Climate Change Denial

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December 19, 2007

Beware of Greens Bearing Gifts

George Marshall @ 6:01 pm

xmug.jpgThe mustn’t-have 2007 Christmas gift is a ‘global-warming mug’ that shows the world slowly drowning under a one hundred metre sea level rise. This mug for mugs sums up many of the themes of this past years’ blog postings.

Let’s face it- this is an intriguing product. It is a map of the world when cold, but as soon as you fill it with hot water the poles start to shrink and low lying areas are lost to encroaching seas. You can see a video…

Cute? Well not really. No one would want a stocking filler that slowly revealed war zones, starving babies, or piles of bodies- and, to be honest, that is what I see when I see these coastlines retreat

Educational? No, not really. The figure of 100 metres was chosen by a graphic designer not a climate scientist. Even if all of Antarctica, Greenland ice sheet and the world’s glaciers melted it would still only add 80 metres to sea levels (more info…). This misinformation plays to a form of voyeuristic climate alarmism that the Institute of Public Policy Research calls ‘climate porn’ (see my posting…)

What is really interesting, though, is that the salespitch surrounding the mug on the novelty websites reflects many of the wider currents of public opinion that I have covered on this blog during the last year. Here are four examples:

1. Ironic black humour- what the IPPR calls ‘British comic nihilism”:

I “There’s nothing wrong with smiling in the face of adversity”.
Gizmodo UK “Watch Florida get swamped by the Atlantic [makes a change from it being blown away in hurricanes]. Guffaw loudly as valuable California real-estate imitates Atlantis and look on in horror as Central America drowns to become just a few islands”.

2. ‘Save the planet’ sloganeering (or ironic piss take of it): “You’ve got the whole world in your hands with the Global Warming Mug and you’re the only one that can save us from extinction! Slowly sip and watch each part of the map gradually grow smaller and smaller before the sea gobbles it all up! Or be a quick-sipper and restore the faith of the human race! Your planet needs you!”

3. marginalising personal action as an environmentalist sub cult: “So unless you use renewable energy, cycle to work, recycle at home and spend your spare time planting trees, you’d better get ordering before our entire shipment melts away. It’s the end of the world as we know it! Pass the biscuits.”

4. Passive ‘it’s all easy’ self-deception.

Gizmodo UK “Once you’ve finished drinking that coffee, or if you just leave it sitting there to cool off, all goes back to normal, and all is right with the world.”

xtv.jpgAnd if you don’t fancy a trite mug, how about one of the eco- gifts profiled in Dixon’s Greenshop (where, it tells us, we can ‘start making a difference today’): a wooden widescreen tv link….Apart from being framed in beech it uses just as much juice as any other model. Literally a green veneer on business as usual.

Happy Christmas everyone

ps with thanks to Alastair McIntosh and Chris Shaw for tipping me off about these.

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December 6, 2007

Adverting Disaster

George Marshall @ 5:35 pm

Four more spectacularly idiotic adverts that will have future generations boggled eyed with astonishment.

indian-ford-ad-for-web.jpgHere’s a cracker: the two page promotional ad for the Indian Ford Endeavour which appears to have demolished the arctic single handed. Look closely and you will see the polar bears round the back stranded on a shrinking scrap of ice sheet

No doubt the sight of all that ice- well any ice actually- goes down well in India, but it is a remarkable piece of hubris to use the symbol of the international climate change campaign to publicise a gas guzzler SUV, especially given the legitimate concerns about the climate impact of India emissions if it follows a high carbon development path – such as gas guzzling status symbols

Manu Sharma, who lives in New Delhi, writes a long complaint about this ad in his excellent blog Orange Hues (link.. ).  He concludes that ‘it’s probably the work of an ignorant graphic designer approved by some equally dim executives at Ford’. I am not so sure. The choice of imagery is so inappropriate that it feels like a deliberate choice to me, especially as the byline of the ad, as it appeared in the Indian media, is ‘Freedom’. It either says ‘we don’t believe’ or it says ‘we know, we know, but we really don’t give a stuff’.

And here’s more of the same. After the melting arctic, the next best known poster images for climate change are the melting mountain snow caps. So what better backdrop for the Ford Freelander? We know that Kilamanjaro is heading to be snow free and the British Mount Snowdon will be Snowgone by 2030. This mountain looks like Mount Fuji to me. I have no idea what is happening to Fuji’s snow cover, but I understand was snow free all last winter. Of course this need not be climate change – it could be a sign that it is about to blow. What a great place to park your tank.

By the way, that little ‘offset’ logo in the corner says that its emissions have been ‘offset’ for the first 45,000 miles. Oh good. That’s all alright then

Which leads nicely into this UK ad that is meant to make us all feel good about solutions to climate change. The small text reads “Save energy while you sleep. You don’t have to be an eco-warrior to help the environment. It can be easy”.

Apparently the Sky digital boxes don’t sit around on standby but turn themselves off at night. All well and good. But the amount of energy saved is extremely small in the overall context of what we need to do. This is another of those ‘it’s easy peasy’ denial strategies I whinge about regularly (see my 18th September posting).

 Any emissions that are saved are far outweighed by the damage caused by this kind of advert: It’s a kind of reverse offset. It sends a double-page spread message through the lifestyle magazines that climate change is trivial, the solutions are ‘easy’ and that ‘sexy people’ (as the readers no doubt aspire to be) can legitimately sleep through it all.

And finally, the abject horror of this pro-coal propaganda ad by General Electric that uses anorexic models to sex up the world’s filthiest and most dangerous industry.

Well, it’s meant to be sexy but it looks to me like the poor skinny waifs are being worked to death. And how sexy can coal be? I’ll bet that whoever made this ‘ironic’ ad has never been any closer to a coal pit than his electric toaster. My grandfather worked his whole life down a pit until his back was broken in a roof collapse. His lungs rattled with phlegm and coal dust all the way to his premature death . Now that would make a sexy ad.

This is a hard core denial ad. It’s aim is to undermine environmental concerns. Its core message is: “don’t believe those whingeing (ugly) greenies- coal is great and will never be banned’’.

Did not General Electric and Ford also endorse a ‘Global Roundtable on Climate Change position that stated “climate change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels,  is an urgent problem that requires global action”? No contradictions there.

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