles Koch’s massive financial investments in the Republican and tea party networks.

Kevin is the first person to be designated a “Certified Expert” on the political and community organizing platform NationBuilder.

Prior to DeSmogBlog, Kevin worked in various political and government roles. He was Senior Advisor to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism and a Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Asia Pacific, Foreign Affairs for the Government of Canada. Kevin also worked in various roles in the British Columbia provincial government in the Office of the Premier and the Ministry of Health.

In 2008 Kevin co-founded a groundbreaking new online election tool called Vote for Environment which was later nominated for a World Summit Award in recognition of the world’s best e-Content and innovative ICT applications.

Kevin moved to Washington, DC in 2010 where he worked for two years as the Director of Online Strategy for Greenpeace USA and has since returned to his hometown of Vancouver, Canada.

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