The Decade That Matters



    In order to make use of our findings, we must now bring these insights into digital conversations together. 

    Our online conversations are of course highly dynamic and, as with human nature, trends and opinions can quickly change.

    However, we believe the data we have uncovered, together with the further analysis applied, points to three key areas around how we discuss the challenges that face us as a species. While seemingly separate at first glance, aligning these trends can help provide a path along which we might find meaningful environmental change.

    1. Perception matters

    The evolution of parlance – the shift first from ‘Global Warming’ to ‘Climate Change’, and then an upping of intensity via the emerging pivot to ‘Climate Crisis’ – shows that public consciousness is beginning to understand the threat as urgent. It also shows that perception of such issues matters and can make a difference. 

    To some extent this may appear an exercise in branding: an attempt to make an invisible threat feel as real and immediately dangerous as a global pandemic, where mortality rates can be linked directly to a cause.

    2. Practical solutions are sought – and possible

    All conversations around renewables and clean energy have grown hugely since 2010. Recent flashpoints of extreme temperatures, polar and glacial melting, and wildfires have only spiked conversations further.

    Online news coverage continues to pick up, but the biggest spikes have come from Twitter, whether that is due to the frequency and severity of natural disasters, commentary and reports on the climate crisis, or political figures and activists.

    The key evolution over the decade, however, is seen in a trend away from vague warnings and towards practicality, where renewable energy and awareness of carbon emissions has made online communities keen to seek real solutions.

    It is prudent here to recall that Covid-19 has shown that globally sanctioned ameliorative measures to combat threats – the sort many may have previously thought impossible – can happen and, when managed effectively, happen at great pace.

    3. Online discussion often has a singular focus

    As we have seen with the global pandemic, the media, corporations and influential spokespeople (and therefore public conversation) tends to follow one topic at a time with a singular passion. In 2020, the overall volume of climate-related conversations has dropped in favour of coverage of the pandemic. The data reminds us that public attention is indeed focused but is also fickle. 

    This in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, and is to be expected given the severity of the Covid situation, but it does serve as a reminder that – despite an overwhelming wealth of sources of news and discourse online – we still, largely, tend to give attention to one issue at a time; the one that appears most pressing.

    A way forward

    Considering these findings, and applying our wider understanding of the climate discussion, we believe that in order for the environment to benefit from the kind of rapid and pragmatic change that a global pandemic can usher into effect, it needs to be discussed in the same way, with the same sense of urgency, with the same focus on immediate action being required and then taken, and at the same enormous, relentless volume.

    While scaremongering is not the answer, the branding of an issue can speak volumes. The evolution in the collective understanding of how the world will be reshaped – that described by the shift from ‘Global Warming’ to ‘Climate Crisis’ – is a helpful phenomenon in this regard. To maintain the energy that will be required to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, the term ‘crisis’ and all that it implies is a useful phrase to rally around.  

    Across the media, space must be maintained for conversation around the climate crisis. If and when the topic needs to share the headlines, then it must find a way to share equal footing alongside any other existential threat. Only under those conditions are the changes required to avoid the worst of the concomitant crisis likely to materialise.

    For us at BayWa r.e., the takeaway here should be to remember the way in which Covid-19 has dominated our conversations – in person and online – and help the environment do the same. The climate crisis must remain front of mind across news and social media, and the intensity of that discussion must not be allowed to drop. 

    And that’s vital. As we navigate this new decade, we have our best and last chance to propel forward the green transition at the pace needed. We have reached a pivotal point – one, if we succeed, which will be looked back upon by future generations as the moment when we finally took a united global stand against climate change.

    Only if we commit to that stand will actionable, practical change be achievable at the scale that is necessary to avert a climate catastrophe over the course of the next decade – The Decade That Matters.