Strategies for Copenhagen & Beyond
A Communication Shared with NGOs on November 11th, 2009.
We forward our correspondence we sent on November 11th, to many of the large NGOs, organizations, etc. on a separate listserve.
We have had very supportive comments from both 350.org and ‘Be that Change’ [http://www.bethatchange.com/]
‘Be that Change’ has made a valuable comment which is below. (note – we did ask their permission to share their response with this list)
The purpose of this email today is to share thoughts and ideas as to how we become more united in our messaging as you will see outlined in the messages below.
This is long so please so you may wish to make a coffee first. Keep in mind this is written from a Canadian perspective – so the ideas and comments somewhat reflect on the North American climate change movement. The Climate Justice groups clearly embrace principles that we respect and wish to support. Is repetition in messaging an integral piece of the puzzle? … how do we turn what are perceived as ‘radical’ opinions / campaigns into nothing more or less than a united world wide general consensus based on truth and reality?
We believe this listserve has attracted many like minded organizations and individuals with whom we hope to build strong relationships and share creative ideas. We believe such strong relationships can and will transform our fight for a global movement of solidarity with the most vulnerable into that of a reality.
Thank you for your time and ideas.
Canadians for Action on Climate Change
Comments from Director of Be That Change: http://www.bethatchange.com/
[it’s worth very briefly framing my comments by saying that we (BeThatChange) are about engaging a new audience on these issues so much of what we do is about simplifying without dumbing down]
In response to a ‘more is less’ approach…
…We would strongly support one message that unites all people and organisations as we believe it offers us a powerfully inclusive, ‘everyman’ entry point where we can reach out beyond those already
aware and converted, to a new audience amongst which we can raise awareness and bring into a bigger, stronger movement capable of getting a post-cop15 deal / ‘Zero deal’
I suspect that an umbrella ‘catchphrase’ would enable us to move the issue from the (traditional, liberal, campaigning) margins further into the mainstream by permeating popular culture and providing something
more people can grasp more easily. Under a simplified entry point would sit the more detailed, deal-centred goals as outlined spectacularly comprehensively in Cory’s email.
Such a mechanism also allows individual organisations to ‘adopt and adapt’ this headline mechanism to satisfy their constituents without weakening a joined-up strategy. The core strength of a unified approach
is that wherever you are in the world, whatever organisation you support, or simply as an individual – a unified, consistent and constant message is aimed at leaders by their voters. Everyone, every
action, every day of action – everything – adds to a whole greater than the sum of the parts.
Something like this would provide our movement a single, global ‘platform’ from which individuals orgs could cater for local markets while building global momentum where we would all host events under
this one banner.
It could be argued that this has been lacking from how we operate as a movement until now and it seems the approach has failed us. A small redesign of what currently happens would, I humbly suspect,
provide greater potential for more significant outcomes with the same resources.
Let us know how we can help.
This is long … so try to stay with us! First of all – thanks to everyone who fed back information from the Barcelona negotiations. The information was very much appreciated. We have some ideas below. We are looking for, and hoping for your support.
We have had a chance to speak to some of the scientists we rely on who speak to us in confidence, as well as, physicians and experts that we work with. Below is a summary of our current thoughts and ideas that have since transpired as a result of these discussions.
Strategies for Copenhagen and Beyond:
From attached document: Ian Dunlop, formerly a senior oil, gas and coal industry executive and CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, says: “Honesty about this challenge is essential, otherwise we will never develop realistic solutions. We face nothing less than a global emergency, which must be addressed with a global emergency response, akin to national mobilisations pre-WWII or the Marshall Plan… This is not extremist nonsense, but a call echoed by an increasing numbers of world leaders as the science becomes better understood… In the face of catastrophic risk, emission reduction targets should be based on the latest, considered, science, not on apolitical view of the art-of-the-possible.”
Yet – more or less – the above is what many in the environmental movement are participating in. Real honestly is calling for zero emissions and nothing less. This is supported by Greenpeace International – in the 2009 ‘Push the Planet in the Right Direction’ campaign. Real honestly is acknowledging we are in a dire state of global emergency and saying so in the public realm.
The only way is to make zero fly is by campaigning for it. By using the media, our blogs, social media and everything else we can access, in the same way corporations have ‘sold’ their messaging … by conveying the same messaging – over and over and over – from all of the NGOs as one united global front. I cannot think of anything more powerful than a unified message supported by every NGO on this planet. The fact is – if we don’t campaign for zero it will never even be tried and all our efforts will be in vain. We need to work on what a zero carbon world would look like and we need to convey how an average citizen is integral in such a society. Why? Because each and every person needs to believe this is 1- a true possibility and 2- that they are an important piece of the puzzle. Right now we do not believe that citizens feel like they are part of the discussion. So let’s think of ideas to convey how an average person fits and belongs in a new carbon free world. We need to communicate something that few can even imagine. Much of society believes that there is in fact no other way. If we are to deliver the truth – which is terrifying – it has to be delivered with a dream that can transition to a reality.
