Climate Talks, Communicating Climate Change, Technology

Mixed feelings over climate change communication in Bonn

« Technology won’t save us; trust me, I’m an engineer. »
Article and quote written by Antoine Gonthier

Taking the pulse of Solar Impulse

Why aren’t people more concerned about climate change? If this doesn’t apply to you then you are certainly familiar with that question.

That is one of the questions I hoped we would ask ourselves during the 4th Dialogue on Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) taking place at the Climate Change Conference in Bonn last month. The objective was to help Parties and other stakeholders (intergovernmental and NGOs, private sector and media) exchange experiences, ideas and good practices on the topics of education, training and public awareness on climate change. Those topics are the focus of Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Lire la suite « Mixed feelings over climate change communication in Bonn »

Communicating Climate Change, Road to COP21, The Climate Nerd Chronicles

The Hunger games : the climate change arena

This article is part of the Climate Nerd Chronicles.

Bannière CN

Here we imagine Katniss and Peeta faced with a climate change arena.

« Ladies and gentlemen, let the Seventy-fifth Hunger Games begin ! ». Katniss took a deep breath and looked at the scenery. The tributes were surrounded by water, the salted kind. Behind her, she could see a beach and further away a lush forest, deep green, covering a very high mountain. She started to make a plan in her head : grab Peeta, rush to the forest, stay hidden there and take time to think of a better plan to survive.


Since plans never work as intended, the two friends finally reached the protection of the forest stuck with Beetee, a science weirdo, who kept blabbering about the high concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. All Katniss and Peeta could think about was the heat, and how the shade of the trees would save them from the terrible sun  rays.

Lire la suite « The Hunger games : the climate change arena »

CliMates, Communicating Climate Change, International Climates, Photo Contest

CliMates’ Photo Contest 2015

11117769_476764192498700_843989246_n© CliMates

A thousand words…

Over recent years, scientists have gathered enormous amounts of data on the subject of climate change. But it has been hard to convince the world to change its ways with a series of charts and figures.

The novelist C.S. Lewis wrote: “Reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning”.

Lire la suite « CliMates’ Photo Contest 2015 »

Climate Politics, Communicating Climate Change, Language

World Leaders Must Promote New Meaning of Progress

This article is written by Henri Landes.

On Tuesday the 25th of June, President Barack Obama delivered a convincing speech on the urgency to act against climate change. His skillful rhetoric and inspiring optimism hopefully persuaded any Americans that still questioned the need to address the issue – politicians of the opposition especially.

After many years of reluctance, the United States should finally “officially” launch itself into the climate change fight, and should do so with an international perspective. Obama’s speech was undoubtedly a strong statement, notably taking into account a complicated international context of economic crisis, and a domestic one of divided politics. However, I would have liked to hear some newer ideas on how to mitigate climate change, as well as a connection drawn between climate change and a global socio-economic crisis.  

With regards to international solutions, Obama primarily stressed ending public financing for coal factories – unless carbon capture is included – trade of clean technologies and both bilateral and international cooperation to increase renewable energy development. As much as these are necessary, these solutions are all relatively consensual and old news in the world of climate activists. Few argue that we need to continue using the dirtiest energy source, and market based solutions for renewable energy upscale already have several success as well as failure stories (the second due in most cases to ineffective regulation and poor investment strategies, i.e. solar energy in France).

Market based solutions to climate change have been the United States’ trademark in international negotiations, to the dismay of developing countries who have looked to the US and other historical polluters for leadership in setting binding greenhouse gas reduction targets and in proposing regulatory measures. These market-based solutions are in my view largely insufficient to tackle climate change, and must be completed with others. The recent curve of global greenhouse gas emissions and climate trends of the past few years are ample proof (storms and flooding in South-East Asia, drought in Africa and in the US, etc.). We are currently on a path of roughly 4 degrees of global warming by 2060, and the next IPCC report in the fall will reveal much more troubling information.

Climate change is a problem of unprecedented nature, and it brings us to a turning point. It has been caused by certain aspects of our economic model of production and consumption, at both national and international levels. The inability of the world economy to effectively internalize the cost of greenhouse gas emissions, environmental degradation and natural resource depletion is undisputed. Lire la suite « World Leaders Must Promote New Meaning of Progress »

Climate Talks, Communicating Climate Change

Be Kind, Rewind

« We live in an agnostic age, no more great visions for society, all in small steps »
Ian McEwan, Saturday.

