"Messaging" the War on Climate Change

By Keith Kloor
Aug 27, 2009 10:30 PMNov 20, 2019 5:45 AM


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So CAP's chief global warming propagandist and attack dog will be lecturing on"messaging" next month. I can hardly wait. And here I thought all along that Romm was leading by example with those endless Memos to the Media, nasty hominem attacks, and repetitive self-referencing to his own previous blog posts. There was a recent deceptively simple comment on Climate Progress that captures just how hard it will for climate advocates to rely on "messaging" as their secret weapon:

Tackling climate change means mobilizing the country (and the world) much like efforts involved in WWII. That will involve motivating substantially more people and institutions than are involved now. The usual partisan lenses are not helpful in this context.

That sounds about right to me. Yet how do you motivate a country or world when the enemy is a complex, amorphous, slow moving event like human-induced climate change? Hitler and Mussolini and Pearl Harbor were strong motivating forces. Global warming, despite its potentially catastrophic impacts, presents no such clear and present danger. There's no way around that. So how do you "message" that? For good measure, consider that we're still fighting two wars that, as Bob Herbert recently observed, are now virtually ignored by most Americans:

There's an economy to worry about and snappy little messages to tweet. Nobody wants to think about young people getting their faces or their limbs blown off. Or the parents, loaded with antidepressants, giving their children and spouses a final hug before heading off in a haze of anxiety to their third or fourth tour in the war zones.

Herbert has written often and eloquently about the lack of shared sacrifice with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan. Regarding the latter, he writes in his latest column that

if this war, now approaching its ninth year, is so fundamental, we should all be pitching in. We shouldn't be leaving the entire monumental burden to a tiny portion of the population, sending them into combat again, and again, and again, and again ...

The same goes for stopping the buildup of greenhouse gases. If it's that monumental, then it should be something most citizens buy into. But if Americans have little shared purpose regarding two wars being fought in their names, imagine how difficult it will be motivating them to tackle climate change? So yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing how Romm plans to "message" the war on climate change.

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