Tipping Point Or Turning Point? Social Marketing & Climate Change

Phil Downing and Joe Ballantyne

Tipping Point Or Turning Point? Social Marketing & Climate Change

"Everest ice forest is melting" (Guardian, 30 May 2007); "Extreme weather: forecasters warn of more to come" (Independent, 01 July 2007); "Climate change blamed for rise in asthma and hay fever" (Times, 13 May 2007); "The next few years are critical in the fight for the climate" (Telegraph, 4 February 2007); "Pay up … or the planet gets it" (Sun, 30 October 2006); "British armies must ready for global warming" (Mirror, 25 June 2007).

On the subject of climate change the public find themselves in a different world to that of only a few years ago. Barely a day goes by without a media headline telling us of the possible impacts. In the high street we are confronted by more and more sustainable choices — HSBC is suddenly a green Bank; Marks & Spencer has its Plan A; Ikea doesn't give free plastic bags. At the ballot box David Cameron wants us to "Vote Blue: Go Green". On the big screen we don't see Arnold Schwarzenegger these days because he's focusing his efforts instigating the US's flagship low carbon policy. We can, however, see Al Gore who, when not directing Oscar-winning documentaries on climate change, is organising rock concerts and giving Bob and Bono a run for their money.

It is tempting to think we've made it. NGOs are convinced, politicians persuaded, business on board, and the media is covering it all. Surely then, the debate is over. In the face of a dangerous climatic tipping point, we stand on the verge of a behavioural turning point. Or do we?

This report focuses on the perspectives of the public — the way they think and behave in relation to climate change, as well as their values and aspirations. What signs are there already of a transition to low carbon lifestyles? And how far are we really willing to go? Drawing on recent Ipsos MORI research and that of others, it sets out to establish the prospects for effective behaviour change policy and the role that social marketing could play as part of the mix.

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