Sunday, June 14, 2009

Metaphors for Impending Climate Change and Global Warming Doom and Gloom

Metaphors for Impending Climate Change and Global Warming Doom and Gloom


This entry is filed under Uncategorized.
Tags: 21st century journalism, cliche, metaphor, climate, global warming

There are lots of metaphors being thrown around for the current way that scientists, bloggers, talking heads and journalists are discussing "Impending Climate Change and Global Warming Doom and Gloom". On a suggestion from several of my friends in the climate activist community, I am collecting as many of these metaphors as possible. Add your suggestions in the
comments, or email me at danbloom@gmail.com, with links if you can, and I’ll add
them to the list. I should say that similes, analogies, parables and
the like are fair game, too. We’ll see how far this goes.



Humpty Dumpty

Lemmings


Crystal Ball

Tectonic Shift


The Titanic

Rearranging the Deck Chairs On the Titanic

Hockey stick controversy


The Hockey stick graph as shown in the 2001 IPCC report. This chart shows the data from Mann et al. 1999. The colored lines are the reconstructed temperatures, and the gray shaded region represents estimated error bars.
Reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere temperatures for the last 1,000 years according to various older articles (bluish lines), newer articles (reddish lines), and instrumental record (black line).The hockey stick controversy is a dispute over the reconstructed estimates of Northern Hemisphere mean temperature changes over the past millennium,[1] especially the particular reconstruction of Michael E. Mann, Raymond S. Bradley and Malcolm K. Hughes,[2] frequently referred to as the MBH98 reconstruction. The term "hockey stick" was coined by the head of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Jerry Mahlman, to describe the pattern.

The next great climate change metaphor?
What, I wonder, will be the next metaphor for climate change? We’ve had the polar bears. (And as with Hodel’s remark, it’s been the power of the media and campaigning groups to amplify an image which has been taken out of context. Right or wrong? Many think wrong, e.g. here and here… but many of those use their own metaphors to make their points, e.g. remember Axis-of-Evil…? Next will be…?)

Rearranging deck chairs on the climate change Titanic
Monday 28 November 2005 by Patrick BOND , Rehana DADA

Climate change damage, the subject of a major Montreal ‘Conference of Parties 11’ which aims to update the Kyoto Protocol from November 28-December 9, is apparent to anyone following the news.

5 comments:

dan said...

A Climate (Communication) Crisis?
By Andrew C. Revkin

As debates over national and global climate and energy policy continue to drag out, there’s been an intensifying exploration of climate miscommunication among those seeking concrete actions that will make a noticeable difference in the atmosphere someday. If the science pointing to a rising risk of dangerous human interference with climate is settled, the thinking goes, then why aren’t people and the world’s nations galvanized? Maybe it’s a language problem? This reflects an ongoing exploration here.

As Seed Magazine put it last month, “Is there a better word for doom?” The magazine asked six people to weigh in on how different frames or approaches to climate communication might break through. They were the geoscientist Michael E. Mann; Ann Kinzig, an ecologist; Clark A. Miller, a political scientist; Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist; Robert Henson, a meteorologist and science writer; and Matthew Nisbet, a communications professor.

Have a look at what they say. Then read what Randy Olson, a marine scientist turned filmmaker and now author, said after I asked him to have a look at the views laid out in Seed. He gave a modest thumbs up to Dr. Schmidt but his overall reaction was that the commentators focusing on changing how the climate issue is “framed” were far too detached from the public to have a meaningful idea of how to make an impact. (Dr. Olson’s forthcoming book, “Don’t Be Such a Scientist,” aims to help scientists communicate more effectively with the rest of society.)

Below I’ve pasted what Dr. Olson said he would have written if asked whether there is a better word, in the climate context, for doom. In sum, he said, “Focusing on ‘framing’ as a means to solve the lack of motivation behind an issue is like searching for ‘techno-fixes’ to problems rather than addressing the source of the problem. Framing and techno-fixes may work in the short term and are worthy of a certain amount of effort, but they should not be the highest priority in trying to solve the problems for the long term.”



