Climate Change Denial

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October 4, 2010

10:10 No Pressure Splatter Ad- so how could it have been better?

George Marshall @ 2:49 pm

Last week 10:10, an international network of individuals, organisations and businesses pledging to reducing their emissions by 10% in the year 2010, released a promotion video that has turned out to be a public relations and communications disaster. It showed three different groups – schoolchildren, staff and a football team- discussing what they would do to reduce their emissions. In each case those people who said they were not interested were told “No pressure, you don’t have to get involved”, and were then blown up by high explosives, splattering blood all over the set. Ho ho!

I know the 10:10 team well and respect their commitment and dedication. Clearly their aim was to avoid the usual worthy moralism of green campaigns and produce something cool, funny and edgy. Unfortunately, with unerring skill, the video played directly to a range of current denial tropes about climate change being a fanatic belief system that aggressively silences dissent. The emerging compound ‘eco-fascist’ has appeared regularly in the feverish commentary on denier blogs. Especially maladroit was the metaphorical association with Islamic fundamentalism (one of the parodies currently circulating has the teacher dubbed into Arabic blowing up the school kids for refusing to believe in Allah).

There are lots that could be said here- not least that climate change has now become so polarised and accrued such a range of associations and meanings that all communications must be carefully thought through and, above all, thoroughly tested before release.

And in that spirit I pass to Annie Levy who invites readers to advance the discussion surrounding this film by asking: what would a really good ad have looked like?- over to you Annie

I spent the weekend, as many of us did, with a pit in our collective stomachs about the egregious mistake 10:10 allowed in releasing the mini-film No Pressure.  How it all went wrong, all the various ways the message was disturbing and damaging—oh, we’ve talked and written reams among ourselves.

But it’s a sunny Monday morning and I’m thinking the opportunity in this crisis is that we can open a discussion about communication and how to do it better.

  • We agree with the 10:10 team that the ante needs to be upped, and that perhaps our polite, consensus- seeking methods have been effective in educating but limited in inspiring rapid change.
    We feel urgency, but we know emergency-talk (“climate-porn”) turns many people off.
    We know that people who don’t identify as green don’t take on “green” issues.
    We know that putting climate change into the future or across oceans delays immediate, local response.
    We know that climate science has been politicized across the ideological divide, and it’s tiring battling deniers.
    Essentially, we know that different messages speak to different people.

So let’s say we were well-resourced in talent, as is 10:10, and could ask top-professionals to produce and distribute messages with high–production values (or not maybe?)—what stories would we tell, how might we do it better? How can we be effective climate communicators and agents of change?  We agree that we want to push the discourse further, shake off the science-deniers, get effective action from government, create rapid social transformation at all the necessary levels. How are we going to do it?

Having set an agenda, I will write the first comment:

“One thing I disliked about No Pressure was that it directed anger at individuals when in fact we are all collectively culpable, even when we take our carbon-reducing baby-steps such as 10:10.  And yet, small steps and sacrifices, often at the level of consumption, are presented as our only power.   I would like to see a film that pushes the issue of personal responsibility for climate forward by making heros of ordinary people who put themselves on the line facing politicians and corporations, whether through verbal challenge or non-violent direct action, so that we are all emboldened to demand change not just in our own lives but in wider social and economic realms.” — Annie Levy

So send in your ideas. I would like to  keep the discussion focused, so please keep on topic and provide positive messaging ideas.


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22 responses to “10:10 No Pressure Splatter Ad- so how could it have been better?”

  1. Martin Parkinson says:

    A case for “move on quickly” I think – but I can’t help wondering how such a mistake could have been made.

    I’d like to make the cheeky (and completely evidence-free) speculation that the 10:10ers were acutally a bit overawed by having Richard Curtis doing a filmette for them. Being overawed and bit starstruck and maybe just *a teeny little bit* impressed with oneself is a recipe for letting ones judgement go slack.

