Guardian: Rein in Advertising to Save the World from Climate Change

Polish steak advertisement circa 1928, modified. link

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to a think tank report, excessive advertising is driving materialist consumerism which is contributing to the destruction of the world through global warming. But in my opinion this is a thinly disguised attack on free speech.

Rein in advertising to help tackle climate crisis, report urges

Industry promotes materialism and lifts sales of climate-harming products, study says

Sandra Laville
Fri 27 Nov 2020 17.00 AEDT

Advertising needs to be controlled and changed to reduce its impact on the climate, according to a report released as consumers prepare to spend billions on Black Friday.

The report by the New Weather Institute thinktank and the charity We are Possible examines how advertising indirectly contributes to climate change and the ecological emergency.

The report says the advertising industry has so far escaped scrutiny about its role in contributing to climate change. Tim Kasser, an emeritus professor of psychology at Knox College in Illinois, who co-authored the report, said there was a body of evidence to show that in order to make progress in addressing and reversing climate and ecological degradation, it would be prudent to rein in and change the practices of the advertising industry.

“This report argues that enough sound empirical evidence exists to support the conclusion that the advertising industry indirectly contributes to climate and ecological degradation through its encouragement of materialistic values and goals, the consumption-driving work and spend cycle, and the consumption of two illustrative products, namely beef and tobacco,” Kasser wrote.

Read more:

The executive summary of the report;

Advertising’s Role in Climate and Ecological Degradation

Many industries have been recognized as directly and indirectly causing climate and ecological degradation. So far, however, the advertising industry has largely escaped accountability. This report attempts to remedy the omission by looking at four ways that advertising indirectly causes such harm. Specifically, it reviews scientific literature showing that materialistic values and goals, the consumption-driving work & spend cycle, and the consumption of two illustrative products (namely beef and tobacco) are each a) encouraged by advertising and b) implicated in causing various forms of environmental damage. It seems likely that similar dynamics occur for other products, services, and experiences. This body of empirical evidence therefore supports the conclusion that if humanity hopes to make progress in addressing and reversing climate and ecological degradation, it would be prudent to rein in and change the practices of the advertising industry.

Read more:

The author Tim Kasser is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Knox College, US, author of several books including ​Hypercapitalism (2018) and ​The High Price of Materialism (2002), and co-editor of ​Psychology and Consumer Culture (2004). He is a research advisor to the Badvertising campaign.

Although reining in advertising might seem like a great idea, especially as we all endure the frenzy of Christmas marketing, I see this whole idea as a thinly disguised attack on free speech.

I’m not disputing the harm tobacco causes, but once you have laws which regulate what people are allowed to advertise on the basis of the nebulous climate harm the products allegedly cause, its no big stretch to abuse those laws to regulate other forms of speech, such as advocacy for political opposition to renewable energy, on the grounds that the speaker is “advertising” activities or ideas which are harmful.

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Al Miller
November 28, 2020 10:40 pm

Sounds like thinly veiled attack on free markets, which is a blatant attack on personal freedoms. Although I confess to not reading any of the professors works, the titles certainly lead one to believe that he is professing some form of heavy handed socialism. Which is short hand for lack of freedoms- big government will only listen to the experts who agree with (are paid by) them. People’s freedoms are secondary to the desire of the then unaccountable governance of some “benevolent ” (sarc) “leader”. Come to think of it this sounds familiar…

Bryan A
November 28, 2020 10:41 pm

I would think that Smoking, like Biomass generation would be considered Climate neutral, only releasing the CO2 that it sunk during its growth. And, unlike Biomass tobacco sinks in a year what it releases in a year so it’s much more CO2 neutral.
Neither am I promoting smoking, nor am I paid by Big Tobacco, I quit smoking 30 years ago (who knew … food has flavor)

Dudley Horscroft(@dudleyhorscroft)
November 28, 2020 10:42 pm

Obviously he only speaks for the USA, but I would rather doubt his views that advertising ensures excessive expenditure on beef. At the best (or worst) advertising beef would divert expenditure from pork, lamb, mutton, veal, ham, sausages, pork pies, rabbit and any similar meat products. I don’t think it would divert expenditure from cod, dory, shark, herring or sardines!

People advertise because they think it works. It may do, for some people, but consider, we have on TV adverts extolling the Nissan Juke (a Juke Box?). Does this make people go out and buy a Juke? Or if they have already bought one, buy a second? or a third? …

No amount of advertising would make me buy Brussels Sprouts. Was there not an American President who inveighed against such sprouts, and then suffered a lorry load of them being delivered on the White House lawn?

