Friday, March 1, 2024

How narrative change affects environmental action

In the fight against climate change, words have power. We analyze how narratives manipulated by large emitters shape public opinion and environmental action. From COP28 to the “decarbonization charter” from the oil industry, we will see how changing the climate crisis with precise and urgent terms can change the conversation and inspire meaningful action. This article highlights the importance of being critical of the language used in climate discourse and the need to break down the misleading frames often used in climate communication.

Deceptive narratives and their impact

Companies with high greenhouse gas emissions, such as oil and gas companiesHistory has used narratives that reduce global warming. These communication structures have a great influence on public opinion and behavior, favoring the interests of these industries. A clear example is the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter presented at COP28, in which the big oil companies are committed to achieving net zero emissions in their operations by 2050, but there is no plan to reduce production, which represents the majority of their total emissions.

This practice positively frames the actions of large emitters, leading even the most committed environmentalists to unwittingly fall for its rhetorical traps. Being careful and discerning about the language used in climate discourse forms the basis for breaking these misleading narratives and promoting more honest and effective communication.

Climate Change

Changing the climate change narrative

The choice of terms of communication on climate change is strategic and has a profound impact on thinking. For example, the term “climate change,” introduced by Frank Luntz, a communications expert for the US Republican Party, has been gradually replaced by “global warming.”. This change, far from accidental, is a deliberate choice to use a more neutral and less urgent term.

High-impact companies like ExxonMobil have adopted this strategy, using terms like “climate risk» and words expressing uncertainty such as “could” or “possible” to suggest that global warming This is not a confirmed fact. This tactic, similar to that used by the tobacco industry to deny the harms of tobacco, contributes to diverting attention from the climate debate to discussing the existence and severity of climate change instead of focusing on effective solutions.

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Explaining plastic recycling and greenwashing

The oil and gas industry, including ExxonMobil, has actively promoted the idea that plastics can be recycled, despite the fact that most cannot be recycled and advanced recycling is not economical. This led to the wrong understanding that plastics are harmless because they can be recycled, thus hiding the true environmental impact of their production.

The term “carbon footprint, popularized by British Petroleum (BP), is another example of how big broadcasters are shifting responsibility for climate change to individuals. This focus on individual action rather than corporate practices becomes an effective strategy to divert attention from required actions at the business level.

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The language of climate activism

Understanding and critical analysis of these misleading narratives is essential for effective climate activism. It is important to recognize and break the rhetorical frames used by industries with a high environmental impact, which often reduce the seriousness of their activities and shift the responsibility to consumers. Consumers should critically and thoughtfully evaluate the sustainability campaigns, projects, and products and investigate the institutions behind these initiatives and their real impact on the environment.

Climate communication rules that must be considered include avoiding blaming, criticizing, or judging the behavior of others because it can cause resistance or opposition. Presenting one pessimistic scenario may result in others ignoring the problem completely. Instead of focusing only on the losses, it is important to emphasize what can be saved by investing in climate mitigation and adaptation.

By using language strategically, individuals can challenge companies on their behalf for fraudulent and polluting practices, ensuring that the state of the planet is portrayed in a way that drives the necessary action rather than alienating people. Knowledge of language and careful choice of words are powerful tools in the fight against climate change and to promote a more sustainable future.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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