Complication and apathy

The so-called article before your eyes, with no substance except for yours truly’s mesmerising opinion, is about denouncing smart minds and weak hearts; glorifying stubbornness and fervour over leniency and patience. It’s for a good cause: so much energy is spent developing the mind that we forget about developing the heart.

For example, climate change is not even close to being straightforward: complex terms and convoluted justifications always intrude in on the debate. The irritated and frustrated, even demoralised, people involved have made fighting climate change so complicated that we could probably add it to the list of things that would obviously save lives but will occur only after it is too late (the US arms ban is already on it).

I don’t necessarily believe the main obstacle is those who impede all action, out of an unwavering belief or utter self-interest. For every naysayer, there is an actor who is exhorted to act for change. The main obstacle can actually be found in those who have been entrusted with the mission to act and, time after time, simply do not. These have the ability to sap hopes, concern and determination from the hearts of many. The result is a Silent Majority of people shrouded in apathy.

What would Winston do?

The leaders of the world are all a bright bunch and perhaps they are just too smart. What they lack to me is brawn to go with those brains. What happened to the fierce fighters in the arena? Those who always try and never back away when faced with political calculations or failure?

We have all heard of times when leaders were quite the opposite of (a)pathetic.: think about past figures, anyone from Mandela to Ghandi or Shaquille O’Neal (alright not this last one). Out of pure nationalism (that I dare hope you will forgive me for), I sometimes think of Winston Churchill (and yes Great Britain rocks some good Olympic Games!).

What would he think of current international shenanigans? What would Winston do? This man of defiance and wits does belong to another era and yes, he may not have cared about fighting climate change. But were he still around, he would definitely not have dilly-dallied forever. Negotiations would have been shaken up, diplomatic feathers would have been ruffled, and the scene would be different. A BBC article I once read, about another topic, stated that “This is the kind of mentality we need. Not a short-term goal, catering to the continuously shifting political whim, but a long-term plan where each step is achievable and sustainable.”


My point therefore is that it is as much about intellect as it is about guts. The former needs the latter in order to drive the point home, and without it we are but smart sheep.

Perhaps climate change is too difficult a threat to pin down precisely, maybe now is not the time to address such issues. On the other hand, we have never been so aware of the imminent danger of climate change as we are now, never been part of such a strong international community as we are at present and if our moment is not today, tomorrow won’t look good either (quick reminder: 1940 probably did not seem like the right time to defy the Nazis …).

Imagine what today can do with a few billion bold hearts and minds! We could mitigate, adapt, develop and protect. We might even be able to bring Freddy Mercury back (and God knows we need him). We, the people, youth, students, CliMates, we have to be the decision makers and the innovators who believe! Time to place brawn with brain power, determination with pragmatism and prove sharp savvy can come with blunt boldness.

by Jonathan Clarke

Communicating Climate Change

Young & Unafraid

Today we face, as humanity, one truly global threat. A threat that is total in the geographical, thematic and musical sense of the term. In effect, all regions of the world, all aspects of life (security, health, education…) and particularly all musical genres (from rock to rap, via folk/indie skat) are bound to be affected. True story.

It is therefore a threat that should bring people from all walks of life together, stronger than ever before. Younger, not so young(er), R&B-loving Ghanaians as much as the Merengue-listening Colombians… But enough with the silly musical anecdotes, this unity has yet to be witnessed, and that is no laughing matter.

For all of you that still wonder what the hell I am going on about, it’s not about cats taking over the internet, Christopher Walken’s stare, or yet another recommended diet from women’s magazines. The threat I am jabbering on about is climate change.

The force is strong with this universal threat. Despite the disheartening green-washing or the annoying green-bashing that has occurred, climate change has taken centre stage along with financial and social concerns amongst global leaders. Yes, they do meet at least twice a year to discuss it, or as some pessimists might say: have coffee, disagree and then jet home.

Nevertheless, whatever doubt there may remain concerning humanity’s responsibility, however much people grow frustrated about it, the fight against climate change is here to stay. Wrestling with climate change is inside the mind of a great and growing number of people, be it as a force for good, a nuisance or otherwise. It is no longer dismissed or forgotten. Even Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), the billionaire, genius, philanthropist, playboy (not necessarily in that order) from the last Avengers movie underlines that his new towering building’s greatest accomplishment is not that it is, in fact, towering over New York City, but completely energetically self-sufficient.

And there you have it. A comic book comparison done well. Not only is no-one surprised that such a fact is of significant importance, in the movie industry or in the world audience, but it also shows what great opportunity lies ahead.