Reply to  Dudley Horscroft
November 29, 2020 12:25 am

I think that was asparagus, and I sympathise with him. BTW, they were donated to charity, not wasted.

very old white guy
Reply to  Dudley Horscroft
November 29, 2020 5:41 am

Brussel sprouts fried with bacon and covered with maple syrup are a-ok.

Rich Davis
Reply to  very old white guy
November 29, 2020 9:07 am

But you can hold the Brussel sprouts on mine, please.

Reply to  very old white guy
November 29, 2020 12:39 pm

Brussel sprouts are little cabbages from hell. Not many people know that Brussel sprouts are not a natural vegetable, they’re man-made. While several fruits and vegetables are man-made, Brussel sprouts were created by people who have a defective sense of smell and taste. The smell of cooked Brussel sprouts is nauseating.

Reply to  Dudley Horscroft
November 29, 2020 10:44 am

Advertising has occasionally “swayed” me by introducing me to a new product or a new option on an existing product. Otherwise, it’s meaningless to me. Beef? I didn’t even know they advertise beef – I eat it because it’s tasty.

Reply to  Dudley Horscroft
November 29, 2020 12:21 pm

It wasn’t so much that he inveighed against them. Rather a reporter asked him a question something like “What were the advantages to being President?” Bush the Elder replied, “Nobody could force him to eat his brussel sprouts.”

BTW, the truck load of brussel sprouts was advertising dollars well spent. It kept the reporters talking about the sprout during the nightly new for a week.

Edward Hanley
November 28, 2020 10:47 pm

Advertising is something capitalist economies do, equally as important as getting raw materials, manufacturing, transporting, warehousing, research and development, training, accounting, and maintaining facilities. And so on. All of these activities are finely balanced against each other. Eliminate or restrain any part of the process and you hinder or eliminate the whole process. The author, from his history, is anti-capitalist. This is not an attack on free speech, it is an attack on capitalism and anyone who would participate in or benefit from capitalism. If the author gets his way, we will have a better planet, without pollution. Or human beings.

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  Edward Hanley
November 29, 2020 5:08 pm

G’day Edward H. Your “Advertising is something capitalist economies do…” is spot-on, but might I suggest the word “capitalist” be changed to “free enterprise”. It’s a more accurate description of what the the system really is, and one side of the aisle absolutely hates that expression.


Reply to  Tombstone Gabby
November 30, 2020 7:13 am

one side of the aisle absolutely hates that expression.

Well, free is a four-letter word, after all…

November 28, 2020 11:06 pm

It could be more sinister than that. When I lived in Prague in the early 60s when it was still very communist, advertising was very simple, still well produced because the Czechs know about art, but there was not much choice. Almost everything was government produced and/or managed. Good and imported stuff was available for tourists and party bosses with ‘Tuzex”, a special currency.

November 28, 2020 11:09 pm

Be honest it’s an attack on capitalism not free speech.

Reply to  LdB
November 29, 2020 12:08 am

And how is it not an attack on free speech? “Advertising needs to be controlled and changed” unquivocally implies direct government intervention to limit speech which is CENSORSHIP even according to “it’s only censorship when government does it” crowd.

Also, I’ve lived in a communist country. Censorship was rampant and omnipresent – we even had a Censor’s office for God’s sake. You couldn’t publish uncensored newspapers or books. People went to prison for telling a political joke (thanks to tens of thousands of “secret informers” paid by communist government).

All of my experience and intimate knowledge of communism tells me communism is the very enemy of freedom of speech and freedom in general.

Think – how else can you limit ownership of private property, if not with totalitarianism?

Reply to  Laertes
November 29, 2020 4:00 am

The suppression of free speech is a like a misdemeanour, the result and target is far worse. It is like charging someone with littering of spent cartridges when they have shot someone.

Reply to  Laertes
November 29, 2020 12:25 pm

The proximate target is free speech, the ultimate target is capitalism.

It’s like the allies in WWII trying to limit German aircraft production by taking out a ball bearing plant.

Reply to  Laertes
November 30, 2020 7:20 am

Western governments have gotten a little taste of totalitarianism this year, and they have discovered that they really, really like the flavor.

November 28, 2020 11:23 pm

Yet another whacko psycho-ologist trying to tell everyone else what to do.

All he is after is advertising for himself. !

Taking the principle that “Badvertising” is better than none.

November 28, 2020 11:27 pm

Nothing like a LBD 🙂

Seem that stores aren’t even allowed to sell things at a discount without raising the petulant SJW ire.

John Anthony
November 28, 2020 11:48 pm

More nanny state nagging from leftie professors, what’s new?

November 28, 2020 11:54 pm

As Prof. Philip Stott says “I’ll believe in man made global warming when the Guardian stop advertising cheap flights!”
Classic hypocrisy by the Guardian.

