Updated: Apr 10, 2021
When most people hear the words ‘climate change’ they also hear the words ‘bad news’. They think of life-threatening catastrophes: hurricanes, droughts, frightening wildfires and refugee crises. Moreover, when it comes to solutions, they don’t like being told that they have to change their way of life to accommodate some vague and distant catastrophe that may or may not actually happen.
Hence the Keeling Curve continues its inexorable rise.
Sales people know that the best way of selling a product or service is not to use threats, but to be positive. They don’t say, “Buy what I am selling, or else something bad will happen.” They say, “Buy what I am selling, and something good will happen”. The statements are two sides of the same coin; the sales person is really saying the same thing in both cases. But the positive approach is more likely to be successful.
The climate change community has largely ignored this understanding of human nature. Scientists believe that the facts speak for themselves. They say that all you have to do is present the dilemmas we face in a clear and rational manner, and people will respond equally rationally. Well, we know how well that worked out. Environmentalists preach a message of calamity. If we don’t act now then all kinds of bad things will happen. They say, “Take action or else you and your children will be doomed”. Even when people agree with what is being said, they don’t like hearing the word “should”, as in “You should do . . .”, particularly when the speaker is correct.
I have been working on a proposal for the book Net Zero: Technology for a Changing Climate. The early drafts of the book were in the “doom and gloom” genre. The message was that society is heading toward a climate change Armageddon, but there are the technologies that can help slow down the pace at which the future is rushing toward us. Some of the technologies, such as nuclear fusion, are futuristic; others, such as solar power, are well established and are growing.
So I changed the tone of the book. The contents did not change all that much, but the message did. Rather than threatening all sorts of dire consequences from climate change, I restructured the situation to be a business opportunity.
I also saw this change as being in line with the way businesses are looking at climate change. The year 2020 was full of bad news, but there were some good developments, and the business response to climate change was one of them.
Here is how the proposal for Technology for a Changing Climate now starts.