Is #climate really a “comms issue”? Really? Srsly?

There’s another new report out, this time based on a survey of 2000 adults (1) that tacitly pins the blame for climate inertia on various forms of ‘denial’ and delayism. You can read about it on the excellent website here. I could be wrong, but these sorts surveys and reports seem to get done on the downward slope of a hype cycle/policy window, a couple of years after the breathless excitement and bold promising happened, and as the lettuce of credibility is starting to look particularly inedible.

Presumably it goes like this (actually, I’ve bumped it to a footnote (2) Let’s stay with the main game, looking at why these reports are popular, what they “mean” and what is to be done.

Why are these reports “popular”

Putting together these reports is relatively it’s easy to do.  It’s been done plenty (I mean plenty) of times before. Ultimately we will probably discover that Google’s AI chatrot can do it just as well as the meatpuppets.

It’s also an accepted, understood repertoire. You don’t have to explain anything to journalists – the press release fits on a page and in their comfort zone.

There are some statistics – 43.6% of this, 19.3% of that – precision, even if illusory, gives the solidity of science and accuracy. Numbers are catnip to busy hacks.

Other NGOs will “get” what you have done. You may get a guest blog, or be on a panel at the next roundtable/workshop etcc.

You maintains builds relationships with survey companies.

Above all these practical considerations is a deeper affective and cognitive factor. Reports like this emphasize the importance of ideas and and attitudes. If the only tool you have is a hammer, then you want all your problems to seem like nails, to you and everyone else. Which brings us neatly to… 

Relatedly, what do they allow us NOT to talk about?

Reports like this allow you not to talk about power and to name names, to “keep naming the enemies put faces on where the money goes” to quote from one of the best novels about activism ever written (Vida, by Marge Piercy,  since you ask).

They enable you to sidestep awkward questions about how policies keep getting kneecapped or thrown in the circular file, only to be plucked out, uncrumpled, squirted with air freshener and presented as “new” at the next policy window.

Reports like these forget the whole horrid history of failed social movements, of peaks and troughs in “public concern” and “public awareness” over the last three (five, really) decades.

Reports like this – and this is the crucial affective bit – reinforce the bigger myth that somehow what our lords and masters choose to do on any given day is a reflection of “popular will.” This is demonstrably false on so many levels, but it’s a compelling and important myth, and one that needs proactive and also ‘tacit’/passive reinforcing. Which is what we have here.

What is to be done?

So, we need to take these reports with a VERY large pinch of salt.

We need to ask the right questions about “actually existing democracy” – who has the power, who wields it, how.

Most of all, of course, we need to somehow create the conditions for a vibrant informed citizenry that has the time, internal capacity to make actual impacts on terrible policymaking and policy implementation. That happens not because individuals are somehow better messaged at, but because all the intermediary organisations that used to help people make some sense of the world, and feel like they had some power (??) need reinvigorating (churches, community groups, unions, grassroots pressure groups).

This is, of course, a fantasy.


(1) By which I guess they mean 18 or over. But there are plenty of 50 year olds walking around with 14 year old brains, and far too many kids forced by poverty and all forms of abuse besides ‘merely’ economic to have grown up too young.


Cut to


Several white, young to middle-aged people in the uniforms of smart casual ‘brain workers’ are sat around table in various states of exhaustion and distraction. The meeting has clearly been going on far longer than scheduled.. We see a white board full of squiggles and arrows. Across the top of it is written. “Budget crisis- visibility?” Empty coffee cuts and half eaten pastries litter the cheap table.


We need to get our names in the media to keep our financial backers happy. Hit me with your brain showerings.


We could gather some celebs to denounce Starmer for not being bold enough on climate?


And get called Corbyn-lovers by the Mail. Well done, brainiac. Next!


(hesitant) What about a ‘we love nature’ campaign? Green balloons, pledge cards, MPs standing next to a pot plant in Westminster?


This isn’t 2008 anymore. What am I paying you all barely above minimum wage for? Come ON people.


How about a report about denialism? We hire some company to phone around and get the mouth-breathers’ views. We come up with some infographics. No downside, because we’re not actually blaming anyone – the Tories, or rich people or business, or other NGOS for having ballsed-up the last couple of years? Come up with some generic ‘advice’ (Minion three does air quotes, Minion One rolls eyes) that is basically meaningless but looks profound.


I love it. (pauses) Well, it will do. You’re not fired. This week. What are you still here for? Go out and start writing the conclusions of the report. Just lift it from a 2008 one, nobody will notice. You, over there, minion one – you want to still be in a shitty job by Friday? Go out and get me 10 per cent off the cheapest bid for a survey of, I dunno, a thousand punters. MOVE people.

2 thoughts on “Is #climate really a “comms issue”? Really? Srsly?

Add yours

  1. Why do we lie to ourselves? The climate is always changing and always has changed, what is different is the speed with which it changes. Prior to the industrial revolution the changes were slow, allowing animal and plant life to adapt. The industrial revolution accelerated the changes and natural evolution got left behind.

    We fell trees faster than they can grow, drain our aquafers faster than they can fill and use natural resources faster than they can be replenished.

    There is one simple fact we have to acknowledge, the planet doe not need us, but we certainly need the planet. Until we accept this, all the rest is waffle.

    1. I think it is that dependence on the natural world which angers a certain kind of person, who needs dominance/control etc. And hates realising they are an animal who will die without natural systems….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: