Time to change strategy: the focus on evidence of climate change fuels apathy

Time for a new perspective on climate change.

Time for a new perspective on climate change.

The world owes Tyler Hamilton a huge thank you. He reports on the good news on climate change. Do you scoff that it doesn’t matter? You’re in good company — many feel like you. It’s why I believe that the strategy of reasoning with deniers is a failure.

The web is full of images that document the retreat of glaciers around the world. Even tech geek sites like sploid-gizmodo show these photos. It’s powerful proof of climate change. But does this motivate people to change their behavior?

People Who Want to Cut GHGs Are Demotivated by Powerful Evidence of Climate Change.

In the comments on the Gizmodo photo essay on glacial retreat, Jesus Diaz wrote: “I watched Chasing Ice on Netflix a few days ago (about a large scale photography project to document this stuff) and it was so damn depressing.”

Mr. Diaz’ response is normal. When you get a steady diet of really bad news it depresses you. What mental state follows depression? Apathy. That’s when you lack emotion, interest and concern.

Powerful Evidence of Climate Change Hardens the Resistance of Deniers

NASA’s web sites have arguably the best photo evidence of glacial retreat all over the planet. It still wasn’t enough to convince deniers. They commented that the photos meant nothing, only showed variation from winter to summer. NASA did more research. It documented the time of year the mages were captured at. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that the photos were in fact taken at the same time of year, decades apart. NASA added this information to the photos on the web site. Pretty air tight, no?

Deniers in the U.S. House of Representatives responded by cutting NASA’s earth science budget.

Although the majority accept that climate change is happening they believe they can’t scrape together the money to live cleaner when they can barely make rent and put food on the table.

A New Approach is Needed

That’s why Hamilton’s stories are so important. He has consistently covered the evidence of progress toward solutions for climate change. In a recent Toronto Star article Hamilton wrote that Obama, when he refused the Keystone XL pipeline, said that “the transition to a clean energy economy… is… going more quickly than many anticipated.”

Mr. Hamilton needs to explain why Obama said that, instead of devoting most of the article to an attack on the International Energy Agency (IEA). Pointing out that the IEA has a history of underestimating how fast the world will move to renewables reinforces the “it’s hopeless” perspective.

So, why did Obama say the U.S. is changing toward renewables faster than expected?

Solar Electricity Costs Reach Grid Parity in 2016 in Most U.S. States

Blue lines above the zero line are states where electricity is cheaper to generate from solar cells than coal.

Blue bars above the zero line are US States where, in 2016, electricity will be cheaper to generate from solar cells than from coal.

Grid parity is when the cost of generating electricity from solar cells is as low as the cost of generating it from the cheapest fossil fuel, coal.

This year electricity from solar is cheaper than coal in 10 US States. By the end of 2016 Bloomberg reports that electricity from solar will be cheaper than coal in most US States.

It’s also vital to remind people of what a game changer solar electricity is. For years the big fear of most people was that the only way to cut greenhouse gas emissions was to live like a cave man. It seemed like the only way for the average person to cut their carbon footprint was to turn off their furnace and air conditioner and starve. If that seems extreme, consider this: GDP growth and oil consumption move in lock step for decades.

The fear of getting poorer is what has paralyzed public action.

We Can Have Our Cake and Eat it Too

But there is big change happening here too. The International Energy Agency states that “the global economy grew by around 3% in 2014 but energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions stayed flat, the first time in at least 40 years that such an outcome has occurred.

I would go further: 2014 is the first year of growth without more CO2 emissions, ever.

Think: more prosperity without more carbon dioxide.

Economies of scale will increase. So we will soon have more prosperity with less carbon dioxide.

If you own stocks in oil companies, sell them now while they’re still worth something. I have.

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Buying Personas – Something Old, Something New

Jay Baer’s  Youtility is a fun read. He says that “smart marketing is about help not hype.” It’s a bit shocking that this statement still has the power to shock.

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Buying personas then and and now

Baer points out that organizations are 60% of the way through the sales process before they call a sales rep. The stat was generated by the Marketing Leadership Council (MLC). It surveyed 1,900 organizations, private sector and government, enterprise and medium size and manufacturing, tech and finance.