To get to zero a carbon tax is indispensible so part of our global campaign needs to be for a carbon tax. Campaigns get waged for things that must happen but have no chance of happening – without fighting for them.
We would also like to see a united font – supporting what Global Compliance Research Projects suggests; that we propose a change in the voting pattern of the UNGA. Generally for UN, General Assembly resolutions require a simply majority while for issues related to finance and peace, a 66% is required. We believe it is possible that about 80% of the member states could agree on a strong protocol to the UNFCCC. Given the urgency we believe that the consensus requirement has to be waived. A strong Protocol to the UNFCCC could then be used against the rogue states, and a case could be taken to the International Court of Justice under the UNFCCC, which even most of the rogue states including Canada and the US, have signed and ratified. Tuvalu, at one time, was prepared to take the US and other gross emitting states to the ICJ for violation of the legally binding UNFCCC.
David Spratt writes over the week-end: “Perhaps now the mainstream media will start to ask why 2 years of negotiating have led us to zero progress and people will finally start to mobilize.” The time for procrastination about climate change has long since passed; the world is in a state of emergency and inaction is negligence. The anticipated impacts of climate change as well as the unintended consequences, including those affecting human health, of climate change, the short term and long term impacts that are known and yet to be known have all contributed to the state of emergency. Any denial of the state of emergency is eclipsed by the moral imperative to abide by the precautionary principle. The time for truth is upon us – we’ve dealt the deck – this is now the last card to play.
The problem as we see it: Why are so many of our own NGOs continuing to support +2C and targets based on now what is considered completely irrelevant science? Schellnhuber points out (September 2009) that on sea levels alone, two degrees is catastrophic. We all know it is a mere illusion that +2 degrees and 450ppm is a reasonable target — this is an illusion Copenhagen will not dispel. As of 2005, the Earth was already committed to +2.4°C of warming above the pre-industrial level, irrespective of any actions we now take. Look at the arctic sea ice that has been lost with the increase thus far of +0.78. Now just imagine +2C. Though finally being recognized, it is still not being acknowledged that the ingredients for runaway are all in place today at the current +0.78C. The EU policy states that +2C is ‘not safe’ and that +2C ‘does not eliminate the risk of runaway climate change, it minimises it’. Our brothers and sisters of the most vulnerable countries are pleading for a maximum of well under +1.5C. John Holdren calls for a limit of +1C. Yet – an agreement with teeth that would actually limit warming to even two degrees seems most unlikely at Copenhagen. We understand why we settle for targets that will not avert climate catastrophe – as we cannot even persuade the politicians to accept the most minimal emission reductions. In reality we need 45-50% by 2020 – we need to peak now – at latest by 2015 – yet – we cannot even get Canada to commit to a mere 25% emissions reduction by 2020. Canada is up 30% emissions since Kyoto. We (CACC) have come to strongly believe that many NGOs are (with the best of intentions) condemning future generations by upholding such suicidal targets. Such actions are incredibly misleading to the public that count on NGOs to put their best interests first. We also believe that many NGOs – (again – all acting with the best of intentions) have become complicit by minimizing the realities of climate change – a complicity which allows people to remain disengaged and apathetic. Obviously we all have the best intent – but maybe we know need to ask ourselves if the time has not come to do some serious reflection. By sending mixed messages to the public on an issue which is already perceived as complex – this only adds to the massive false perception that the science is unclear. Here is an example: Greenpeace UK is asking for 42% emission cuts by 2020 pre 1990. Greenpeace India – 40% emission cuts by 2020 pre 1990. Greenpeace Canada – under KyotoPlus – 25% emission cuts by 2020 pre 1990. Greenpeace Canada states that Greenpeace International knows “that an increase in global temperature of even 1.5 degrees Celsius could lead to irreversible impacts and 2 degrees Celsius risks triggering catastrophic runaway climate change. So, in Canada – the public hears 25% as the number that is sufficient enough to save us from climate catastrophe. 25% being the number based on science from 3 or 4 years ago. Therefore – when they hear 40% or 45% from other NGOs – they see other NGOs as extremists.
