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Marketing and Comms
It’s Time to Stop Fanning the Flames of Climate Anxiety

To all fellow impact professionals, I encourage you to look at the narrative your communications are fueling and consider whether your business, your audience and the planet would benefit from a more nuanced view.

Global boiling.”

Two years left to save the world.”

2023 was the hottest year on record by a long shot.”

Republicans repeal climate projects.

“Climate change costs the global economy $38 trillion a year.”

These are all headlines alarmingly familiar to anyone keeping up with climate news over the last year.

But let me share some highlights you may not have seen:

  • The Biden administration announced nearly $200 million in funding to spend on climate projects in US national parks.

  • The deforestation rate in the Amazon was halved in 2023.

  • Air-pollution levels are improving in Europe.

  • 94 percent of people in G7 countries support the green transition.

  • The cost of solar-generated electricity has fallen nearly 90 percent in 10 years.

Unless you’re explicitly looking for it, good news on the climate front typically flies under the radar. And this isn’t just because bad news sells, but also because the urgency for greater action is very real.

But leading with “the stick” has its limits. I’m not suggesting that fear and anxiety (in this case, climate anxiety) aren’t motivators — but like any form of worry, when pushed too far it becomes problematic, pathological and an inhibitor of progress. I believe we’ve hit that tipping point.

According to recent research from GlobeScan, consumers are feeling maxed out and are “reaching the limits of what they feel they are able to do [to protect the environment] — and their motivation to make personal sacrifices is dropping.” After years of riding one global crisis to the next, the public is pulling from a dry well and “worry” is no longer a sufficient motivator.

We don’t need to take a “glass half full” perspective on all climate communications. That would be a fallacy. But we do need to take a more balanced approach that is inclusive of some of the headway we’re making so people feel inspired to do more. Consider this — according to forthcoming IPSOS research shared with Public, “people that consume positive news are more likely to say that they have changed the way they live, where they shop and what they buy to ensure they are doing their part to address climate action.”

As President Biden has reminded us: “Fear never builds the future — hope does.” For years, we’ve been depriving ourselves of the ability to feel hopeful about the future of our planet and it’s impacting our ability to take the actions needed en masse to create a better tomorrow.

At Public, we’re striving to strike this balanced view to motivate and mobilize our clients and their customers to invest in more sustainable options. To all fellow impact professionals, I encourage you to take a look at what narrative your communications are fueling and consider whether your business, your audience and the planet would benefit from a more nuanced view.

And if you only take one action this Earth Day, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with news sources that share planet-positive stories — such as Fix the News and Goodable. I guarantee it’ll make you feel better; and I’m willing to venture a bet that it will also inspire further climate action in your daily life, as well.

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