    It could happen to anyone and the only preventative against groupthink is to get any communication tested on a variety of ‘ordinary’ people (Chris Rose says this kind of thing a lot and I can guess what’s he’s going to say about this debacle)

  2. Mark R says:

    I’ve already heard disparagement of the 10:10 video and searched for it online to view it firsthand. I had several impressions of it: That it was conceived of by a European company, because nobody in the US would’ve found it conceptually acceptable–the association with blowing up bloody flesh all over people would’ve been deemed utterly distasteful (and an anti-Islamic smear);
    That such negativity is not “edgy” as much as an immature marketing ambition to be effective through shock;
    That concern about this video tarring all pro-climate-action individuals and groups is overwrought, and it is more likely to be forgotten about by everyone because anyone who shows this film is going to generate such a negative response from viewers that they will suffer blowback from it themselves;
    That this video was poorly conceived because it does not generate any coherent link between political inaction on global warming and consequences for all of society, nor does its story line generate a coherent link between anything at all. So a minority of individuals (not true) do not believe in taking action on global warming, so they are annihilated by authorities (also backwards)? If the video showed 50-75% of the group denying the usefulness of doing anything about global warming, it might come closer to the truth, and if they then were rewarded or promoted or lauded for saying so by the video’s authority figure (a stand-in for government authority or corporate authority), then the story line would be reality oriented. Maybe the few naysayers should’ve then been shown to be punished–that would be closer to the truth. Anyway, as I’ve stated, the premise of this video is backward, it’s gory reference to terrorism is too real to be laughed at, it is incoherent, poorly vetted, immature, and best forgotten about by everyone. It does not add to any sober dialogue on the most important issue facing all us, deniers included.

  3. Crista says:

    As disgusted as I was I realized it may well be effective once the sanctimonious outrage in the blogosphere subsides.

    Let’s face it – for the those of us addicted to gratuitous violence, obsessed with late term abortion, fixated on threats from “evil enemies”, this may be more effective than appeal to reason. The poke at Islamists was almost too obvious but the response demonstrates how easy it is to manipulate opinion by hitting us where we live.

    The director has “pushed the buttons” of those who profit from denial more effectively than the IPCC with this one little piece.

    We are in denial ourselves when we ignore the science of human nature and persist in trying to beat primitive fear with such proven ineffective methods as logic and responsibility for the future. We are not wired to respond to distant threats, but immediate ones.

    A single nasty hurricane does more than 100,000 years of climatic record on a graph to change the view of a caveman, and that’s what we still are. This film should be followed up with one vilifying the oil companies. Fear must be accompanied by loathing to be really effective. Just ask Karl Rove or any right wing ranter.

  4. Theo Simon says:

    Well done to 10:10 for accepting the criticisms so readily. I agree with Annie that our priority right now is to strengthen the resolve of all the people who have already grasped the reality of Climate Change, so as to build a real social force. It’s not a time to be trying to win the arguements which have already been had or getting overly engaged with the proffessional deniers. But neither is it time to act in ways which look arrogant by treating doubters as different, more culpable, stupid etc. Most people just need to feel confident that there is solid support for change and that the change is desirable and achievable. This requires those of us who want to see meaningful action to be visible, vocal, and, most importantly of all, bringing real pressure to bear on industry and government around policies which are socially desirable to most people, particularly young people.
    So the imagery should in my mind be combative, active, responsible, and candid. “We’ve all been doing our bit, but now we need and demand more far-reaching changes”. This will be political, because it’s about policies, not good intentions. Do we cut public transport – or expand it? Do we allow deep sea drilling – or end it? Use public money to expand sustainable energy and related industries – or wait until “the deficit” is paid off?
    Lastly, although the team did very well by their own professional standards, we shouldn’t think that big names and media producers necessarily know how to sell this particular message, which is qualitively different from the stories told by the status quo.

  5. Sarah says:

    It strikes me that the only way to cut carbon emissions is to limit the amount of fossil fuels available for sale. The amount that the oil, gas and coal companies can sell. Fossil fuels are a bit like the horse and the stable door. Once out of the door (ie. the fuels are extracted and sold to users) it is desperately difficult to control the emissions. But if less of the fuel is extracted and sold in the first place (the stable door being shut better) then there is easier control. There are only a reasonably controllable number of sources of fuels, rather than the almost infinite number of end uses. It is almost impossible to persuade every organisation, company, individual etc to limite emissions. But if the supply could be limted at source, when we might have a chance.