If you find the following confusing – imagine how confusing it is an average person who understands little about climate change – check this out: “Greenpeace International is calling for “legally binding emissions reduction obligations for industrialized countries, as a group, of at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020″. Greenpeace Canada, in KYOTOplus, is calling for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of at least 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 is in line with the Greenpeace International target, if you take into consideration that greenhouse gas emissions in Canada have increased by 26 percent from 1990 levels between 1990 and 2007. So in effect by asking for a 25 percent decrease from 1990 levels by 2020, that reduction would include eliminating the additional 26 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions by Canada since 1990, which would make Greenpeace Canada’s request be in line with Greenpeace International’s target, or even greater than it, given how greatly Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 1990. So with both those facts taken into consideration, and compounding the 25 percent decrease with the 26 percent increase since 1990 in regards to Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, it makes the 25 percent of 1990 levels a more difficult target to achieve in only ten years time, but one that Greenpeace knows must be done to successfully combat runaway climate change.”
The above statement may well be true – but the point I’m trying to make is 1) that is confusing! Different targets all based on different science is effectively confusing the already complex issue of climate change. We are effectively sabotaging our own success. Such disparities suggest to the mainstream the idea that even the NGOs cannot agree on the targets, science, etc. It allows people to view climate change as an issue still being debated. People assume climate change is too scientific and too hard to comprehend. We need simple, concise messaging – and the message needs to be presented as one united message in the global sphere.
We believe the optimism that we find many NGOs to be insisting upon is misleading to the public and has proved far more harmful and ineffective than we may wish to admit. Most people in wealthier countries are not very concerned. People are shopping. There is no mobilization happening. Not like what we need to see. Climate change is mentioned seldom in our mainstream media. Many NGOs want nothing to do with the dire urgency / emergency messaging or the current science that terrifies even the scientists. We hear over and over from ‘the experts’ that people will not respond to such negative information. If we tell people the truth – people will become disengaged and do nothing. In response to this we must ask ourselves this – how much worse could it possibly be? What do we have to lose at this point? How much more disengaged and complacent could society possibly become? We are not politicians and perhaps some may have forgotten this. If people cannot rely on NGOs to uphold truth, principles and ethics … then are we any better than the politicians who are failing our children? Right now we are grossly losing this battle – no matter what the outcome – in twenty years – it would be comforting to be able to state in all honesty that we were screaming the truth at the top of our lungs and that we did the very best we could. The very least and the very best we can do, at this point in the struggle, is to keep our integrity intact. We live in socially bankrupt times – as environmentalists we must not allow our principles to be jeopardized. Deceiving the public by not stating the full truth and convincing ourselves that this is for the benefit of the people – is wrong. To continue to do this will leave many feeling morally bankrupt in the not so distant future. Albert Einstein said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. We tried the passive messaging. It resulted in passive people. We tried really hard for a long time – too long. Now it is time to move on. The ones who are really concerned and act – are the ones that have taken the time to research climate change and they have learned the real consequences we are facing on their own. The passive soft messaging has played into the hands of the corrupt political leaders who are literally getting away with murder as there is so little disapproval from the public who are illiterate of the critical issues.
One reason for public complacency in a recent psychology study is that the public gets the impression that the scientists are not convincing and not quite convinced themselves how bad things are when ever interviewed. Studies also show that the more people know the more they decide to rely on scientists and governments. We can understand this. In general the studies still show people (even recent science grads) still don’t understand the essential basic science. The scientists and our own environmental movement have participated in a fatal strategy of supporting only the IPCC (half truth) policy maker compromised science and of not telling the public the full truth for fear of ‘overwhelming’ people into ‘despair’. This perhaps is projection of their psychological denial. In a recent report ‘The Psychology of Climate Change Communication – CREDO – Centre for Research on Environmental Decisions it states ‘Psychologically, distant risks do not set off the same alarms that immediate risks do. Human minds are not designed to immediately react to threats like climate change that seem to manifest themselves in the distant future.’ The thing is climate change is NOT in the distant future. We do not know whether such reports / studies address the following issues: 1) The psychological obsession, often from a long history of Libertarianism, in the U.S. with the fear of external control. This obsession is permeated throughout Canada as well. 2) The psychological impact of the bombarding by scientists funded by the coal, oil and gas industries of messages about the flawed science related to climate change. 3) The psychological impact of citizens being asked to do their part, while the corporations, including the arms industry, flagrantly evade their responsibility. Would the public be receptive if these three psychological systemic constraints were overcome? We are not psychologists; however, we are the people who have worked on the ground – some of us for years – some for decades. We need to trust ourselves. David Suzuki has used every method ‘study groups / experts’ have / continue to suggest for at least a decade now – so much so that many bloggers have come to refer to his organization as ‘a well-known environmental group that has become infamous for supporting the provincial government’s greenwashing policies’. He has in affect knowingly made a decision to sacrifice his own reputation among many environmentalists in the hopes that the trade off would be reaching the mainstream on the issues of environmentalism and climate change that would result in vast behavioural changes.
