Joint Statement from Climate Week Youth Award Nominees

Updates: This statement has been used by The Guardian and was mentioned in The Telegraph.  I also want to highlight Casper ter Kuile‘s more positive perspective on Climate Week, which I had not considered until I spoke with an RBS representative at the event.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Tom Youngman (07757577910) or Niel Bowerman (07912614541)

Ellie Hopkins, Niel Bowerman and Tom Youngman are three of the nominees short-listed for Climate Week’s Most Inspirational Young Person Award.

Today these three nominees made the following joint statement:

“As young people deeply concerned by climate change, we support the Climate Week initiative. Connecting people through positive, practical action in their communities is essential to minimise climate change. However we believe Climate Week’s choice of sponsors seriously undermines its aims.

“In the case of RBS in particular, we feel that sponsoring this event without withdrawing their heavy investment in Alberta’s massively damaging tar sands development is grossly hypocritical. We echo many others in calling on RBS to divest from this practice.

“We are pleased that the sponsors appear to want to take action on climate change.  However, businesses must know that only lasting systemic change to their operations can earn them an image of sustainability. Mere endorsement is not enough.  We hope the sponsors of Climate Week use this opportunity to reinforce their commitments to sustainable practice. As such we invite Tesco, the sponsors of the youth award, to meet with us or other young people to consider our suggestions for improving sustainability.

“The tools to create a sustainable economy already exist but what we have yet to see is the political and corporate will to use them. We will not wait for those unwilling to lead into a just, sustainable future.

“Where there is willingness to create true change, we welcome big business to join the drive towards our common goal of a better future for everyone. Young people are already shaping their own futures in a low-carbon economy, whether these companies can keep up is something we are eager to see.”

– ENDS –

Press contacts:

Tom Youngman

Niel Bowerman

thomas@youngman.me.uk

niel@ukycc.org

07757 577 910

07912614541

Notes to editors:

  1. Climate Week is a national event aiming to inspire millions across the UK to combat climate change.
  2. Climate Week is sponsored by Royal Bank of Scotland, which finances more fossil fuel extraction than any other UK bank.  Until recently, RBS promoted itself as the ‘Oil and Gas Bank’.  RBS is currently financing environmentally destructive tar sands mining in Alberta, Canada.
  3. Ellie Hopkins is the Co-Director of, and a full-time volunteer with the UK Youth Climate Coalition (ukycc.org). Niel Bowerman is a research climate scientist at the University of Oxford. Tom Youngman is a local environmental activist from Bath, the co-founder of Green Vision: The Bath Youth Climate Movement and a member of the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s Youth Advisory Panel.

Climate Science and Ideology

The public do not accept the ideology of some climate campaigners, and hence unconsciously reject the science of climate change

Cross-posted from Climatico

The more green groups ask us to “stop flying,” the less the public believes in man-made climate change. Niel Bowerman argues there is a link.

Today is the anniversary of “climategate”. It has damaged the credibility of the IPCC, and climate science in general, and yet scientists could not be clearer that the warming observed over the past century is largely man-made.  Is it time to ask why so many people dispute a scientific theory that the vast majority of climate scientists agree with?

Could it be that some of the public’s distrust of climate science comes not from qualms with methodologies for constructing temperature records, but rather from scepticism of the ideologies of the green groups that use climate science to reinforce their campaigns?

The UK’s recent prime-time Channel 4 documentary ‘What the Green Movement Got Wrong’ was criticised by many environmental groups, not least because it contained several inaccuracies.

Many greens rightly charged the documentary with being ideologically driven, while the documentary claimed “that by clinging to an ideology formed more than 40 years ago, the traditional green lobby has failed in its aims and is ultimately harming its own environmental cause.”  As with most debates, both arguments do contain an element of truth.

The documentary struck a chord with much of the public, who are sick of a bossy, lecturing, elitist and sometimes excessively ideological environmental movement.  Unfortunately this is likely to be one of the reasons for the drop in public belief in climate change. When green groups demand that people ‘stop flying now’ instead of also working to promote viable alternatives, the public begins to reject the science of climate change outright.

If we are to tackle climate change before it is too late, the climate movement must rapidly evolve from being seen as a lefty group taking part in self-deprivation.  Green groups must become part of a larger movement for positive change that spans political boundaries and seeks to inspire and empower, not just criticise and condemn.

Younger groups are already beginning to adopt this new approach.  Ben West, Communications Coordinator at the UK Youth Climate Coalition, said: “Many of us as young people, are excited about renewing the movement and in the possibility of creating something fit and ready to overcome the big challenges of the coming decades, rather than being stuck fighting the battles and stereotypes of our parent’s generation.”

Perhaps the American climate scientists who created their ‘rapid response unit’ would have more luck convincing the public on the science if they could persuade environmental groups to say, “We’re sorry if we sometimes lecture or sound bossy, that wasn’t our intention.  We’re just trying to create green jobs, ensure energy security, and build a clean energy future; would you like to help?”

Niel Bowerman is a research climate scientist at Oxford University, and a former executive director of Climatico.

Do we need to talk about ‘climate change’ more or less?

Do we need to talk about climate change more or less?
Does our communications strategy need to talk about 'climate change' more or less?

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, has written an inspiring call to arms over at TomDispatch.com.  He argues that we need to build a much more active movement, and also that we need to change our communications strategy.  It is this latter point that I want to discuss here, as it is so fundamental to our long-term strategy. Bill McKibben wants us to start talking more about climate change, instead of avoiding the issue.

