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.