How to sell climate change

Rod Holesgrove writes: Re. “A tough sell: can these spinners change your mind on climate change?” (Friday). I’ve been involved in the climate change policy area for over 20 years in the federal government and in international organisations in particular. So I’m very familiar with the issues. Nevertheless I remain astonished at the public turn off on the matter in Australia. The facts are so well established and clear, evidence of change is everywhere and the consequences of not taking action so devastating for our children and grandchildren that the majority Australian indifference can only be characterised as gross stupidity.

There has been some devilish work at play in Australia from Murdoch and Abbott et al in undermining public trust in the science. However, the fact that these forces of evil have easily swayed Australians does not say much for the latter’s common sense. The real issue is that Australian indifference seems to be replicated globally and so that there is no doubt humanity is headed for a nasty and brutal future. Thankfully as a senior citizen I will not be around by then.

Glen Frost writes: The challenge with communicating climate change is reaching and converting the great mass of middle Australia. The average person is too busy to take the time to research the issue of climate change. The majority of people rely on commercial media for their news, information and insight, and they just want a summary — is it good or bad, and how will it impact my wallet. These narratives are very absolute.

The key to changing attitudes in middle Australia is entertainment. The problem (for Tim Flannery, etc) is commercial media editors and producers are interested in ratings, not editorial intelligence. Commercial editors want something “sensational” — “pictures of polar bears on icebergs” or “typhoons, death and destruction”, what one editor described to the audience at the Climate Change Summit 2008 as “climate porn”.

Ordinary folks are confused about the issue, so their default position is to doubt it is happening. Bizarrely, the most common challenge with the average punter is that they say climate change may or may not be real, and ask for the evidence. The evidence is in the UN IPCC report; 7 billion people are emitting 10 billion tonnes of carbon every year. The trees and oceans can’t absorb this level of carbon, and it’s heating up the planet.  This is the base message that a campaign can be built on. The rest is understanding human nature.

So the first suggestion is to communicate this IPCC report thingy better — more infographics, videos and social media, fewer science nerds. Think “KONY 2012” — emotion, not logic.

A key priority would be to build a grassroots campaign in schools and colleges, churches and other faith-based communities, supported by prizes, competitions, awards, and grants to create an army of advocates who’ll spread the message (same strategy as Al Gore, Barack Obama and Jesus of Nazareth).

You’ll also need some good TV script writers who can integrate climate change issues into shows that the masses watch, such as Neighbours, etc.

Stop rewarding scoundrels 

John Richarson writes: Re. “Keane: the good, the bad and the ugly of the WA Senate re-run” (yesterday). While there are doubtless many who share Bernard Keane’s views on the shortcomings of the Labor Party, including apparently its current leader, there are others who would argue that blaming its irresistible decline on its failure to democratise and shake off the crippling grip of trade union heavies and factional bosses is to overlook the fact that the other side of politics suffers from many of the same anti-democratic shortcomings, but still manages to garner support from a larger part of the electorate.

Without taking issue with the need for political parties of all persuasions to “democratise”, a truly “honest conversation” would reveal that the real but sad truth is that the primary drivers of Labor’s decline are its inability to produce genuine inspirational leaders with real integrity, its cynical abandonment of principle, including a genuine commitment to social justice and egalitarianism, its enthusiastic embrace of neo-liberalism and its persistent determination to put its own interests ahead of the interests of ordinary Australians.

As long as politicians and political parties of all persuasions continue to laud and reward scoundrels, act in ways that diminish the standing of our nation in the eyes of the world and place sectional interests ahead of the interests of the majority of the Australian people, we will never truly be a “lucky country”.

Peter Fray

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