Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What about rebranding from “climate change” to “human impacts on climate systems”?

by Rob Elmore – on Twitter: @RobElmore

“Climate change”...”Global warming”...”Global climate change”...”Extreme weather”...”Global weirding”

Whatever they call it, clearly the press is paying attention to the potential for serious climate alteration in the non-distant future. And often they wonder out loud if the summer 2012 U.S. drought is a clear sign of such alteration.

For those of us seeking a positive future for Earth, however, the current attention from the mainstream press often obscures some key issues, rather than clarifying them. One central issue being obscured is the core popular description of the problem – something that marketing professionals refer to as “branding”:

What is the key understanding – and the emotional response – that “comes to mind” quickly when a “brand name” is used verbally or in writing?

Rather than any of the common phrases listed above, in this posting I am proposing to the worldwide community who cares passionately about these problems that we ourselves abandon those terms and come together around a new brand name, perhaps:

“Human impacts on climate systems.”

There are several branding considerations behind this proposal:

1. It’s time to clearly declare victory! The overwhelming consensus of credible experts is that there are indeed “human impacts” on the climate, so let’s not hesitate to stand behind their in-depth research. Let’s use the top-line message that human technology and energy use now is overwhelming natural climate cycles both in intensity and speed of impacts. Let’s take responsibility as humans for our past, present, and future actions and impacts.

2. “Climate systems” is important because we need to communicate clearly at all times to the public what is clear in the models that climate scientists have developed: There is not a single climate – rather there are complex systems of climate-factor interactions. These interactions (a) are difficult to model and understand, and yet (b) with analysis over time are yielding scientific understandings of how specific climate systems have interacted in the past, are interacting now, and likely will interact in the future under different scenarios.

3. Most important, “human impacts on climate systems” can be both negative and positive. Clearly fossil fuel use has the negative impact of releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere, leading to more trapping of the sun’s heat. On the other hand, increasing use of wind energy, solar energy, tidal energy, etc. and the development of new energy storage and distribution systems is at least neutral in terms of impacts. More likely, these impacts should be classed as “positive” because our key challenge is to quickly slow the increase – and then quickly decrease – the rate of CO2 release in order to minimize increases over time in Earth’s overall average temperature.

4. Indeed, we are starting to see “green shoots” sprouting of positive human impacts on climate systems. To take just one example, reforestation initiatives in any location serve to sequester C02 out of the atmosphere. In parts of Africa, reforestation is being undertaken both to block expansion of the Sahara Desert and over time to start to reclaim desert land for sustainable human use. Let’s re-brand the conversation in part to enable focus on these positive impacts on Earth’s future!

As a growing worldwide network of individuals committed to a positive future for Earth, let’s start talking with one voice – as a credible force for rebranding – about “human impacts on climate systems.” And let’s watch for impacts in the press.

Your comments and dialog are invited: @RobElmore on Twitter and Rob.T.Elmore@gmail.com on email. On LinkedIn my bio appears at http://www.linkedin.com/in/robelmore -- and at http://robelmore.blogspot.com/2012/07/marketings-role-in-transition-to.html you can see my earlier blog posting about “Marketing’s role in the transition to a positive future for Earth.”