  6. Mark R says:

    RE: Crista’s argument.
    I think that it is true that a visceral experience is more moving than an intellectual argument–and that holds for all human beings. That point conceded, one has to look at the hurricane example as a DIRECT experience, and its visceral impact comes from that direct experience. A advert is not a direct visceral experience, but always a vicarious one, and so it isn’t likely to have its intended effect (or at least, not as strongly). If we were experiencing dire social and economic consequences from global warming right now (okay, okay, there are some, but not direct enough to have a profound impact upon the human psyche), then there would be no problem with AGW deniers or their corporate puppet masters–because people would be reacting as if their lives were threatened (but one cannot expect that this would be in a collective and orderly fashion).

    “The director has “pushed the buttons” of those who profit from denial more effectively than the IPCC with this one little piece.” (Crista)
    I honestly do not see how this is true. Yes, the IPCC reports are bland and understated, but that is a politically-generated effect as well as a side effect of scientific culture. But how would anyone orchestrating a campaign of inaction be rattled by this ad? Is it meant to be a threat to the elite few that if they continue to win the day that they will be blown up? The video seems to be addressed to the complacent and inattentive everyman, and I still do not see how it reaches them. To me, the video remains repugnant and confused in its argument.

  7. jim jepps says:

    The video was truly awful and, I think, a product of people trying to be too clever-clever without actually thinking about how it was going to go down with normal people.

    I thought their ‘apology’ was particularly revealing in that they essentially say they pulled it because some people don’t have a sense of humour. In reality the activists I know who didn’t like it thought the message was wrong and that it reinforced the very stereotypes we’ve been battling against for years. In this sense the more profile, the more conversation this film creates the worse it is for us – because it’s the wrong conversation to be having.

    For me the film says that authority is good and wise and normal people who aren’t on board are nothing. I think this is the opposite of what our movement should be saying. We should be demanding political change, of governments and corporations – not laying the blame on individuals whose light-bulb changing is of no real consequence.

    It’s great to see people like Peter Crouch and Gillian Anderson willing to do something to help the cause – but let’s see them bring confidence that the ‘little people’ can make social change, not that you are scum if you don’t accept authority.

  8. Dave Hampton says:

    Thank you very much George and Annie, well said.

    I like the sound of the film you’d have made Annie.

    Of course many 1000’s (maybe more) have tried over the years – to make the ultimate youtube. There are loads of good ones – maybe the better thing we could do is get solid around some of these gems – “here’s one I prepared earlier” and vote for our top 50?

    One of my favourites is probably the (Change the Dream) Wombat. Leo di Caprio did a good one too – its still good after 3-4 years – see his website.

    It strikes me that asking “what would a really good ad/film have looked like?” is exactly the right question. It’s so easy (habitual:) to criticise others for what they do – or don’t do ;o)

    Instead of just doing better ourselves.

    It’s easy to pass judgement from the stands – like watching sport on TV – we all know we could do better. There were 10,000 arm-chair ‘experts’ commenting on 10:10 over the weekend – ok – me included.

    10:10 walked into the floodlight; made one huge non-forced error: and lost it – big time – on centre-court! The home team and the away crowd then turned against them and all volley’ed stuff right at them?

    So how would I have played it? That’s a question.

    Funnily enough ain’t this a metaphor for our carbon footprints too – we think, write, research, coach (!) evaluate, consider, espouse, advise, talk, plan and generally take stock of the situation…

    classic avoidance… anything… anyone… anywhere… apart from actually cut our own carbon here now?

    mind our own carbon?

    carbon planks and carbon splinters…?

    I often laugh (though it’s not the least bit funny) that some people still deny manmade climate change – silly billy’s!

    Yet I can deny that one small CO2 balloon – that i can avoid now – is part of the (pollution) solution.