Is it time to tell it like it is? How about some truth delivered with a big slice of what is still possible – if we act with WW11 mobilization urgency.
When we conversed with Clive Hamilton on these issues he told us his opinion: “I think the view that we should not scare people too much but provide a positive vision of the future is now deeply mistaken. We are way beyond the Mickey Mouse approach. There is only one strategy and that it to scare the pants off people by telling them the truth.”
We need to be using the same simple messaging for a complex issue. Here are some that we found:
- The only emergency response is an immediate reduction of emissions targeted at zero.
- the entire world is beyond dangerous climate change
- we all are facing a real and rapidly rising risk of total catastrophe
- we are in a state of dire emergency
- the only target that can possibly prevent total catastrophe is zero carbon emissions
- no measures can work without measures to tax carbon
Because of the global urgency, there must be the political will to strive to contain the rise in temperatures to less than 1C degree above pre-industrial levels (Bill Hare) and strict timeframes must be imposed, so that overall global emissions will begin to be reversed as of 2010 (now 2011?) There must be a target of 30% below 1990 levels by 2015, 45-50% below by 2020, and 95% below by 2050, while adhering to the precautionary principle, the differentiated responsibility principle, and the fair and just transition principle. All NGOs should be seen as united in backing this one global goal. We could use Copenhagen to launch an unequivocal climate emergency declaration in a global solidarity movement – the largest that the world has ever witnessed.
We believe that now – the bottom line out of Copenhagen is a declaration / an agreement that we are beyond dangerous climate interference and in a state of global emergency. Without that nothing will happen. We only need to reflect to the past to see this. The best scenario for such a declaration to happen is to all come out on the same date as a united front – this should not only include the larger NGOs – it should be led by the larger NGOs. If they still are not receptive – the grassroots groups should unite and do this on their own. In a short time – the NGOs not supporting this would be seen as the ones who are not knowledgeable and perhaps lacking in integrity.
We know that The Member States of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) ask for Annex I parties to the UNFCCC to reduce their collective GHG emissions by more than 45% below 1990 levels by 2020 – in their declaration. They call upon the international community to support them. Not only are they being ignored by the world leaders of the G8 countries, they are being ignored by many NGOs who continue to support weak targets in the public domain based on outdated science. Their plea for international community support is not upheld when we settle for little because the belief that something is better than nothing has become the status quo. It seems to us that we’re desperately losing this battle – we may have lost it already – yet – the one thing we can save is our integrity. The ‘leaders’ are refusing to contemplate anything even close to what we need to avoid catastrophic climate change – so again – is it not time for all NGOs to take a united front in declaring a global emergency? There are enough scientists now courageous enough to state publicly that the world is past dangerous climate interference facing catastrophe – we would be supporting these scientists and they in return would be supporting our strong messaging. This would lend other scientists the courage needed to speak out publicly. Is it not past time to unite behind the same message based on the science we now know today? If not now – then when? We are out of time. A new report by UNEP found the world will warm by 3.5 degrees by century’s end — even if every country enacts all the climate legislation it has promised to enact to date. So what good is this going to do us? In Canada alone – our emissions have risen 30% since Kyoto. “It is clear that limiting warming to 2ºC is beyond us; the question now is whether we can limit warming to 4ºC. The conclusion that, even if we act promptly and resolutely, the world is on a path to reach 650 ppm and associated warming of 4°C is almost too frightening to accept. Yet that is the reluctant conclusion of the world’s leading climate scientists.” Does this not sound like a global emergency? It certainly does to us.
Nothing that is currently on the negotiating table will get us remotely near the figure suggested by Martin Parry of Imperial College London and co-chair of the IPCC’s impacts working group. He told the Independent in January that even a two-degree target “would require cuts of 6% per year starting in 2010.”
Perhaps the best chance we have, in addition to a joint global declaration, is uniting on a global 10:10 campaign split up into countries as quickly as possible.
