The Effects of Marketing Communications and Climate Change

Climate change is a topic in which we continue to hear a lot about in today’s news, political and social discussions. Throughout history, the earth’s climate has continued to change drastically and science has shown that humans have contributed significantly to global warming trends throughout the past 100 years (Nasa.gov). Gasses that are omitted by human activity are resulting in a heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and increased levels of greenhouse gases, which are causing warming climate patterns on planet earth (Nasa.gov). Further, arctic temperatures are warming, sea levels are rising, and wildlife is being affected as natural habitats are quickly changing (Nasa.gov). Throughout the past 100 years alone, sea levels around the world have seen a rise of 6.7 inches, however in the last decade, that rate has doubled (Nasa.gov). These statistics are just the start of a long list of statistical research that shows the harmful results global warming is having on planet earth.

Below are a few more climate change statistics from Nasa.gov:

New-York-SkylineSea Level Rise – Sea levels are rising around the world, causing potential threats for future flooding and washed away waterfronts in majorcities and populations around the world.

Global Temperature Rise – Temperatures around the world
are increasing significantly with planet Earth having seen an astonishing 10 of its warmest years all having existed within the last 12-year timeframe.

Clouds_over_the_Atlantic_OceanWarming Oceans – With temperatures rising, oceans are warming and taking on the heat exchanged from the atmosphere. 

Shrinking Ice Sheets – Miles of ice in Greenland and Antarctic are disappearing. 

Declining Arctic Sea Ice – Sea ice is vastly thinning and disappearing.

icebergs-and-glaciers-1280x800Glacial Retreat – Glaciers are also disappearing in many mountain ranges around the world.

Extreme Events – High temperature records are increasing, and low temperature records are decreasing. Further, severe rainfall and weather patterns are significantly increasing.

Moraine_Lake_17092005Ocean Acidification – Due to increased carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, the ocean is seeing significantly increased amounts acidity.

Decreased Snow Cover – Snow cover is decreasing and melting faster in recent years.

 

With these statistics in mind, it is important to acknowledge and understand that climate change legitimately exists, proven by scientific research. This research confirms that human activity is significantly impacting global warming, and as a result, organizations are aiming to use marketing communications to help influence people’s climate affecting behaviors (Aaron-Mele, 2012). In recent years, the public is increasingly seeing these marketing communications surrounding climate change and the significant impacts it is having on wildlife, human life and the earth as whole (Peattie, Peattie & Ponting, 2009). These marketing communications are potentially influencing peoples understanding and behaviors concerns surrounding the topic and are thus influencing public support for public policies (Maibach, Roser-Renouf, & Leiserowitz, 2008). However questions remain on whether or not these marketing communication tactics are seeing positive influences in human behavior in regards to climate change (Aaron-Mele, 2012). Further, do marketers have an obligation to respond in a time where communication to the public is needed in order to educate humans on the severity of global warming as a result of human activity (Aarons-Mele, 2012)? Knowing that global warming exists is separate from knowing what humans can do about it. As Aarons-Mele (2012) states, “74% of American agree global warming is affecting weather in the United States.” Aaron-Mele (2012) goes on to say that there are two areas of significance in which marketers can educate the public on the following, first; “facing climate change demands big as well as small changes”, and two; “preserving our way of life.” However, most humans, specifically Americans feel as though it is not their responsibility, but rather the responsibility of big organizations to make changes in their behavior, feeling as though it is the big organizations that are causing these global warming issues to begin with (Markowitz, Hodge & Harp, 2014).

Taking these facts into account, it is evident that there is a major social issue here surrounding the behavior of humans and their contributions to global warming (Markowitz et al, 2014; Peattie et al, 2009). Marketing communications tactics are in place, but are they effectively communicating and educating humans on the severity of the climate change issue and that they too can and should make behavior changes to help reverse these climate problems (Markowitz et al, 2014; Maibach et al, 2008)? I personally believe that people want what is best for the earth, but do not want to compromise their personal ways of living. As a result, they leave the big climate fixes to big corporations and environmental teams. Surely we are seeing significant steps being taken by big organizations and governmental agencies but are the steps they are taking enough to fix these problems. Marketing communications can be essential in educating the public on how they too can contribute to lowering emissions into the earth’s atmosphere and harming planet earth for future generations to come. With the knowledge and research we have, it would seem almost inevitable what needs to be done, but even still there is so much left to do. Can marketing communications surrounding climate change be the answer to educating humans around the world? Personally, I believe it is a major solution that could contribute significantly to a safer world, cleaner environment and healthier planet earth.