    “Deeds not words” I suppose I could have said


  9. Mark Brown says:

    As Martin Luther King once said “I had a dream”. He didn’t say “I have a nightmare.” In fact the “right” or “better” way of starting such a campaign promo would be simply to go out and research the topic. It is not as if nobody has already done this. I can point you at Futerra Sustainability Communications’ “Sizzle – the new climate message” which you can download form their web site at Or try their “Words that sell”. Or try the IPPR Research on public engagement or their report called “Consumer Power – How the public thinks lower-carbon behaviour could be made mainstream” (The Institute for Public Policy Research). Or just read the Hartwell Paper published in May 2010 for the Institute for Science, Innovation and Sociey at the University of Oxford. My point being that “No Pressure” was not born into a vacuum. This is a reasonabley well researched field. We know how to sell the positive vision of a low-carbon future. But it seems an extremely well kept secret to-date. I don’t think Climate Change campaigners step to far out of their immediate social-circle to become objective. Look toward the pioneering engagement work of the Transition Movement as an example. My advice to 10:10 is this: do some research next time and make a film about this wonderful vision. Not the nightmare.

  10. Lucid Glow says:

    The stakes are growing each year. Drastic measures must be implemented. There is no middle ground here.

  11. Bill Dowling says:

    Frankly I think it is time the climate change action lobby made a lot more of another more irrefutable argument –
    There is a fundamental and urgent need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels regardless of climate change -PEAK OIL.
    Fossil fuels will all run out one day. But Oil will go first (as it is rapidly doing now), then because the oil is runnning out more gas will be used, then because they both are running out, the use of coal will increase so coal will run out – in spite of its dirtyness.
    Even nuclear power has a limited life as a substitute because we will run out of uranium for fuel too in around 50 years.
    And we cant all survive by burning wood in wood burning stoves instead because with 6.8 billion people now on the planet let alone the 9 billion expected by 2050 (something else needing “emissions reductions”!) we cant grow enough trees and food and biofuels at the same time!
    Ultimately renewable energy is the ONLY future energy source that we humans will have at our disposal so the sooner we make the transition to a green energy future the better.

  12. Bill Dowling says:

    Sarah at No.5 has it!
    Oil Gas and Coal consumption should be rationed globally!
    Someone has said what we are trying to do with our existing local, national and global climate change actions is like carelessly allowing a few people to pump vast quantities of these fuels into a gigantic sponge then trying to get the rest of the people to block up each and every hole by emission controls to stop the damage!
    Intelligent or stupid?
    Even personal carbon allowances wont solve the problem with businesses and commercial enterprises.
    They will need consumption limits too.
    IMHO, the only completely unrestricted use of all fossil fuels should be for the construction of renewable energy infrastructure and energy saving measures, and public transport systems etc.
    IMHO we are in grave danger of running out of OIL before we have built enough renewable energy infrastructure to replace it because of our frivolous and wasteful use of it on other things.

  13. […] also: Good discussion of this video on the Climate Change Denial blog which points out that the film focuses overwhelmingly on small actions rather than expanding that […]

  14. Jim Durdin says:

    Many good points made above – I agree about the value of presenting positives and of pointing to the value of lobbying as well as making personal changes. The peak oil link is also not as much discussed as it could be.

    I think the ethos of this video is wrong – why are they trying to do headline-grabbing stunts? It’s not as if no-one knows there are climate change activists, the problems are that people don’t believe them and they’re not sure where to go from here. This is the conversation we need.

    It’s worth looking at the Ereuit and Segnit “Warm Words” reports on this kind of topic – they suggest that it seems incongruous to talk of catastrophe and advise such small changes as changing lightbulbs and driving less. The intellectual case for small actions may be strong (and I think it is) but it feels silly to connect social disaster and small-scale lifestyle change. There needs to be a better narrative here, perhaps that links the two better or more explicitly sells the idea of small changes mounting up/sending a message/changing social values.

  15. Chris Temple says:


    I’ve been off the internet all week and have just come to this video via a ‘Climate Hoax’ website. I’m almost lost for words. I genuinely believed the video was a spoof until I saw the references to it on the 10:10 website.