MLC also “discovered” four distinct buying cultures: the Innovator, the ROI guy, the Relationship-er and the Risk Avoider. Those four buying cultures reminded me of Geoffrey Moore’s Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority and Late Majority.

I’m having to hypothesize because MLC hides its details behind a paywall. A bit ironic given that Baer’s message is “customers prefer to self-educate themselves — you win by making it easier for them.”

I’ve mapped Moore’s segment personnas into a 2 x 2 matrix to show what I mean.

The dominant feature of Moore’s Late Majority is that they’re skeptics. They need ALL the boxes ticked. Change is danger so they delay change as long as possible. Do these people sound like Risk Avoiders?

Moore’s Early Majority need to be comfortable that others in the community are making the move. Does it seem that these peoples’ defining characteristic is Relationship?

Moore’s Early Adopters are all about benchmarks and tangible improvements that are measured. Sounds like MLC’s ROI Guy to me.

Moore’s Innovators are all about speeds and feeds, ease of use, design elegance, and unique functions. This has been the standard candle for innovators for 20 years. It seems likely MLC is thinking along these lines for its Innovators.

In my experience multiples of these personnas are in play at the same time. You seldom get just one. Watch several of the customer testimonials on the OPower web site. Every spokesperson touches on at least two of the themes, often three, and sometimes all four.

This deeper emotional underpinning, what they’re feeling, is what will really hit home when you capture it in your marcom. Customers’ words are the key. Their testimony in their own voices is far more powerful than your best paraphrase. The maximum power is in the body language, intonation, repetition and other non-verbal cues. A good writer can capture this essence in words alone. If you can get video, so much the better.

The Two Most Important Numbers for Startups

First, there’s 60%. Enterprise customers are 60% of the way through the purchasing decision process by the time they call a rep. That’s what the Marketing Leadership Council (MLC) found in a survey of 1,900 of your targets.

Does your business plan depends on sales wins with enterprise customers? Then their ability to use the internet to educate themselves makes your task tougher. Because a smarter customer devalues what your reps know about products and solutions. So reps have less to trade for customers’ “why” and “who” information. That is, the decision making criteria, customer culture, internal politics, and key people.

Then there’s 80%. In surveys 80% of customers – and more — say that reps are unprepared for the first call. That shows the impact of customers educating themselves.

Here are four suggestions to re-balance the conversation with enterprise customers.

  1. Get the (right) word out. Suppliers who provide better information online get more business. The “right” words show how people use your stuff, and why.
  2. Create conversations. Write more testimonials, less white papers. Take a leading role in the special interest groups related to what you do.
  3. Message all buying personas. Learn to listen for the voices of the Innovator, the ROI Guy, the Relationship-er and the Risk Avoider. Usually all of them are in play so all need to be messaged.
  4. Tell a whole product solution story. Most products or services are part of a larger solution so providing the context adds value. Develop an example solution to present at webinars and trade shows. Keep practicing and polishing it.

What it takes to change the world

Were it not for John Hinckley and his crazed passion for a Hollywood child star, climate change would be far more advanced. Don’t believe me? Read on.

What might have been, in blue; what is, in green.

What might have been, in blue; what is, in green.

In the early 1970s, years before Hinckley fired on Reagan, chemists hypothesized that the widespread use of CFCs for refrigeration and spray bottle propellant might lead to much higher rates of deadly skin cancers.

Ozone gas high in the stratosphere normally absorbs most of the sun’s ultraviolet-B rays. What UV-B does get through is enough to cause skin cancers. CFCs are harmless at ground level. But they float up to the stratosphere where UV rays break the CFCs down, releasing high concentrations of chlorine atoms. A single chlorine atom can destroy 100,000 ozone molecules. And we were releasing nearly 1 million tons of CFCs a year. A skin cancer epidemic was highly probably without a ban on CFCs.

The 1987 treaty that banned CFCs took years to negotiate and was strongly opposed by many in the UK, France and Germany.

One of those opponents was Ronald Reagan. He won the presidency in 1980 on a platform of deregulation. Important Reagan appointees questioned CFC science. Anne Gorsuch, head of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), challenged the link between CFCs, stratospheric ozone depletion, and skin cancer epidemics.

