Thursday, 3 June 2010

The BP oil spill and reframing climate change

Today, the FT's Fiona Harvey has provided a quick, useful summary of the politics surrounding this week's climate change talks in Bonn. This year, "climategate", whilst overblown, has helped to make the public less receptive to messages about climate change. She concludes:

. . . the recession has grabbed all attention, and now the crisis in the Eurozone means European Union countries are far less interested in climate change than they are in the survival of the single currency. As finance is central to any progress on climate change negotiations, the recession could yet be the rock on which these talks founder.

I agree. But Fiona Harvey also notes that the BP oil spill has brought a whole new focus on to environmental issues and enabled environmental groups to broaden the issue to the way the US sees energy. [Here's one good example]
She says that the oil spill:

could yet be the most important thing to happen to the public discourse on climate change. Obama has in the past week linked the incident to both the dangers of fossil fuels, and pledged to try and get the climate bill through - both statements well overdue, in the eyes of environmentalists.

David Roberts of Grist has discussed at length the rhetoric used in Obama's latest speech on the climate bill, making the case for moving to a clean energy economy. Interestingly, the president explained that:

our continued dependence on fossil fuels will jeopardize our national security. It will smother our planet. And it will continue to put our economy and our environment at risk.

He made no mention of "climate change" or "global warming".

Over the coming months, Chris Huhne and other ministers in the coalition government will be making the case for a low-carbon economy, with more ambitious renewable energy targets - and, almost certainly, higher costs for energy consumers. They will be making it to a public that is more sceptical and less receptive to frames based on the dangers of climate change.

Will they follow Obama's lead, by bringing in the BP oil spill and, just as important, using new, potentially more powerful frames?

Posted via email from Neil Stockley

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