    We have a real, acute and frankly terrifying problem here. Climate change scares the hell out of me, but to be honest I’ve never been more frightened then I am right now. If this is the kind of rubbish that’s being produced by what I previously thought was one of the most effective and rational advocates for action on climate change then I’m not quite sure where to go next.

    10:10, if you’re listening, listen good: There is no room for fundamentalism when arguing the case on climate change. There’s no room for scare-mongering, no room for extremism and no room for propaganda. We have at best 10 years to change global policy on carbon emissions so every statement that you make on the subject needs to be balanced, fair and honest.

    At this very late stage the best way you can tackle this problem is by expressing it in economic terms. If people paid the true cost of a gallon of oil, taking into account the damage caused by climate change, then we would soon shift to less carbon intensive energy sources.

    And this is the argument you must make EVERY DAY. It’s not that you’re a bad person because you got on a plane. It’s just that you didn’t pay enough money to clear up the mess that you made. You’re not evil because you turned the central heating up, you just didn’t pay enough for the electricity.

    In short, stop telling people that they’re bad because they’re burning fossil fuels. EVERYONE IS BURNING FOSSIL FUELS, WE CAN’T FRIKKIN HELP IT. Just tell them that it’s a damn sight cheaper to clean up the mess now, than to ask they’re kids to do it in 50 years time.

    Yours imploringly

    Chris Temple.

  16. Chris Maddigan says:

    I would suggest that if you want to win people over then you should start with being honest about what you are reaaly trying to achieve.

    If as you state your aim is to get “rapid social transformation at all the necessary levels” then you should stop talking about climate change and start giving people good reasons why there needs to be social change. After all climate change is a technical problem and will almost certainly only be solved through technological means.

    There are 2 damaging steroetypes out there about climate activists. One is that many acitivists are just misanthropes. Another is that mosts are just old style lefties using climate change to foister their discredited solutions.

    The 10:10 film feeds into the first. Your discussion falls into the second.

  17. Jon Barrett says:

    Annie says: “I would like to see a film that pushes the issue of personal responsibility for climate forward by making heroes of ordinary people who put themselves on the line facing politicians and corporations, whether through verbal challenge or non-violent direct action, so that we are all emboldened to demand change not just in our own lives but in wider social and economic realms.”

    George says (in the previous post): A movie that is now being launched in the UK called Collapse shows Michael Ruppert chain-smoking his way through visions of social and economic disaster. It is symptomatic of the utterly self defeating way that peak oil and climate change are typically communicated”

    Why might the viewing public be any more “emboldened” to change their views or behaviour on climate change by watching films about ordinary “heroes” who challenge “politicians and corporations” than George’s scepticism about the imminence of peak oil inspired social upheaval is altered by the film interview with Michael Ruppert –arguably an ordinary hero who has done just what Annie has asked for?

    It is worth noting that there are already many films about other ordinary people ‘heroically’ responding to the real issues George identifies – (climate change, resources depletion and food scarcity) – in a less alarmist way than Ruppert by quietly embracing voluntary simplicity, permaculture, etc, etc, – for instance, those interviewed on the on-line Peak Moment TV. Unfortunately, the down-sizing life changes that these ordinary heroes espouse seem to me even less likely than the Collapse film to inspire wider public consideration of the issues or questioning of our First World lifestyles and aspirations. In fact, I expect that the majority of those who seek out and watch these ‘local hero’ films are amongst the already converted.

    Research is clear that we in Western society are most influenced in our attitudes and behaviour by the actions and opinions of those whom we trust and respect – whether these people are our peers or those in the public eye. How much more influential might the 10:10 film have been if it had been able to show that the likes of a David Ginola and a Gillian Anderson are themselves genuinely willing to challenge “politicians and corporations….through verbal challenge or non-violent direct action” rather than simply make a dispassionate token contribution to this short and ill-conceived social marketing video.

