…and other publicity stunts of the increasingly desperate.
You can’t make this stuff up. The UN has put out a call to, in essence, audition young women under 30 to be the face of the international climate change cult. So far, 544 women have put their names in the hat. The BBC describes it as finding a “Malala” for the climate change movement – after Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who captured global attention when she was shot by the Taliban and survived to become an advocate for women’s education.
The successful candidate is to be a woman from the developing world who has already worked in “advocacy on climate change or implementing climate mitigation or adaptation solutions.” She will speak at the opening session of the 2014 Climate Summit, which starts in New York City on 23 September.
If the UN can strike gold, Miss Climate Change (my nomenclature; the UN isn’t calling her that) will provoke the same media frenzy as young Malala, catalyzing with some much-needed oomph a movement that is slowly sinking in the quicksand of actual climate data.
The UN is dressing this up in social-demographic arguments about women being overrepresented among the world’s poor, and thus being more vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. But I doubt they’re fooling anyone.
It appears to be kind of a Hail-Mary for the climate faithful. Polar bears don’t seem to be the heart-tugging meme-bot they once were. The climateers have been straining recently for something to kickstart a meme with some stickiness to it – and from where I sit, it looks like their efforts keep sinking without a trace. If anyone’s buying what they’re selling, you can’t tell, because no one’s talking about it.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, photographer Nick Bowers of Sydney, Australia launched a photographic series called “Scared Scientists,” which features images of scientists being scared about climate change. Each scientist’s scared face is accompanied by a quote. The art campaign (sample below), duly promoted by Huffington Post and other popular media outlets, doesn’t seem to have made much of a dent on the public consciousness.
At the same time – literally, the day before; but, hey, surely not coordinated – the Sydney Morning Herald carried a lengthy article on climate scientists who are giving in to despair and suffering serious depression over the world’s inaction on climate change:
Nicole Thornton remembers the exact moment her curious case of depression became too real to ignore. It was five years ago and the environmental scientist – a trained biologist and ecologist – was writing a rather dry PhD on responsible household water use.
After a two-decade career in green awareness and eco-tourism, Thornton was happy to finally be researching her pet project at the University of Technology in Sydney – but she was also on edge.
Thornton had always been easily upset by apathy towards, and denial of, environmental issues. But now she began to notice an oddly powerful personal reaction to “the small stuff” – like people littering, or neighbours chopping down an old tree.
She found herself suddenly and strongly enveloped by unfamiliar feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, anger and anxiety.
“It’s strange. Sometimes you just don’t feel you’re making headway in the time you’ve got, before it’s too late for the planet,” Thornton says. “All these little things weigh you down, and then the big stuff breaks you.”
The United Nations was about to hold its 2009 climate change conference in Copenhagen, and Thornton felt she had a personal investment in it. She, like many thousands of activists and scientists and green campaigners, had high hopes that a new and robust version of the Kyoto agreement would be created in Denmark.
“But the reality was a massive, epic failure of political will. It broke me,” she says. “The trigger point was actually watching grown men cry. They were senior diplomats from small islands, begging larger countries to take action so that their nations would not drown with the rising seas.”
Thornton pauses, takes a breath. “It still gets me, five years later. That’s when I lost hope that we were able to save ourselves from self-destruction. That’s when I lost hope that we would survive as a species. It made me more susceptible to what I call ‘climate depression’.”
This and other affecting tales were collected by journalist Konrad Marshall and aimed at a sentimental public. But they appear to have fallen flat. It’s not just that no one’s talking about them. It’s that what people are talking about now is the counter-evidence against the key claims of the climate change lobby.*
One of the splashiest reports in the last week was by the UK Daily Mail, with recent satellite imagery showing a significant recovery of Arctic sea ice since 2012. The Mail report carefully quoted a scientist who cautioned against trumpeting a “recovery,” as well as one who said, “The Arctic sea ice spiral of death seems to have reversed.” But the featured thrust of the story is the undeniable hash it makes of Al Gore’s prediction in 2007 that Arctic sea ice was likely to be totally gone by 2014.
Other sticky topics from the last few months have been the unusually cool summer in North America and parts of Europe, the current major-hurricane “drought” in North America, and the prospect of the “warming pause” of the last two decades not only lasting another ten years, but even turning to a long-term cooling trend, due in part to a historically low solar minimum.
Physical evidence just keeps rearing its ugly head. So the climate lobby is looking for more attention-grabbing stunts. A man named Alex Bellini plans to live alone for a year on an iceberg, in what will surely be one of those hilarious stunts that look completely different if you zoom out and see the ship nearby, and all the support equipment and the cameras.
Even funnier, perhaps, is that his stunt is starting out bathed in irony. He’s apparently advertising it by driving around Thame, UK in an SUV decorated with the “Adrift” logo for his iceberg quest.
All these publicity appeals are starting to seem, well, stagey, at the very least, if not downright cheesy. The UN needs a Climate Malala, and fast. The good news: the competition doesn’t seem to involve wearing a swimsuit or an evening gown.
* One very crude measure is the number of Facebook shares of the various articles or posts cited in this post. The SMH article on desperate scientists, for example, published on 13 August, shows 1,000-odd direct shares at this viewing (on 1 September). The Mail Online report about Arctic ice, posted on 30 August, has been shared more than 8,300 times already. Even HuffPo, with its 95 million daily visitors around the world, hasn’t been able to generate more than 4,300-some Facebook shares for its post on the “Scared Scientists” photo series, which was put up on 25 August.