But by 1986 Reagan was quietly supporting an aggressive global ban on CFCs according to Andrew Benedick, the lead US negotiator. Why did Reagan act against his principles?

No more for you, Mr. President.

No more for you, Mr. President.

Benedick and others credit Reagan’s fight with skin cancer. Reagan loved the outdoors. Whenever possible he would sneak away from the office to ride his horses and chop wood. In early 1985 the bill for Reagan’s decades of unsafe sunning came due when doctors diagnosed aggressive skin cancer. To get rid of it doctors operated two, possibly three times, between November 1985 and July 1987.

But there had to be more. It can be hard to change your mind. But to change policy you have to resist the social pressure of your entire community – and win. Reagan faced strong opposition to the CFC ban from his own cabinet as well as the Republican party. Reagan’s support for a ban on CFCs makes him the only GOP president or candidate in over 30 years to defy the party line.

Some argue that Margaret Thatcher, a trained chemist, persuaded Reagan. But Thatcher only joined the ban-CFC bandwagon in late 1987 after the initial treaty was signed in July. Benedick says Thatcher came around after scientists, who had been denied direct access, were allowed to pitch Thatcher directly.

If not for this moment, climate change would be much worse now.

If not for this moment, climate change would be much worse now.

The appearance of the ozone hole likely played a part.

Scientists predicted that ozone levels would gradually decline. Instead a huge ozone hole formed in the skies over Antarctica in the space of a few years. It was obvious that the same collapse would soon happen in northern latitudes. This news became public in 1985 around the time Reagan’s dermatologist was giving him the bad news.

Before any of that, there was Hinckley. He missed assassinating Reagan in 1981 by the tiniest of margins.

Aid Michael Deaver told interviewer Charlie Rose that after the attempt on Reagan’s life he became more stubborn. He believed that he was chosen by a higher power, and that the shooting was a reminder of this. Reagan decided to more closely follow his own instincts.

As bad as the droughts, famine and flooding are today it could be much worse. CFCs are a very much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Without a CFC ban the effects of climate change would be far more advanced.

But thanks to a love of the outdoors, skin cancer, the ozone hole — and Hinckley — we have a ban on CFCs.

New Insight Into Why Fact Based Green Policy & Marketing Fails

Mr Emotion beats Mr Reason

McCoy is in charge, not Spock.

Can science explain why educated and intelligent people don’t believe science? Yes. For green marketing and green policy the implications are profound.

Since the Enlightenment we believed that people are rational. Give people the facts and based on reason and logic they will make sensible decisions. Research reveals an inconvenient truth that turns 300 years of accepted wisdom on its head. Facts take the back seat when we make up our minds.

  • Facts are filtered through values and beliefs, about morality and how society should be ordered
  • Education plus strong beliefs can make people more resistant to ideas that contradict their beliefs
  • When these conditions exist, attempting to motivate these people with facts can produce a backlash
  • Who you will accept as a legitimate scientific authority is determined by your value-belief framework.
  • It makes you discount the validity of facts scientists present about risks and benefits
  • These are universal human traits that show up across the spectrum of morals and beliefs

When it comes to climate change, and policies related to it, people with strong faith and conservative convictions are the most likely to deny the facts. When these folks are highly educated they actively attack the science  and policies related to it.

Is there any hope for change? Yes. The science must be presented by business or religious leaders. And the science must be framed in the context of business profit-and-loss, or faith-based values.

For more on the research behind these findings check out The Science of Why We Don’t Believe in Science in Mother Jones.

A new approach for selling green buildings and green retrofits

This doesn't look like green building. But his story will help sell them.

This doesn’t look like green building. But his story will help sell them.

Green buildings make their occupants happier and more profitable and are worth more. How come every new building isn’t green? How come every existing building isn’t getting a green retrofit?

The message isn’t getting through because of the way our brains process information. To summarize:

  • Thinking requires a lot of oxygen and calories.
  • To prevent exhaustion the brain filters out most incoming data.
  • Most is routed to the subconscious and processed there.
  • Conscious thinking is only engaged on exceptional things.

So how do we overcome our own defenses? Here’s a 3-step solution.

  1. Reframe the story.
  2. Find a respected community leader to re-tell the story
  3. Repeat, repeat, repeat

Let me give a simple example based on my own experience. I’m a skier and follow downhill ski racing. For a long time I only cared about who finished 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Then I changed my mind. Here is how it happened.