    Because in the end, much successful communication seems to come down to how well each of us feels able to trust and identify with the messenger and thus trust and empathise with the message. We can often respond well to those who are willing to display emotional responses alongside dispassionate facts in communicating their message, e.g. Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s televised tears in a factory farm resulted in a massive, (although, post-recession, only temporary) rise in sales of free-range eggs. By the same token, Michael Ruppert’s message just might (?) receive a more sympathetic airing because he breaks down, apparently with emotional exhaustion, during the Collapse interview. Call me a softy, but this incident successfully worked to make me think harder about what human experiences might lie behind his obvious sense of conspiracy and betrayal.

    So I would like to see much less social-marketing manipulation and less dumbed-down motivational communication gimmicks like the 10:10 film. I would like to see a film that, alongside a rational presentation of facts and figures also offers some of the honest and heartfelt responses of those who try to communicate understanding of the truly awful mess we humans have unintentionally made of our world.

    Our First World society has yet to experience any serious perceivable climate impacts, let alone food and water shortages or resource related ecocide or genocide. In the absence of such direct experience, it is just possible that more of us might be stirred to empathise and thus to act through witnessing the genuine emotional reactions of trusted public figures who have comprehended our predicament and witnessed its consequences in the wider world.

  18. Bill @ No. 13

    You’re presumably aware of TEQs, the energy rationing scheme designed to cover the whole economy (as opposed to Personal Carbon Allowances which, ironically, were a spinoff of the original TEQs idea)?

    I’ve co-authored a report with David Fleming, the inventor of the scheme, for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil, which will be launched at the House of Commons on Jan 18th 2011. Until then, all info is available at:


  19. What about laughter as a powerful tool for change? I think 10:10 could have saved themselves a lot of effort by using Carbon Weevils to put the message across:

    Tim Britton is a genius.

  20. apple says:

    The real question is why the group 10-10 did not take one look at the film and say “next..” Why were they not immediately horrified by the ties that the film made between environmentalism and totalitarianism? Why were they not dissatisfied at least to have environmentalists look so ridiculous? The question this film brings immediately to mind is not “Gee, how far is our government willing to let the environment slide?”, but, ” Gee, how far is our government willing to undermine personal freedom in order to push a current agenda? If they do this for climate change, they could do it for something we don’t agree with, in the same way the deniers in the film disagreed.”
    What the film highlights is that when government has the power to kill you, if you don’t agree with their views, watch out.
    What the film highlights is absolute power corrupting absolutely. The ability to blow people up openly is still satire in the west, but in certain countries it is an accepted way of life, not satire.
    The fact that 10-10 did not instantly pick up on this and reject the film is the
    real question to ask. Who are the folks running 10-10?
    The ultimate question that everyone was asking after this film was not “how far are you willing to give up your personal comforts for the environment?” but
    “How far are you willing to let your government have control over telling you what to believe?”
    For this reason, I think it was an important film and one that was worthwhile people’s time to see. Ultimately if people want to care about things other than their own conveniences and comforts then they will have to really see these things for themselves, not be coerced by governmental controls. Because government cannot be trusted to “do the right thing” Certainly we have seen that brought fully out with the Bush administration. Government is about power. Look at who they chose for the new Secretary of state, the former lobby-man for Fannie-Mae!
    10-10 should appeal to the fact that if you take care of the environment you are actually enhancing your own freedoms and everyone else’s too. If we take care of our air and water and land, we will have a better quality of life in the long run. People have to understand that selfish is NOT better.
    That film just highlighted the selfishness of authority, the natural inclination of power towards total corruption.
    People always say ” The question is “what are you willing to die for?” but, that is too easy , the real question to ask yourself is ‘ what are you willing to be corrupt for?” everyone should be able to answer that question, if the answer is “nothing” then you are either a liar, or you are blind to yourself.
    The question still remains why did 10-10 not reject that movie on the cutting-room floor. Are they liars, or just blind to themselves?
    Either way, should they be leading true environmentalists?

  21. zilch says:

    I can only concur with apple. When I first saw this film, I was convinced that it, and by extension, 10:10, must be products of the propaganda unit of an anti-environmental neoconservative think-tank. It’s a real disappointment to find that it was just weapons-grade stupidity on the part of “our” side. In my humble opinion, the people responsible for this video should think hard about what kind of world they are working for.

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