As many people, in an attempt to stun you with overused knowledge, have probably already told you, the word “crisis” in Chinese symbols is made of both danger and opportunity. Climate change is no different. The danger is great, yes. But the opportunity that has arisen is far greater for humanity. We have before us now, the opportunity to finally get together and confront a common threat united.

What more binding threat than climate change, which does not discriminate, pick and choose or make any exceptions. Whether or not we agree upon its source, it is happening, and we must learn to adapt and mitigate it (unless you happen to be Canada). It is therefore a challenge we should not fear, but accept to change and confront.

Because humanity is only waking up to this, we (and I do include all generations, from Obama and students to your granny and Christopher Walken) are all the same: fresh, and young in the face of danger, perhaps too optimistic but full of energy in the face of opportunity.

It is a question of point of view. You can decide to have a headache over climate change negotiations or come up with innovative ideas to change the current unsustainable paradigm. This small step/giant leap is already happening (CliMates anyone?). So, yes, it is an innocent and naïve thought, but from where I’m looking, the greatest challenge will unveil the best in humanity.

To everyone, to all generations and especially the next, and to melting ice caps and droughts, we are all young and unafraid to find solutions. We are the people who move forward, with open eyes and open minds, gritted teeth and dashing smiles. We are of those that have made the world advance; we are united, bold and resolute. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Communicating Climate Change

Ecology, “like a candle in the wind”…


To be an ecologist during a Sunday’s lunch at the weekly family meeting can sometimes lead to drawing extreme conclusions. You politely ask why your step mother has left the light of the kitchen on, and you brutally lose the control of the discussion, which will surely end in an argument. From turning the light off it will slip to the energy dependence, the environmental risks of our abuse of energy, and to the sentence: “What would you like? To go back to the times when we only used candles? Urgh! Very funny coming from a person using a computer almost every day!” This is the point when you sense how true it is that the best defense is to attack. You are now rhetorically dead: either you stand on your (ecological) dignity and you are a reactionary hypocrite, or you claim the right to remain silent (and all the family will secretly deeply appreciate your strategic choice for stopping a tiresome familial moment).

Candles are a new obsession when it comes to ecology: in France, the allegory was used against those who dared to claim that the end had come for nuclear plants. It is a very useful verbal weapon, and a very interesting criticism. If you deny the power and benefits of progress, you are not legitimate in any kind of debate. Progress is seen as unilateral, linear, and you are either with it or against it. If you try to explain that nuclear-generated electricity is not a long term solution, or that a bicycle is more sustainable than a car, or that people should start to consider using less (one shower a day is enough – it’s proven), people will have this very significant physical reaction : the eyes rolling effect ; meaning “and here he/she goes again”. You are boring. Not a dreamer, not an utopist, not even too young to understand, just boring. Any argument approaching the idea of restriction is very dangerous. But nothing is more normal: after decades of mass consumption, we all integrated a right to reach the ideal of the unrestricted life. A life where you can buy more, where you can eat anything, where you can possess a house, a car or two, high technologies, hundreds of clothes and shoes. Our generation grew with that, and we all love to have everything. We all went on sales even if we didn’t need anything. We all consumed. Restriction seems an old nightmare.

Should an ecologist be offended by such a condemnation? Candles are a very ecological means to generate energy. Moreover it symbolizes centuries of strong collaboration between human intelligence and nature. This beautiful object of human culture is unfairly belittled as a tool from the past.

What is clever in a candle made of beeswax is that human beings found a use to a natural process that could have been left unseen. A beeswax candle is made by using the operculum slightly covering the delicious honey made by bees. By melting this operculum, we free it from its impurities, which give a candle of delicate natural scent. This resource could have found no use. But everything in nature is part of a process and every element of it is tight to each other.

What an unfair treatment done to candles, old and ingenious creation. How useful it has been for many poor lovers. The more pitiful dinner is gold when two lighted candles on the table light up the sparkles in the eye of the beloved. There is no doubt that the Little Match Girl of Anderson’s tale would have been in better shape had she been the Little Candle Girl. She might have ended her story breathing on a cake full of little colorful candles. Or she would have sculpted the wax, gotten well known and exposed her art in the MoMA. More seriously, how funny it is that candles have become the sign of a despised passed. For sure the Age of Enlightment was not lighted by nuclear plants. How many of our Great Men worked late at night in the glowing light of a beeswax candle? A simple bee is more to our history than one could imagine.