A global launch of 10:10 cannot be delayed because thus far, 10:10 is the only emergency response proposed. Mark Serreze, director of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, has declared that ‘Arctic ice is in its death spiral’. Perhaps a main issue to focus on now is the fact that the albedo cooling of the summer arctic will be gone within 10 years. This is irreversible and it is impossible to refreeze (Prof Peter Wadhams). No parties that we are aware have made any response to this cataclysmic event that we know of. We are told that this will result in a rapid 20% boost to global warming which means up to 40% in central continental North America. This would destroy prairie agriculture. It would also, as Peter Wadhams and other Arctic experts have said, melt the Arctic methane hydrates. There is a potential solution. The loss of albedo has to be replaced and can be – by painting Northern hemisphere roofs white. We would need to find enough reflective space to replace the 2.5 million square miles of lost Arctic albedo ice. But if we are not prepared for this – in 10 years the future of Humanity may be lost completely. We understand this seems off the wall and crazy – but this is where we are at. We know from the past – once feedbacks push us past irreversible tipping points – huge shifts can take place over years – not decades or centuries.
Looking at examples of emergencies that that have resulted in vast public reaction the most recent must be the H1N1 a.k.a. swine flu virus. In the U.S. just 3 weeks ago – Obama declared a national emergency on H1N1. Canada followed in their footsteps. For the last 3 weeks the media has been SATURATED with swine flu stories. There is no escaping it. People are lined up for blocks for vaccines; it is all people talk about. It is too bad we do not have multinational corporate interests to back funding of a fear of smog campaign. If there was only huge profits to be made from clean air this would be so much easier. The point is: why do we expect citizens or politicians to respond in an urgent manner if we are unwilling to state we are in a climate emergency? When the towers were destroyed in 911 and the airplanes were grounded – no one dared to complain – people were told there was an emergency – and people were prepared to suck up whatever they had to endure – and were happy to do so. See the attached pdf article by Thomas Homer-Dixon: ‘Fear if good’. Many of NGOs we attempted to engage in Canada do not wish to discuss real targets nor the current science. They are reluctant to do so, one reason being that they are fearful they could lose membership – therefore lose much needed funding. Another is the fact that many campaigns are still intact based on targets from 3 or 4 years ago – when the campaigns targets seemed progressive at that time. No one wishes to lose these campaigns they have vested time in. In Canada, Bill C-311 is based on targets that are completely irrelevant at this point. If passed the bill would be reviewed once every 5 years – even though the science is accelerating beyond what even scientists find terrifying. Even though most environmentalists acknowledge the bill is weak, flawed and desperately in need of amendments – no one is willing to even try to amend any of it for fear it will fail. Something is better than nothing even if the something is suicide. Problem: Because the environmental community continues to support it – the public believes it is sufficient. Question – Is soft messaging literally killing us?
We have been researching the issue of messaging over the past few months. More and more we see phrases of urgency coming from organizations around the world – mainly those feeling the first direct impacts of climate change. Greenpeace Australia has taken the position of zero targets (Final Warning to Humanity) as well as WWF. Since then – we are finding more and more grassroots organizations taking this position. The Emergency Network Australia has approx. 20 organizations endorsing it – two of them being the larger NGOs – Greenpeace Australia and Friends of the Earth which lends credibility.
We could utilize the Copenhagen conference by launching the global declaration of emergency and asking every group in the world to sign on – think of Paul Hawkins video – the one listing NGOs of the world. Apparently – one would have to watch it for 3 weeks 24/7 to read every organization that is listed. We could create a ‘live’ feed of groups signing on to this declaration. One target all based on the same current science. NGOs of the developed countries in full support of the declaration put forward by the small island states and the developing countries. One vision. One world. The ultimate message of solidarity. With the hunger strike happening at this same time – with direct actions – our live blogging, social media, we could turn Copenhagen around – where we truly take back our power by uniting as a global front. The world leads may not succeed with an agreement – however – we can present an agreement for the citizens of the world by the citizens of the world. Many NGOs are resisting strong language and strong targets as they do wish to be seen as ‘radical’. If there was ever a time in the history of the world to be radical – this is it. If the expression is true that united the people can never be defeated – then surely it is time to unite.
Canadians for Action on Climate Change
We only have months, not years to save civilization:
15 Oct 2009: Update of IPCC Report Says Pace of Warming Is Rapidly Increasing
Do extreme actions ‘alienate the mainstream’?
Beyond Zero Emissions
Only Zero Carbon
Zero emissions is supported by Greenpeace International
State of Emergency:
http://www.putpeoplefirst.org.uk/about-us/policy-platform/ (conference supported by almost 30 NGOs)
Reality check from the brink of extinction:
1. Submission to Copenhagen – Joan Russow – Global Compliance Research Project – Please see complete document at www.ClimateChangeCopenhagen.org