We’re Talking About Humans Here

Everyone associated with environmental communication needs to read The Cluetrain Mainfesto of 1999 and take it to heart. The environmental struggle is one big exercise in persuasion. What the Cluetrain folks pointed out is that humans respond to human voices. You can “frame” all you want, but if the communication is coming from robots, the only ones who will respond will be the robots. People have enormous perceptual power and instincts, the science of which is only beginning to be explored. Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” provides a starting point. The bottom line is it only takes a few seconds for people to listen to a voice and decide whether they trust it or not. If that voice is devoid of human qualities, and worse if there is a clear sense that the voice is speaking with “messages” that have been “framed” and “focus grouped,” it just ain’t gonna work for the masses. And double that for the younger masses.

dan said...

We’re Talking About Humans Here

Everyone associated with environmental communication needs to read The Cluetrain Mainfesto of 1999 and take it to heart. The environmental struggle is one big exercise in persuasion. What the Cluetrain folks pointed out is that humans respond to human voices. You can “frame” all you want, but if the communication is coming from robots, the only ones who will respond will be the robots. People have enormous perceptual power and instincts, the science of which is only beginning to be explored. Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” provides a starting point. The bottom line is it only takes a few seconds for people to listen to a voice and decide whether they trust it or not. If that voice is devoid of human qualities, and worse if there is a clear sense that the voice is speaking with “messages” that have been “framed” and “focus grouped,” it just ain’t gonna work for the masses. And double that for the younger masses.

Obama is making enormous strides now on science and environmental issues because he’s been placed in the position of power to do so. He got there not through cold, calculated messaging, but by being an EXTREMELY likable (a crucial trait for today’s increasingly style-driven world), deeply humanized person who is able to convey the central human qualities of humor and emotion. When he addressed the Reverend Wright issue in one of the pivotal moments of his campaign, he did so with an impassioned and vibrantly human voice which succeeded in putting out a potentially lethal fire.

These are elements of style in communication which are central to our information-glutted world. Yes, language does matter, but that is primarily an element of substance (i.e. the text of what is communicated). You can come up with all the clever terms you want, but if they are spoken by environmental leaders who are perceived as cold, calculating, and manipulative, the broader audience will simply disconnect. Not because of the language, but because of their basic instincts leading them to not trust the voice they are hearing.

So what’s your view? Is the climate challenge one of communication style, of inadequate energy choices, of the hard-wired aspects of human nature?

My sense is there’s a big dose of the latter in this arena. Humans remain mainly focused on the here and now, and the worst outcomes in a warming world remain someday or somewhere. There’s still scant evidence we’re able to invest against inevitable shocks even when the danger is clear and local, as with Oregon’s risk from earthquakes.

dan said...

Danny Bkoom comments:

Andy, very good post here. Language IS important. You asked: " Is the climate challenge one of 1. communication style, of 2. inadequate energy choices, of the 3. hard-wired aspects of human nature?"

Of course, it's all three, 1 and 2 and 3.....

Just this week, I started a new PR project to collect as mamy "metaphors" for climate change and global warming that I can find online and from academic papers, and in this regard, I am inviting all Dot Earthlings to contribute to the growing list on my blog below. I want to archive all the metaphors that have been used in print so far, with links to the relevant passages, from "lemmings" to "climate butler" to "runaway train" to "a car going over a cliff" etc....... Please ADD metaphors you have seen online or inrpint on this thread in your comments, OR come to my blog and add your nominations of good metaphors for this thing, OR email me offline at danbloom GMAIL dot com...

LINK:
http://northwardho.blogspot.com...

This entry is filed under Uncategorized.
Tags: 21st century journalism, cliche, metaphor, climate, global warming

There are lots of metaphors being thrown around for the current way that scientists, bloggers, talking heads and journalists are discussing "Impending Climate Change and Global Warming Doom and Gloom". On a suggestion from several of my friends in the climate activist community, I am collecting as many of these metaphors as possible. Add your suggestions in the
comments, or email me at danbloom@gmail.com, with links if you can, and I’ll add
them to the list. I should say that similes, analogies, parables and
the like are fair game, too. We’ll see how far this goes.