Considering how complex the chemical process of candle production have become (to color them, to produce perfumed candles, to shape them, or even to have them never melting), who could say that a candle is a synonym for decline? They did evolve, and are part of our art, our knowledge, our know-how. And, when a sudden electric cut occurs unexpectedly, when our nuclear plant betrays our confidence and leaves us blind in a frightening darkness, when your phone low on battery has stopped lightening your path to the hidden place where is hidden the relieving treasure: CANDLES! Fiat lux, et lux fit! You have the power, the light, the small flame and its heat, you are deeply happy. You are autonomous, you survived.

Ecologists, don’t repress the candle fanatics inside yourselves, candles might be the future we want!


Nadège Boisseau

Communicating Climate Change

Once Upon A Time…

Presented with the opportunity to write an article in a blog, my initial excitement soon gave way to doubt…

I just did not know what to write about, either because too many ideas flew by or none at all.

Thankfully (or not, depending entirely on your reaction after you read these lines), I attended a very interesting talk the other day. And one important lesson I took away from that lecture, was the importance of good storytelling. Whether it be true or made-up, long or short, a good story can captivate an audience and get people interested in any topic, however unappealing (of course there are only so many people interested in the social behaviour of wombats, but you get my drift).

What I will attempt to do, if ever I am able to write more articles, will be to concoct stories, some truer than others, some will have precious few links to climate change, others may be plain outrageous. But if they ever happen to enable the wonderful and intellectually-stimulated reader to escape for a mere second, then I guess it will be worth it. Sorry for the atrocities then…

The first thing I would like to write about is possibly the longest story ever told. I am not talking about Ted Mosby’s story about how he met his children’s mother, even though that’s been going on for eight years. No, the present anecdote is paradoxically as old as time and known to all.

People have heard many a different tale about the world. They generally involve dinosaurs, apes, a snake and an apple, arches, unicorns or even unicellular micro-organisms. Despite the various interpretations, they all translate into one single tale: yours, mine, and ours. And whichever way it has been told until now, we are at a chapter in the story where humanity is inevitably, globally, without exception, confronted with the same future possibilities that range from a happy story-line to witnessing a premature end, possibilities for us to head towards or steer clear of.

In many ways, humanity has always been able to write its own story, and despite the chaos, differences and suffering along the way, we have avoided the tell-tale (see what I did there…) sad ending. But today, we can and should decide how the rest of the story unfolds. We know what we have to write. Whatever you believe in, wherever you are from, however old you may be, the pen is in our hands. There is no shying away from it: it is a privilege and a duty.

Don’t get me wrong, we got this far, we can continue a fair while. The world is not going to end either, its story will go on, and the planet will keep rotating around its star, a lump of rock in the galaxy. Only it won’t be the world we know unless we live on it and we should make sure it keeps rotating with us on board; make sure our planet is more than a just empty rock floating in space. Make sure we are not going to ruin our own story.

This time, if we want to ensure continuing adventures in this world, humanity is going to have to lock heads together and act together, all 7 billion (and counting) of us. It is a time to be old and wise, but also young and free. It is a time to act. We haven’t done enough in the past and the future is quite simply running out of printing paper for our story. Not only is now the appropriate time to unite on a sustainable path, but we have all the tools to successfully do so. We have the luxury of being able to strongly influence how the rest of our story will unfold.

As a matter of fact, it’s up to you to write your part in this story, a story where we are the protagonists for as long as the world is our stage. No stage, no play to enact, no story to tell, what a shame…

Pick up your pens. What kind of story does humanity want to start writing? Ultimately, we can only write the following sentence today, but it has the power to set the tone for the rest of the legend. So… End of Act III, Beginning of Act IV, Curtains Open….

Communicating Climate Change

The right language for the right action – Tackling climate change: What does it really mean?

“How can we get people to act now?”

This was the question that American climate scientist Kevin Gurney was asked to respond to on The Young Turks, a news and political commentary show (the question is shortened and rephrased for the purpose of this post).  Prior to this simple yet incredibly loaded question, Gurney had thoroughly explained the scientific reality of climate change, that its impacts would primarily be perceptible and felt much later, but as a result of our behavior today, and that these impacts had an irreversible and exponential quality in the case of insufficient preventive action.

Despite the build up and the urging of host Cenk Uygur to produce a gripping end to his show, Gurney’s answer to this question was full of sobriety, intellect and caution, all endemic to the scientific community on climate change. There was nothing shocking, nothing new. Nothing that wasn’t already a consensus within the scientific community and within most of the world’s policy and decision-making community. Gurney simply  and correctly reiterated that it was best to act now because later it would be extremely difficult.