Reframe the story. I read a book by a retired racer. He explained that the difference between 1st and 15th is less than a tenth of second. That’s time it takes to blink 2 or 3 times. That’s incredibly close after racing 3.5 kilometers (2.5 miles) at 150 km/h (92 mph). Reframing showed that my focus on 1st, 2nd and 3rd made no sense.

Messages need messengers. The person who explained this was himself a world champion. At the time he was the first non-European ever to win the downhill championship. Plus he’s Canadian, as am I. All this credibility and personal identification has been proven to help new facts slip past the old guard.

Repeat, repeat, repeat. We are bombarded with more information than any creature that has ever existed in the 4 billion years that earth has circled the sun. This racer likely said these  things before and I follow racing news. But I only came across the story after he retired and wrote an autobiography.

The Power of Anchoring to Stop Innovation

Anchoring: sometimes the brain works in weird ways.

Would you consider a 50% death rate among your staff to be a serious problem? That’s typically how many sailors died on ocean voyages in the 1700s. Scurvy was the main killer, not enemy action. By 1747 a young Royal Navy surgeon found a scurvy cure. Yet 50 years passed before the Navy started adding a spritz of lime juice to the daily rum ration, to end scurvy. The story is a great example of how a mental process known as anchoring stops innovation in its tracks.

In 1740 Captain George Anson lead a squadron of 6 warships and 2 supply vessels on a round-the-world voyage in pursuit of a Spanish treasure ship. Of the 1,850 men who sailed only 180 men survived. That’s a 90% death rate. Scurvy is caused by not eating enough vitamin C. Your gums bleed, your teeth fall out, and then it gets nasty. The Navy brass were unsure of what caused scurvy but they knew it was crucially important to capture the treasure ship.

This is anchoring at work, the tendency of the brain to hunt for a reference point when it needs to make a decision. All facts are then evaluated relative to the reference point — NOT the absolute value of all the facts in total. Often the anchor is set early in the going, when you’re first learning about a subject. That is, you tend to give greater weight to things you learn first, and discount later facts.

Anchor #1: old ideas seem more important. For centuries people believed there was no difference in the food value of these two items.

So, back to Captain Anson and the Royal Navy brass. They were aware decades before Anson’s voyage that citrus juice seemed to prevent scurvy. And scurvy was known to kill far more sailors than enemy action. However the notion that nutrition had anything to do with scurvy was a completely foreign concept. For centuries all food was thought to be the same. As Bill Bryson wrote in At Home – A Short History of Private Life, “a pound of beef had the same value for the body as a pound of apples, or parsnips or anything else.” This was just one of the ancient and time-tested anchors that new ideas about scurvy prevention had to move.

The horrendous death rate of Anson’s crews was not unnoticed. It contributed to James Lind, a Royal Navy surgeon, testing out citrus juice as a scurvy cure in the late 1740s. On one voyage Lind divided 8 sailors with scurvy into 4 groups. He gave each group a different diet. Only one group got lemons and oranges. Only the sailors who got citrus juice recovered from scurvy. Pretty compelling proof right?

Wrong. Nothing happened. Despite Lind’s hard evidence, 50 years passed before the Royal Navy added lime juice to the regular diet of its sailors.

Anchor 2, mission priority. When you need 100 million or so of the items on the left, letting scurvy kill a few thousand or so of those items on the right seems like a good deal.

It wasn’t just that the Navy brass were especially stubborn. There was another anchor already set. England needed to finance an arms race with Spain. The threat of open war was constant. Spain held Central and South America. These territories were rich in gold and silver, far moreso than England’s colonies. Spain showed every sign of being able to outspend England. Then as now, arms races are terribly expensive. Lord Newcastle, the First Lord of the Admiralty, gave Anson one mission and one mission only. Steal as much Spanish treasure as he could, and get home. It was great strategy. It lessened Spain’s advantage and boosted England’s ability to keep pace in the arms race.

Capturing a treasure galleon was great strategy but fiendishly hard. In over 150 years of trying Anson’s capture was only the Royal Navy’s second success. Anson was given a hero’s welcome. Eventually the King made Anson First Lord of the Admiralty.