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Climate Propaganda burns out: neither hope nor doom works on audiences anymore

Hard to find some good news out there today. But here’s a bit:

People are immune to climate hopey gloom

Researchers tried to figure out whether to make their climate propaganda more scary or more uplifting but found instead that they might as well show 500 people “the history of smartphones”. (That was the control video). Nothing works anymore.

It was a complete wash. No new activists were made.

However, despite these emotional responses, neither [doom nor hope] video was associated with significant differences in climate change risk perceptions, likelihood of behavior change, or likelihood of climate activism. These null results suggest that the impacts of a single hope or fear appeal can be overstated…

After watching the online movies, nobody thought climate change was scarier, nobody want to change anything they did, and no one wanted to be climate activist either, unless they were already one to start with. After 30 years of propaganda, people have heard it all. Pounding them them with more isn’t going to work.

It didn’t matter which movie they saw. 

Climate communication. Research. Graph. Hope and Doom debate.

Neither doom, hope nor placebo did a thing.

The multi-billion dollar industry of climate propaganda was hoping to tweak their advertising and find the right point on the Dial of Fear. Instead they showed it’s all a waste of money. Just like research like this.

If they had shown something new, like, say, a skeptical video that the audience had never seen, that would have shifted perceptions, risks, and activism. (Remember when a one hour debate with Christopher Monckton shifted fully 9% of the audience?) 

There’s a lot of upside there to Red-Pill people with a story that many haven’t heard. Which is exactly why climate believers have to turn up the censorship screws. So get out there, share the message. 

This paper was submitted last April, but not accepted for eight months. It must have been hard to figure out how to spin those dismal results:

Do we need more scary climate change articles? Maybe

Kate Yoder on Grist

Ettinger’s new research, published in the journal Climatic Change, suggests that the whole “hope vs. fear” argument might be overblown. For the experiment, 500 Americans were shown different videos meant to evoke either hopeful or fearful reactions to climate change. (One group got a message along the lines of “Humanity can stop climate change and create a better world for all!”; the others heard, “Unless we take major action, humanity is doomed.”) While both videos evoked the intended emotions, in the end, neither one altered people’s willingness to change their behavior or participate in climate activism.


Ettinger et al (2021) Climate of hope or doom and gloom? Testing the climate change hope vs. fear communications debate through online videos. Climatic Change (2021) 164: 19 https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-021-02975-8





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