Yet, in the United States, there is hardly any federal action to tackle climate change:


This is the number of times the US House of Representatives of the 112th US Congress voted against legislation to protect the environment. Representatives Henry Waxman, (Democrat-California), Edward Markey, (Democrat-Massachusetts), and Howard Berman, (Democrat-California) detailed in a report this record number of times that the House reflected how it was “the most anti-environment House in history”[1].

In American public opinion, there is relatively little belief in the urgency of climate change:

77 to 65

This is the drop from 2007 to 2011 in the percentage of Americans who believe climate change is a serious threat, according to the Worldwatch Institute.

72 to 58

This is the drop from 2008 to 2010 in the percentage of Americans who believe that global warming exists, according to the Brookings Institution.

From these two polls may also be interpreted slightly more acknowledgement of the terms “climate change” than “global warming.”

First and foremost, there is now barely any talk of climate change in American politics:

1, 0 and 0

These are the numbers of times “climate change” is mentioned respectively in

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, the Republican primary debate in South Carolina on January 19th, and the Republican primary debate in Florida, January 23rd (all in 2012).

0, 0 and 1

These are the numbers of times “global warming” is mentioned respectively in the same three events.

There is something to be said about the right language to inspire and drive action against a problem. As mentioned above, the problem of “climate change” seems to be more acknowledged than that of “global warming.” We can then observe some strategic choices of language in the discourse of American politicians.

In the Florida primary debate, Senator Rick Santorum used the words “global warming” to criticize Governor Mitt Romney and Speaker Newt Gingrich’s past support for a cap and trade system. According to Santorum, belief in climate change is not consistent with Republican values. In contrast, when President Obama attempted to justify action against the problem, he utilized the terms “climate change” in his speech, arguing in favor of considerable investment in efficiency and innovation in energy.

In a country where using shock tactics to encourage action is common practice, it is as if the more alarmist terms “global warming” have had the opposite effect: inaction. They seem to be associated with and used to reinforce the controversy of the science, of the belief, and of the need to actively address the problem. “Climate change,” as demonstrated by President Obama, are words used more often when attempting to convince of the opposite.

Regardless, in the past few years, both “climate change” and “global warming” have almost disappeared from discussions in American politics. I had the privilege with other CliMates to discuss the issue with CliM’Angel John Ashton, who accurately spoke of the “toxification” of the words “climate change” and “global warming” in the United States. In the context of heated debate on the economic crisis and controversial Obamacare, “global warming,” terms made famous in the United States by Vice-President Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth, signify a different crisis that has become almost irrelevant and impossible to take on at the moment, one that may imply culpability of the American way of life and that is excessively a claim of the democratic party, for which the party is often attacked.

In November, I attended a conference at the French Development Agency just before the climate negotiations in Durban. I asked Paul Watkinson of the French Ministry of Environment and lead negotiator on the French delegation in climate negotiations: “As we try to couple climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies with those to emerge from the economic crisis, should we also be talking about a ‘climate crisis’?” Watkinson dismissed the question, answering that referring to the predicament as a “crisis” would worsen the immobilization of people’s efforts.

In his State of the Union Speech, President Obama deftly brushed over the climate change issue and inspired action by focusing on non-controversial issues in the United States: energy independence, energy efficiency, and technological innovation.

It is from this point that I will draw inspiration.

Whether you believe in climate change, global warming, and whether you believe they are anthropogenic or not, it is difficult to argue against our dire need to better manage our natural resources. It is difficult to argue against more efficient and more equitable use and distribution of these natural resources. It is difficult to argue against the behavior of one not having negative effects on the lives of others.

This is what action against climate change means: recognizing that our behavior, on a daily basis, at the local level, at the level of each individual, is connected to someone and something else, for example to a whole chain of production and of extraction of finite resources, and to other people with whom we share these resources and this activity.

As climate change is one of the most inter-disciplinary sciences, and therefore gives a chance for experts and people of all backgrounds to work together to solve it, it is even more a science for all people and nations to work together to solve it.  And there is room for leadership, for political creativity in the language that is used.

And this is where I believe we can go much further than President Obama has. Climate change means “international cooperation

“Countries helping each other out”.

“Countries working together”.

“People working together”.

Ambiguous jargon of climate change international negotiation texts, to be sure, is part of the problem. Maybe Agenda 21 should be called instead “Project: Countries smile at the planet together.”

Perhaps a bit corny, and needless to say this last expression was not mentioned in any of the political speeches that I referred to above. However, it is somewhat shocking that “international cooperation” wasn’t either.