1.Mike Roddy
Yucca Valley, Ca.
June 15th, 2009
1:28 pmI agree with your thought about human wiring, Andy. The worst effects of radiative forcing are going to be felt in several decades, with locations and severities expressed in probability bands. While we can say with quite a bit of certainty that these impacts will be severe, and even catastrophic, it is still a fuzzy abstraction. And anyone who reads scientific papers knows that their turgid style can put even the most curious among us to sleep.

People neither relate to nor plan well for events in the distant future. If we did, fewer of my friends would be unprepared for retirement.

The writer you referred to who insisted on emotional and visceral appeals certainly has a point, but those who undertake this kind of communication (such as An Inconvenient Truth) risk being accused of creating drama, which is inherently manipulative. That's why Obama is such a great asset, because he connects to our humanity, and is capable of inspiring a regenerative path. It need not include scare tactics, and can derive from the scientific evidence.

Another option is for someone to film 2112, my movie script, or come up with a better one.

Left unsaid in the expert comments is the possibility that increased public awareness may not effect change. US fossil fuel and timber interests still manipulate coverage of climate science, and it's not because of reporters' love of conflicting opinions, either. European and Asian media don't bring out crackpots to try to refute the sober findings of global scientific organizations, their radio stations are not polluted with idiots like Rush Limbaugh, and their legislators are not completely captured by extractive industries, and the banks who profit from them. Public opinion polls around the world show Americans to be way behind the curve in accepting the evidence of climate change, and it's not because we're dumber or even more reactionary. It's corrupt, and really rather evil money interests.

You can have Obamas giving speeches all over the country, and it may not be enough to overcome that. If it isn't, our grandchildren are going to be living out a nightmare.
Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers

dan said...

Andy - I hate to say it but I think its the press. They're the problem.

Their focus on conflict (and our desire to see or read about it) unfairly gives weight to dissenters.

It's best illustrated when protesters in third world countries are pictured up close to make the group seem larger. They burn an effigy of our president and those twenty people get global prime time coverage.

So we can almost never reach consensus on issues because dissenters, no matter how irrelevant, are given weight by the press merely because they make a good story. Not because they are relevant, useful or even sane.

The mainstream press is corrupted by what sells, and conflict sells.


Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers 9.Bob
Atlanta
June 15th, 2009
3:36 pmIn an nutshell... if it isn't broken, don't fix it.

Unless the people at the top and the policy makers feel the problem directly, they are not going to get involved, take this as a serious issue, or work together. As long as you have politicians owning or wanting to own beachfront property, a rise in sea-levels only effects them to the degree of what their insurance covers for them to rebuild in a new condo in a new location.

Take New Orleans and Katrina. All the affluent people, politicians, people of power and influence, or even just people with means were not heavily affected by Katrina. They were either first; located on higher, safer ground, second; were able to evacuate, third; had solid insurance to help them with aid and to relocate, and lastly; they were the ones to rebuild. But look at those in the 9th Ward....

Another example of a large, looming problem is US health care. If all of the US Congress, state congresses, governors, etc. were on the same health care plans as the average workers - or better yet - no insurance at all. I'm sure this would be a top issue.

Unfortunately until we can find a simple, drastic, and straightforward effect of climate change that will impact everyone, especially the policy makers personally, the issue will be left to the scientists, environmentalist, and other caring peoples. And unfortunately, even with such an issue then there would need to be an major catastrophe to get the ball rolling.

I believe all we can do really is keep pushing for a better climate change policy and take what little changes we can get... but start writing your "I told you so" speech.
Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 10.Matt
Michigan
June 15th, 2009
3:36 pmThis post is just not correct. Framing has been and will continue to be very important in this debate. The fact is, the extent that the public accepts or does not accept that there is global warming is very much based on all sorts of sophisticated and expensive campaigns designed to misinform and create doubt. It shouldn't be surprising that scientists, armed only with the truth about what they've learned about climate change, have a hard time being heard above the noise.
Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers 11.Sean
Baltimore, MD USA
June 15th, 2009
3:36 pmIt is interesting that DOT earth mentions Gavin Schmidt, Real Climate and

Nancy Harris said...

With various health care reform bills floating around both the House and the Senate, President Barack Obama is pulling out all the stops to get the votes that the bill needs, which is good news for the public option. President Obama continues to rally behind health care reform. I am really concerned that the fiasco of this reform may make Obama a one-term president.