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Climate change: it’s time for the communications industry to pick a side

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In a time of moral crisis and a battle for hearts, rather than minds, the communications industry must end its relationship with the climate change denial lobby, writes Kirsty Schneeberger. 

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality,” said JFK, interpreting the Third Canto of Dante’s Inferno. 

Gripped in a moral crisis of such epic proportions, as we are in relation to climate change and fossil fuel based economic systems, we must ask ourselves “who is preserving their neutrality?” Mired in the deep-rooted politicisation of a systemic failure many of us have impotently borne witness to; the fight over data, scientific facts, moral and economic rationalization, and – ultimately – semantics, play out on the world’s stage.

We align ourselves with the scientists we trust, the politicians who represent our views, those papers that tell the story we want to believe in. But whose side of the story are we most exposed to? How do we determine whether or not we can trust a source?

There are those who patiently produce graph after graph, believing that a rational mind will understand it for what it is. That we will be able to interpret detailed analysis for ourselves and form conclusions that will satisfy our thirst for understanding. 

The reality is, however, that any word to support or any morsel of evidence to justify our own position is pounced upon and heralded as being the truth. Forget the graphs and analysis, forget the rational argument and logical conclusions drawn, this is a battle of hearts, not minds.

Out there in the digital landscape we have access to all the information we could ever need to develop an informed opinion, but access isn’t the issue, representation, or rather misrepresentation, is.

With big PR companies being employed not to promote the truth, but to peddle the views of the highest bidders, a multi-billion dollar industry has grown up around the ‘communications’ of climate change.

In focusing on fees and selling their services to those who can pay, has the communications industry maintained a morally neutral position, or have they inadvertently picked a side by default? Have they been hiding behind their ‘independence’ in order to promote the views that best align with themselves and their profits?

In failing to consult a moral compass on the issue of climate change, they have also failed to recognize that the service they provide is helping to promote views that go against society’s best interests. They are promoting misinformation that doesn’t necessarily prevent people from having access to unbiased information; rather it skews the debate by using its powers of persuasion to muddy the waters and make it even more difficult for the general populace (not to mention politicians) to reach an informed view. 

In his poem The Second Coming, Yeats writes that “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”

It is not so much that the ‘best’ – those who are earnestly trying to promote a fair side of the story – lack conviction. It is perhaps that they have neither had the resources to call on PR companies to promote their messages; nor have they had a willingness to engage in deploying ‘spin’ tactics.

And rightly so. As soon as there is even a whiff of ambiguity relating to scientific issues, climate deniers and the biased press leap upon it, blowing its relevance out of all proportion, leaving the grains of truth hidden in the wake of a non-scandal.

But that’s not to say the balance cannot be tipped in favour of those promoting the messages that we need to hear. This week’s revelation of PR companies refusing to work for climate deniers is just one way (of many) in which we can combat the promotion of misinformation.

Thanks to the work of the Climate Investigations Centre we now know that 25 of the world’s top PR companies have taken a stand against climate deniers. No longer will climate denialism be given the megaphone it has so desperately relied on.

This is one of the most important steps in tackling the insidious influence that climate deniers have enjoyed over the past few decades, whilst others have tried in earnest to keep the debate ‘clean.’

Whether they were neutral or not before, the PR and communications industry is finally catching up with the likes of Futerra and Nice and Serious, and taking a side – the good side. In this time of moral crisis they have saved themselves a few degrees of eternal heat: Mephistopheles will be most displeased to have lost out on such promising clients. 

Kirsty Schneeberger is a co-founder of Beautiful Corporations, a sustainability engagement and communications consultancy. She previously worked for the Stakeholder Forum, leading the UN engagement work on sustainable development in London and New York.

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Further reading:

Top PR firms rule out working with climate deniers

US billionaire Tom Steyer to launch $100m campaign against climate deniers

BBC tells journalists to cut airtime for climate change deniers

Sir Richard Branson says climate deniers should ‘get out of the way’

Prince Charles attacks ‘headless chicken’ climate change deniers

Environment

How Home Automation Can Help You Go Green

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home automation to go green

The holidays are an exciting, nostalgic time: the crispness in the air, the crunch of snow under your boot, the display of ornate holiday lighting up your home like a beacon to outer space, and the sound of Santa’s bell at your local Walmart.

Oh, yeah—and your enormous electric bill.

Extra lights and heating can make for some unexpected budgeting problems, and they also cause your home to emit higher levels of CO2 and other pollutants.

So, it’s not just your wallet that’s hurting—the planet is hurting as well.

You can take the usual steps to save energy and be more eco-conscious as you go about your normal winter routine (e.g., keeping cooler temperatures in the home, keeping lights off in naturally lit rooms, etc.), but these methods can often be exhausting and ultimately ineffective.

So what can you actually do to create a greener home?

Turn to tech.

Technology is making waves in conservation efforts. AI and home automation have grown in popularity over the last couple of years, not only because of their cost saving benefits but also because of their ability to improve a home’s overall energy efficiency.

Use the following guide to identify your home’s inefficiencies and find a solution to your energy woes.

Monitor Your Energy Usage

Many people don’t understand how their homes use energy, so they struggle with conservation. Start by looking at your monthly utility bills. They can show you how much energy your home typically uses and what systems cost you the most.

monitor energy usage

Licensed from Shutterstock – By Piotr Adamowicz

The usual culprits for high costs and energy waste tend to be the water heater and heating and cooling system. Other factors could also impact your home’s efficiency. Your home’s insulation, for example, could be a huge source of wasted heating and cooling—especially if the insulation hasn’t been inspected or replaced in years. You should also check your windows and doors for proper weatherproofing every year.