Certainly tackling climate change will require financial investment. Certainly it will require consuming differently. But the positive effects from addressing an issue that encompasses so many others would largely outweigh the negative effects. “Health benefits” from reduced climate change are undeniable. “International security” and “economic stability” would benefit from less climate change induced migration, and from better preparation for environmental disasters.

This is what tackling climate change means: “solving other problems, improving other situations”. There is a need for “leadership”, and through this leadership the costs and sacrifice that are habitually associated with tackling climate change can be interpreted differently.

Paul Watkinson was right. Climate change is not a “crisis”. Let’s stop fearing the problem, and start calling and recognizing climate change as what it is: “an opportunity.”

[1] Henry Waxman, D-California

Communicating Climate Change

Shock, Fear & Buzz: A Sustainable Battle Against Climate Change?

It was while I was watching Kony 2012 video that I decided to write my first post for the CliM’Blog. For those of you who aren’t among the 100 million people who watched this video the other week, you should know that one of the greatest and most criticized buzzes to date is a 29-minute video made by a handful of American activists launching a worldwide viral communication campaign to raise awareness of atrocities committed by Joseph Kony in Uganda and to arrest this “bad guy”.

I don’t mean to sound anti-mainstream, but I really disliked this video. Indeed, my tendency to support such laudable causes was blocked by the Manichean triviality and the glut of emotions of this video. My reluctance surely stemmed from my French Cartesian education, which naturally makes me overly critical at every media buzz, especially when it appeals to basic emotions and images.

But then, my friend Amélie told me that this kind of campaign is what actually works! THIS is what makes people get involved in making change happen. The originality of Invisible Children’s video certainly lies in their targeted population: the Youth. What could be more effective at explaining something to a young or unaware public than a hot dad telling a story to his son in a simple and accessible way? They were also savvy in dealing with the social media, triggering a viral spread and a rapid increase in information on their cause thanks to Internet surfers’ Views, Tweets, Likes and Shares around the world.

So I wondered: should climate change be depicted as the “bad guy”? Should CliMates provoke, shock, evoke pity or otherwise move the large public? Would this be an effective strategy to raise awareness of the threats that the Earth is facing, but also and above all, to trigger action against them?

First, it is essential to recall that viral communication campaigns were not the invention of Invisible Children! On climate change only, there have been songs (ever heard of Michael Jackson’s Earth Song?), NGO advertising campaigns, interactive debates, celebrity endorsements (Leonardo Di Caprio about the movie The 11th Hour) and several high-impact movies. Interestingly, the follow-ups of the well-known movie “An Inconvenient Truth” were, according to Al Gore himself, “unprecedented”. Both governments and households integrated Al Gore’s recommendations, leading to the offset of over 106,000 tons of carbon within just a year after the film’s release. And although I could provide countless examples, there is still no international agreement to mitigate climate change, or even the perspective of a climate of change. How, then, can communication and public awareness lead to a significant re-direction of tendencies?

Sure, education and information matter. And sure, we live in a digital world where images are more appealing than words. Don’t get me wrong – people need to realize that climate change is already a reality and that its effects are already palpable. But climate change (as well as armed conflicts in Africa, while we’re on the subject) is such a complex issue that reducing it to simplistic – if not awkward – facts and images, in typical Internet buzz fashion, would necessarily downgrade its scope and importance.

Viral buzzes, which generally rely on knee-jerk emotional reactions, can also be tremendously detrimental to the causes they defend. Strategies that install a climate of fear and spread deadly and catastrophist predictions tend to strike me as counter-productive and often fuel the fire of climate skeptics. « Fear won’t do it », as people’s reaction to hazardous risks is usually to bury their heads in the sand and reject the veracity of such a risk.

Last but not least, what could be less sustainable than a media-wildfire? Who still gives money to Darfur or to the Rain Forest preservation? Awareness and involvement in the fight against climate change should go beyond superficial “clicking epidemics”, which, far from highlighting a profound consciousness of upcoming challenges among the population, reveals a cultural tendency to fleetingly put topics in the spotlight.

Climate change must be demonstrated to be a part of people’s immediate lives, by accurately exposing the risks and the urgent need for action. But it should not be portrayed in such a way as to crudely scare or sadden the public. More importantly, there needs to be a dialogue on manageable solutions to which people can commit. The zoom lens should focus on perennial frameworks of expression and proposition, thereby putting climate change at the forefront but also providing hope and solutions.

Wait, isn’t that CliMates’ goal?