Climate change and marketing: Stranded research or a sustainable development?

Published date01 November 2018
Date01 November 2018
Climate change and marketing: Stranded research or a
sustainable development?
C. Michael Hall
Department of Management, Marketing and
Entrepreneurship, University of Canterbury,
Christchurch, New Zealand
C. Michael Hall, Department of Management,
Marketing and Entrepreneurship, University of
Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch,
New Zealand 8140.
Climate change represents an existential crises for economic, social, and natural sys-
tems. Given the significance of the topic and the importance of behavioural change,
it might be expected that marketing may be a substantial contributor to climate
change studies. However, this is not the case with substantially less than 1% of papers
in a sample of marketing journals being concerned with climate change. Nevertheless,
there is substantial interest in marketing practices and climate change outside of mar-
keting journals. It is therefore posited that, as a discipline, marketing may potentially
become a form of stranded research in the social science of climate change rather
than a positive sustainable contribution to emissions reduction and consumer studies.
It is also observed that a shift in focus from carbon literacy to the carbon capabilities
of consumers presents a significant challenge to marketing assumptions about agency
and structure and the relative roles of upstream and downstream marketing and the
ethics of marketing practice.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC; 2018) report
on global warming of 1.5°C provides a stark warning of the need for
keeping levels of global warming to 1.5°C and the implications
between global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C above preindustrial levels.
With a high degree of confidence, the IPCC states that Global
warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it
continues to increase at the current rate(IPCC, 2018, A1). In the
language of the IPCC, future climaterelated risks will be larger if
global warming exceeds 1.5°C before returning to that level by 2100
than if global warming gradually stabilizes at 1.5°C, especially if the
peak temperature is high (e.g., about 2°C; high confidence). Some
impacts may be longlasting or irreversible, such as the loss of some
ecosystems (high confidence)(IPCC, 2018, A3.2). Risks include more
extreme weather, sea level rise and ocean acidification, and detrimen-
tal effects on agriculture, biodiversity, human health, and water avail-
ability. The highly conservative nature of the IPCC report (Resplandy
et al., 2018), also meant that the systemic implications for economic
and political stability were not discussed in detail, nor the implications
of socalled tipping pointsin the earth's biological and climatic
systems, beyond which impacts become unstoppable, irreversible or
even accelerate. These include spatiotemporal shifts in the
occurrence of monsoons, the halting of the gulf stream, and the col-
lapse of icesheets, all of which would have enormous economic and
social repercussions.
Despite the conclusions expressed by scientific bodies with
respect to the effects of climate change, there remains enormous
political marketing and public affairs concerns with respect to the
framing of climate change arguments and knowledge as well as the
activities of interest groups in influencing the public policy making
process. Such concerns are accentuated by claims by some sceptics
and deniers that anthropogenic climate change is theoretical, for
example, based on the theory that humansourced greenhouse gas
emissions are the primary cause of warming temperatures during
much of the industrial age(Olson, 2018, p. 299; this author's empha-
sis). Although no single peerreviewed publication on climate change,
or any other scientific issue, should be accepted without due scrutiny,
the existence of a scientific consensus, especially one as overwhelm-
ing as exists for humaninduced climate change, raises the level of
confidence that the overall findings of that consensus are correct (Hall
et al., 2015). However, a scientific consensus on the reality of anthro-
pogenic climate change does not mean that there is no critical debate
(Hulme, 2009). There is substantial debate over many aspects of cli-
mate change science, not only with respect to levels of confidence
and uncertainty, but also the paradigms and frameworks within, which
Received: 4 November 2018 Accepted: 7 November 2018
DOI: 10.1002/pa.1893
J Public Affairs. 2018;18:e1893.
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, 1of7

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