When tidying up my desk, I found a leaflet that got lost in a pile of papers. It was a leaflet from 2012 and came from 11.11.11 (an umbrella organization of Flemish North-South organizations). The leaflet was about the effects of climate change on the poor people of Africa. It dated from a time that this blog was still just an idea playing in my head and it probably evaded the paper bin because it is such a fine example coming from the we-can-change-the-climate department.
It started with a bang (translated from Dutch, emphasis by the author of the leaflet):
The climate is changing. You know that. With dramatic consequences. Every year, at least 300,000 people become climate victims in the South. And it will get worse if we don’t do anything.
Climate changes, nobody will doubt that. But that is obviously not what he meant. If you look at the leaflet as a whole, he meant “human induced” climate change. Changed by our emissions. It will hit home because the public is conditioned for many years by the media to understand it as such and the author surely is not going to give any background to make them think otherwise.
So judging from the first five sentences, the text is clearly emotional laden and it continues that way with two stories. One about a boy from Niger (Adamou) who can’t go to school because he has to get water always further away and one about farmers from Kenya (Rose and Simon Lokidongoi) who lost their last cow because of drought.
Then the upper-cut (translated from Dutch, emphasis by the author of the leaflet):
The biggest victims of climate change are exactly those who are the least responsible for it.
Do you find this unfair. Me too.
If it wasn’t already clear that this is an emotional appeal, now it should be. These people were painted as climate change victims, specifically because of our emissions. No other causes are given. So these two tragic stories seemed to be suggested as our fault and we have to make it better again by lowering our emissions and encouraging our politicians to do the same for our country and Europe.
At the back of the leaflet we get the consequences of global warming per degree Celsius (at this moment, +1 °C, +2 °C, +3 °C and even +6 °C). These were deliciously vague claims. For example, these are the effects of climate change already right now (translated from Dutch):