Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
The UN’s Climate Secretariat will get free PR advice so it can inspire politicians to take action. But the UN’s own survey says the public ranks climate change last among 16 priorities.
I’ve observed previously that the public relations community plays a disturbing role in the climate change debate.
PR companies specialize in selling us things – ideas as well as tangible products. They’re guns-for-hire. Their job isn’t to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They’re not interested in playing fair. Rather than encouraging debate, nuance, and independent thought, they push simple-minded sound bytes. They’re experts at blanketing the airwaves with a select point-of-view.
The fact that the board of the David Suzuki Foundation is chaired by the president of a PR firm tells us something about the David Suzuki empire.
The announcement, two days ago, that the UN’s Climate Secretariat will receive pro bono PR advice is also revealing. The headline of the press release plays down the PR angle, and instead chooses to call this a “New public-private partnership.”
But the entity involved, Brodeur Partners, is in the business of selling “branding, marketing, public relations, communications and social media services.” That’s what it does.
According to the press release, the UN seems to think that “building broad-based support for a universal global agreement on climate change by 2015” is simply a matter of good PR. If only Brodeur will help it “refine and strengthen [its] communications efforts,” a “groundswell of support” will follow.
With Brodeur’s help, the UN intends to develop a strategic communications plan and to “fine tune” its “overall messaging.” This, we’re told, will “inspire decision makers to support immediate and ambitious climate change action.”
But here’s the problem. Back in June, I wrote about a UN survey that invites people around the world to rank 16 issues in terms of what’s most important to them. Back then, 622,000 votes had been cast. Checking in today, I see the grand total has risen to 929,594.
What has remained constant is that the same issue that ranked dead last in June remains dead last three months later. That issue is climate change. Worldwide, the top three priorities, for both men and women, are education, healthcare, and honest governments.
The conclusion here is obvious. The average person doesn’t consider climate a priority. There’s nothing equivocal about this. This isn’t a matter of interpretation. Climate is the last item out of 16 possible choices that we want our leaders to spend time and money on.
Which means that, if Brodeur is successful in helping the UN persuade politicians and bureaucrats to implement ambitious climate change measures, it will have performed the opposite of a public service.
It will have convinced those in authority to behave in a manner that is fundamentally undemocratic. It will have cajoled them into pursuing policies that the UN well knows are utterly lacking in public support.
Let’s hear three cheers for the PR industry.
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Read the UN’s press release here
See the UN’s “global survey for a better world” here
hat tip to Tom Nelson