References

Aarons-Mele M. (2012). What Can Marketers Do About Climate Change? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2012/12/what-can-marketers-do-about-cl.

Maibach, E. W., Roser-Renouf, C., & Leiserowitz, A. (2008) Communication and Marketing As Climate Change: Intervention Assets. A Public Health Perspective, 35488-500.

Markowitz, E. Hodge, C. & Harp, G. (2014). Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication. New York and Washington, D.C.

Nasa.gov (2016) Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. Nasa.gov. Retrieved from http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/.

Peattie, K. J., Peattie, S. & Ponting, C. A. (2009). Climate change: a social and commercial marketing communications challenge. Euromed Journal of Business, 4, 270-286.

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4 Responses to The Effects of Marketing Communications and Climate Change

  1. Anat says:

    Hi Tim,
    Interesting topic – the first thing that came to mind for me was the way companies have used the ethical consumerism enviro-trend to sell products and market their company as socially responsible. In a way, this is driving the message that you speak of as well. Many companies are catering to an audience that desires environmentally friendly solutions and products and as it becomes more and more trendy which encourages people to see that they have a role to play. I think this will continue to be a rising trend and companies will continue to play into that as the world becomes more and more educated on the topic.

  2. Karen says:

    I think one way to use marketing communication to address the issue of climate change is to not just educate the public of the legitimacy of global warming, but how the public can reduce climate change.

    We as human beings are cognitively lazy and frankly, bad habits are hard to break. I think if used strategically, marketing communication plans can help influence people to change, even in the slightest manners, ways they go about living their daily lives to lower their emissions into the atmosphere for the future. If marketing communication complains can influence human purchasing behavior, I am sure, with all the great talents out there, they can influence our habits to better the way we live our lives for the future.

  3. Lauren says:

    Hi Timothy,

    It’s so frustrating to see the manipulation of facts, especially at the level of climate-change deniers. I think politics gives us a unique perspective into how marketing can be used to serve the selfish will of individuals and/or organizations. I think what is even more alarming is how the media will publicize this information and fail to note that climate change is nearly 100% proven, but because it generates page-clicks or ad revenue in some fashion, the media just allows the lies to go on.

  4. csaucier says:

    I enjoyed reading the points that everyone has touched on thus far, you all have brought up an interesting discussion. I agree that effective action requires the efforts of everyday citizens, and I think effective sustainability marketing has the power to achieve this end. What else is marketing if not an attempt to persuade someone of a product/service/idea?
    I also wanted to touch on some of the factors that I think are perpetuating the American disbelief in climate change. (By the way, although I wish 74% of the American populace believed ‘global warming is affecting weather in the United States,’ I’ve also encountered statistics that state only 65% of the population believes anthropogenic climate change is happening or will even happen during their lifetimes (Jones, 2014)).
    The first is that there is a media tendency to present both sides of an issue, which in itself is a commendable effort, but in this situation only perpetuates the idea that climate science is up for debate, obscuring the fact that 97% of climate scientists believe in climate change (Cook et al, 2013). Although comedic, I think that this clip accurately depicts this unfortunate phenomena. Second, and more importantly, marketing in favor of climate change faces powerful opponents in the United States that are not present elsewhere in the world. Fossil fuel industries, among others, have spent hundreds of millions to lobby Congress as well as hire advertising agencies/ other groups to misrepresent climate science (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2012; Goldenberg, 2012). I wonder if efforts like those of the Truth campaign, which exposed the deceitful campaigns of Big Tobacco, would work in this situation against companies like Exxon Mobil and General Electric, which spent $131.63 million and $189.91 million respectively to lobby against pro-climate efforts.

    Cook et al. (2013). Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature. Environmental Research Letters, 8, 1-7.

    Goldenberg, S. (2012, May 30). Top US companies shelling out to block action on climate change. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/may/30/companies-block-action-climate-change

    Jones, J. M. (2014). In US, most do not see global warming as serious threat. Gallup Politics. Retrieved from http://www.climateaccess.org/sites/default/files/Gallup_Threat%20March%202014.pdf

    Union of Concerned Scientists. (May 2012). A climate of corporate control: How corporations have influenced the U.S. dialogue on climate science and policy. Retrieved from http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/scientific_integrity/a-climate-of-corporate-control-report.pdf