However, waiting for your monthly bill or checking out your home’s construction issues are time-consuming steps, and they don’t help you immediately understand and tackle the problem. Instead, opt for an easier solution. Some homeowners, for example, use a smart energy monitor such as Sense to track energy use in real time and identify energy hogs.

Use Smart Plugs

Computers, televisions, and lights still consume energy if they’re left on and unused. Computers offer easy cost savings with their built-in timers that allow the devices to use less energy—they typically turn off after a set number of minutes. Televisions sometimes provide the same benefit, although you may have to fiddle with the settings to activate this feature.

A better option—and one that thwarts both the television and the lights—is purchasing smart plugs. The average US home uses more than 900 kilowatts of electricity per month. That can really add up, especially when you realize that people are wasting more than $19 billion every year on household appliances that are always plugged in. Smart plugs like WeMo can help eliminate wasted electricity by letting you control plugged-in items from your smartphone.

Update Your Lighting

Incandescent lightbulbs can consume and waste a lot of energy—35% of CO2 emissions are generated from electric power plants. This can have serious consequences for increased global warming.

To reduce your impact on the environment, you can install more efficient lightbulbs to offset your energy usage. However, many homeowners choose smart lights, like the Philips Hue bulbs, to save money and make their homes more energy efficient.

Smart lights can be controlled from your smartphone, and many smart light options come with monthly energy reporting so you can continue to find ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Take Control of the Thermostat

Homeowners often leave the thermostat on its default settings, but defaults often result in heating and cooling systems that run longer and harder than they need to.

In fact, almost half the average residential energy use comes from energy-demanding heating and cooling systems. As an alternative to fiddling with outdated systems, eco-conscious homeowners use smart thermostats to save at least 10% on heating and roughly 15% on cooling per year.

Change your home’s story by employing a smart thermostat such as the Nest, ecobee3, or Honeywell Lyric. Smart thermostats automatically adjust your in-home temperature by accounting for a variety of factors, including outdoor humidity and precipitation. A lot of smart thermostats will also adjust your home’s temperature depending on the time of day and whether you’re home.

Stop Wasting Water

The average American household uses about 320 gallons of water per day. About one-third of that goes to maintaining their yards. Using a smart irrigation systems to improve your water usage can save your home up to 8,800 gallons of water per year.

Smart irrigation systems use AI to sync with local weather predictions, which can be really helpful if you have a garden or fruit trees that you use your irrigation system for  water. Smart features help keep your garden and landscaping healthy by making sure you never overwater your plants or deprive them of adequate moisture.

If you’re looking to make your home greener, AI-enabled products could make the transition much easier. Has a favorite tool you use that wasn’t mentioned here? Share in the comments below.

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Environment

Working From Home And How It Reduces Emissions

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Many businesses are changing their operating model to allow their employees to work from home. Aside from the personal convenience and business benefits, working from home is also great for the environment. According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, if employees with the desire to work from home and compatible jobs that allowed for this were allowed to do so only half the time, the reduction in emissions would be the equivalent of eliminating automobile emissions from the workforce of the entire state of New York. Considering the stakes here, it is vital that we understand how exactly working from home helps us go green and how this can be applied.

Reduction of automobile emissions

Statistics by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that the transportation sector is responsible for about 14% of the total Global Emissions of greenhouse gases, which is a very significant percentage. If employees work from home, then the need to travel to and from their workplace every other day as well as other business trips are reduced considerably. While this may not eliminate the emissions from the transport sector altogether, it reduces the percentage. As indicated in the example above, a move to work from home by more businesses and industries cuts down automobile emissions to as much as those from an entire state.

Reduction of energy production and consumption

According to Eurostat, electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning accounted for as high as 26% of the Greenhouse gas emissions from the EU in 2014. EPA stats are also close at 25% of the total emissions. This makes energy production the single largest source of emissions. Working from home eliminates the need for large office spaces, which in turn reduces the need for electricity and heating. Similarly, the need for electrical office equipment and supplies, such as printers and computers, is also greatly reduced, which reduces the emissions from energy production in offices. Additionally, most households are now adopting green methods of energy production and implementing better ways of energy usage. The use of smart energy-efficient appliances also goes a long way in reducing the energy production and consumption levels from households. This, in turn, cuts down emissions from energy production from both the home and office fronts.

Reduced need for paper

Paper is also a huge source of emissions, considering that it is a carbon-based product. EPA stats show that carbon (IV) oxide from fossil fuel and industrial processes accounts for 65% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Working from home is usually an internet-based operation, which means less paper and more cloud-based services. When everything is communicated electronically, the need for office paper is reduced considerably. Moreover, the cutting down of trees for the sake of paper production reduces. All these outcomes help reduce the emissions and individual carbon footprints.

Effective recycling

While businesses make an effort to recycle it is not as effective as homeowners. Consider everything from the water you drink to office supplies and equipment. While working from home, you have greater control over your environment. This means that you can easily implement proper recycling procedures. However, at the office, that control over your personal space and environment is taken away and the effectiveness of recycling techniques is reduced. Working from home is, therefore, a great way to go green and increase the adoption of proper recycling.

Takeaway

Even though the statistics are in favor of working from home to reduce emissions, note that this is dependent on the reduction of emissions from home. If the households are not green, then the emissions are not reduced in the least. For instance, if instead of installing a VPN in the router to keep the home office safe, an employee buys a standalone server and air gaps it, the energy consumption is not reduced but increased. Therefore, it is necessary that employees working from home go green if there is to be any hope of using this method of operation to cut down on the emissions.

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