'Climate porn' inspires apathy, says think tank

Apocalyptic images of climate change pervading media, NGO and Government communications inspire no action, only cheap thrills, a think tank says.

Micro-renewables should be promoted instead of energy-saving light bulbs, the report says

Micro-renewables should be promoted instead of energy-saving light bulbs, the report says

The alarmism present 'in almost every form of discussion of the issue' amounts to "climate porn," according a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

Experts used linguistics and social science methods to investigate the impact of the UK's abundant coverage of climate change on the public by analysing hundreds of media reports, press ads and websites.

They found a discourse full of doomsday predictions, accompanied by suggestions of the small things individuals can do to save energy such as the efficient use of household appliances.

This, the report says, creates an atmosphere of apathy as it makes people feel powerless.

Overall the authors identified ten distinct approaches in communicating climate change, including:

* Settlerdom - a reaction to the alarmism that dismisses apocalyptic visions as improbable and overblown

* British comic nihilism - or the "Oh, bugger it and open another bottle!" approach

* Techno-optimism - the belief that technological advances can replace sacrifices

Simon Retallack, IPPR's head of climate change, said: "If the public is to be persuaded of the need to act we must understand how climate change is being communicated in the UK.

"Currently, climate communications too often terrify or thrill the reader or viewer while failing to make them feel that they can make a difference, which engenders inaction.

To inspire action, environmentalists and publicists should instead focus on bigger actions such employing renewable energies and energy efficiency in homes and cars. This should appeal to the 'everyday heroism' of the British psyche, the authors believe.

"Government and green groups should avoid giving the impression that 'we are all doomed' and spend less time convincing people that climate change is real," said Simon Retallack.

"The focus should be on the big actions that people can take to address climate change, like switching to a hybrid car, fitting a wind turbine or installing cavity wall insulation, not just the small ones such as turning down the thermostat or switching off the lights.

"Climate-friendly behaviours need to be made to feel like 'the kinds of things that people like us do' to large groups of people."

The report, entitled "Warm Words", can be accessed here.

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