When a science finds itself having to resort to using professional marketing campaigns to get the public to buy it, then you can be reasonably sure something is awfully wrong.
Geologist Dr. Sebastian Lüning responds to and mocks the Potsdam Institute’s report released together with the World Bank.
Learning from the PIK means learning how to win: Clever Climate Marketing 2.0
By Dr. Sebastian Lüning
(Translated by P Gosselin)
When it comes to the business of climate change, we are dealing with lots of money. Thus it is only natural that the World Bank is getting into the act and playing the climate doomsday music. But to do this, it needs an ally. Fortunately there’s the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), which is sort of a mill that regularly churns out and markets new, entertaining horror scenarios.
The World bank has contracted the PIK to conjure up an entire series of climate alarms. Part 3 of the cooperation came to light in November 2014. Of course here one finds nothing new. Yet again the attempt was made to shock a climate-weary public with the usual old Biblical extreme-weather cocktail: hellish heat, huge floods and giant cyclones descending from the heavens.
Their efforts seem to have been accompanied by a professional marketing department that took on the task of coming up with hard-hitting marketing slogans and catchy messages. And so this is how they got the title ‘Turn down the heat 3‘, which also could be the name of a rock album. Hats off. The same can be said for the slogan: “Confronting the new normal”. Sounds great.
So why can’t us climate skeptics do the same? In our reports we all too often use ineffective terms, calling the other side names like “stupid alarmists”, “swindlers”, or “senseless”. What if instead we used terms like “Let’s get back to reason 5.0″ or “Accepting and understanding the Medieval Warm Period”?
Overall the structure of the PIK press release and the psychological fundamental elements used are carefully considered and crafted. The claim “Climate change impacts foremost the world’s poor” really does play on the heart strings:
‘Global warming impacts in the next decades are likely to hit those hardest that contributed least to global greenhouse gas emissions: the global poor.’ Developing countries are expected to experience the most severe climate impacts, notably in the tropics, while lacking the means to build resilience. And within these countries, again those parts of the population with the least means are most vulnerable to additional stress.”
A great marketing gag: the evil westerners are destroying the climate, particularly in developing countries. From a scientific point of view, it is totally baseless, yet it sounds really good and almost no one will dare to challenge the claim. That simply does not befit the rich westerner. Here for example the coral horror would be of much worth. Here’s how it’s written by the PIK:
In the Caribbean, coral reefs are threatened of significantly higher probabilities of annual bleaching already at 1.5-2 degrees warming… .”
Apparently knowledge of the latest literature on that subject is quite lacking at the PIK. Otherwise the Potsdam scientists would have known that the coral reefs have turned out to be far more warmth-resistant than previously feared. Yet the cooperation between the World Bank and the PIK has far less to do with facts, and much more with moral declarations formulated in catchy language that makes for good prose. The PIK director puts on his best act to mislead:
‘Tackling climate change is a matter of reason, but also of justice,’ says the report’s lead-author Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of PIK.”
This method would also work effectively for the climate realists side. For example we could write:
‘Recognizing the climate’s natural variability is a matter of reason, but also of justice,’ says Sebastian Lüning, DkS website director and number 2 lead author of the sustainable climate report ‘Die Kalte Sonne’.”
As is known since the discovery of the motion picture in Hollywood, a good story has a happy ending and allows for a bright outlook. Thus it is no surprise that this technique also gets used by the PIK and the World Bank:
‘The good news is that we can do something about it’
[…] The good news is that we can take action that reduces the rate of climate change and promotes economic growth, ultimately stopping our journey down this dangerous path. World leaders and policy makers should embrace affordable solutions like carbon pricing and policy choices that shift investment to clean public transport, cleaner energy and more energy efficient factories, buildings and appliances.”
A positive call to action is simply far more effective than making threats. The phrase “Good News” has been successfully employed in religions for a very long time, and also by cults. “The good news: You can transfer one third of your income to the account of our religion founder, and so cleanse yourselves of all your sins.”
Us skeptics should do as the PIK does and band together with a top performing team of marketing experts and psychologists so that we too can promote our scientific messages in the suitable format.
This step is not only a matter of reason, but also of justice. Learning from the PIK means learning how to win.
Sebastian Lüning is a geologist who has published numerous papers in his field. He is co-author of the climate science skeptical book: The Neglected Sun.