Step one involves actually talking about global warming.  For years now, the accepted wisdom in the best green circles was: talk about anything else — energy independence, oil security, beating the Chinese to renewable technology. I was at a session convened by the White House early in the Obama administration where some polling guru solemnly explained that “green jobs” polled better than “cutting carbon.”

No, really?  In the end, though, all these focus-group favorites are secondary.  The task at hand is keeping the planet from melting. We need everyone — beginning with the president — to start explaining that basic fact at every turn.

In the circles that I move in, people seem to be heading the opposite direction. After Copenhagen and Climate-gate, campaigners started talking about climate change less, not more.  We have The Great Power Race, the Energy Action Coalition, and the 10:10 campaign, which are all great projects, but aren’t built around the concept of talking about climate change.

I think that people have been focusing on changing strategy since Copenhagen, and so for groups that I’m involved in like the UK Youth Climate Coalition and the International Youth Climate Movement who have been talking climate change for a while, this means moving away from ‘climate change’ and towards ‘clean energy futures’.  Is this the right direction to be moving, or should the UKYCC be holding its ground and sticking with climate-related messaging? Could it even be argued that we youth groups are switching to a tried-and-failed tactic that was used before our time?

It’s clear that we need a movement, and that will have to be made up of groups that talk about climate change, and groups that don’t.  It must be made up of groups campaigning for high-speed rail, against road and airport expansion, for energy security, against wars for oil, as well as for cutting carbon emissions and against climate change. We need to make better links with diverse groups and ask not what these groups can do for the climate movement, but rather that the climate movement can do for them.  To do this we don’t need to stop talking about climate change, if anything we need to talk about it more and show how it relates to all of these other issues.

Let’s keep climate change as a common theme through all of our messaging, and make a better effort to reach out to diverse groups and help them out with their campaigns.

Climate Science Communications Reconsidered

Climate science has been subject to a media storm of stories since the CRU email hacks.  I have often wondered what we should be doing about this, and this wonder has lead me to learn about framing, messengers and messaging, and a whole host of other communications concepts.  As a climate scientist who occasionally with the media, I found the following articles particularly illuminating.

Hunter Cutting has a whole host of useful insights,  and I agree with his explanation of why the front line soldiers defending climate science in the media should not be climate scientists:

The Messenger

When audiences read news stories and attempt to make out the underlying issues, they take an important cue from the identity of the messengers. And currently, climate scientists are almost the sole messengers defending climate science. While this is problematic on a number of fronts, it is particularly challenging for the framing of the debate. Putting a scientist in the messenger role reinforces the notion that the fundamental issue is a question about the science. If scientists are doing the debating it is only natural to assume the science is debatable.

Beyond the question of identity, many scientists don’t make for a good messenger when the issue is politicized, such as with climate science. They are loath to call out the politics and step into a controversy outside their area of expertise.

Climate scientists must be joined by other messengers who are willing to stand up and speak out against the attack on science: farmers whose children would inherit dust-bowl farms due to the delay urged by climate deniers, generals who understand the national security threat, and business leaders who understand that every year of delay in investing in clean energy costs the global economy hundreds of billions of dollars.

When climate scientists do find themselves giving media interviews, Susan Joy Hassol has some useful hints and tips for improving our communications skills.  As well as the more obvious comments about language and using metaphors, she explains how we need to answer more than just the question:

Reframing

Rather than accepting the premise of a poorly framed question, reframe it. When people ask if global warming can be blamed for a particular hurricane, heat wave, fire, or flood, a simple “no” does not respond to the essence of the question. What they really want to know is whether global warming is having an effect on such events, and the science suggests that it is. You can reframe such questions to explain that global warming is increasing the chances of such events occurring, and you can also explain some of the connections.

This is an ongoing discussion, and one which is by no means settled.  As someone without expertise in communications, I would love to hear more views and opinions and how we can win back the climate change debate, and I hope to post more here soon.

London Climate March: Non-violent Direct Action

While there are many stories that could be told about the Global Day
of Climate Action, I would like to talk about the rising star of
climate campaigning: non-violent direct action, or NVDA.

Today campaigners in over 40 countries marched in a global effort to
increase government action on climate change. Climatico had
half-a-dozen analysts on the ground to report on cheap NFL jerseys the action.

After much walking, chanting, drumming, and shivering, our estimated
10,000-strong battalion of climate marchers rounded the corner into
Parliament wholesale MLB jerseys Square. After a few speeches and some music, we were greeted
with two quotes:

“Direct action is the last resort of democracy”

“If you’re a young person looking at the future of this
planet and looking at what factory: is being done right now, and not done, I
believe we have reached the stage where it is time for Miami Dolphins Jerseys civil
disobedience to prevent wholesale NBA jerseys the construction of new coal plants that do not
have carbon capture and sequestration.”

Any guesses as to who these were credited to?

Parliament Square by Dominic Rowland

Nope, not a bunch of eco-hippies, but Oscar Wilde and Al Gore (though I can’t find a source for the first).

Later, we heard from John McDonnell, the MP whose constituency
includes Heathrow Airport, who gave a rousing speech in which he
pledged to participate in NVDA if the government approved the plans to
build a third runway at Heathrow.

Finally, Caroline Lucas MEP, came up on stage, patrocinadores inviting us all Thankful to a “tea party” (read sit-in) at Heathrow Terminal One.

So we have high-profile politicians calling for NVDA, a situation EPA which is unlkely to have happened without the game-changing court verdict
regarding the Greenpeace protesters at Kingsnorth. But will it work?
Well there certainly seem to be a lot of people that hope so!

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