Coeur de Lion
November 29, 2020 12:22 am

Who is to do the regulating? What laws have to be passed? How are standards and limits to be established? Who is to police the results. Appeals? Or is it all there already?

Vincent Causey
November 29, 2020 12:42 am

I had no idea. I assumed people bought washing machines, refrigerators, tv’s cars and even food because they need those items. Things that people are FORCED to consume include wind turbines and solar panels, all of which are harmful to the environment and very energy intensive to produce.

None of what they say stands up to common sense, but they do say it’s in psychology papers so that doesn’t surprise me.

November 29, 2020 12:46 am

I say it again: Watts readers would feel less stress if they just avoided the Guardian and Watts didn’t keep printing articles from it…

It isn’t as if it is a major influencer: I’m sure you could safely ignore it.

Reply to  griff
November 29, 2020 1:36 am

Unfortunately, the Grauniad is read by many senior civil servants and BBC staff so it is a major influence on their groupthink.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  griff
November 29, 2020 1:56 am

You posts references and links to The Guardian all the time Griff, why should anyone else be different?

Reply to  griff
November 29, 2020 2:58 am

Yet Their biggest customer is the BBC

Funny that

Reply to  griff
November 29, 2020 3:12 am

poor widddle gwiff,

We don’t get stressed except from too much laughter at the incredible ineptitude of these clowns.

Just like you, they make a TOTAL MOCKERY of the AGW scam.

Just like you, they are a total REALITY-free and SCIENCE-free zone.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  griff
November 29, 2020 4:16 am

You truly don’t understand free speech, do you? You *never* ignore public speech. You have to keep informed of what others are saying. It’s the only way you can know what free speech you need to indulge in yourself. The answer to speech is more speech, not ignorance.

Bryan A
Reply to  Tim Gorman
November 29, 2020 8:38 am


Bryan A
Reply to  griff
November 29, 2020 8:36 am

You got it bass-akwards Griff.
The Guardian isn’t a source of stress for WUWT readers and posters, it’s perfect fodder for the ridiculae

Reply to  griff
November 29, 2020 10:46 am

I never thought I’d see the day that tabloids became a threat and a weaponized tool of similar minded political leaders.

In a similar vein, it was the Kaiser’s crazy ideas and actions that fueled new rounds of crazies that followed. Some of the Jewish participants in the first round didn’t see themselves as the targets of the second round until it was too late.

Reply to  griff
November 29, 2020 12:27 pm

Griff really hates it when the propaganda in the Guardian is exposed.

Like most totalitarians, he prefers the victims to remain unaware of their fate.

Reply to  griff
November 29, 2020 1:16 pm

griff says, “Watts readers would feel less stress if they just avoided the Guardian and Watts didn’t keep printing articles from it”

Unlike most leftists, people around here don’t feel a need to quarantine themselves from differing opinions. Plus admissions from people on the other side of the fence are more compelling and less susceptible to their complaints about the source.

November 29, 2020 12:49 am

How about a Suzanne Moore prize for free speech

Staff at the Grauniad would love that!

Peta of Newark
November 29, 2020 1:56 am

” a thinly disguised attack on free speech”

And where does Free Speech come from if not = “Other People’

2 points arising..
1) There are too many rats in the cage..
2) The existing rats have become paranoid i.e. they are frightened/scared of the other rats, without good reason.
The best way they can see to alleviate this fear is to assert *control* over the other rats – put them ‘in their place’ and tell them what they can or (usually) can NOT do

Be very wary peeps when, for example and with the very best of intentions, you assert you want to get energy/electricity to the poor and poverty stricken of this world.
Aside from the fact you also want to give them everything from Coca Cola & junk carbohydrate food to guns, alcohol and gonorrhoea – You Are Looking To Control Them

Try empathy (understanding) and respect before you give them all that siht.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
November 29, 2020 12:32 pm

I believe it was Reagan who once said that the 1st amendment is designed to protect unpopular speech. After all, speech that is popular doesn’t need protecting.

November 29, 2020 2:05 am

How about the Grauniad lead by example and refuse all advertising in all of its titles. That should surely cure one problem.

November 29, 2020 2:18 am

The enemy is capitalism.
“This is the first time in the history of mankind, that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for the past 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”
Christiana Figueres
When head of UN-FCCC

Reply to  Clive08
November 29, 2020 12:35 pm

At the local level, capitalism has been around for a lot longer than 150 years. Pretty much from the time Og traded a sharpened rock for a bunch of berries.

At the national level, mercantilism held sway for quite a few years.

William Haas
November 29, 2020 2:19 am

The idea here is that advertising motes consumerism that causes more CO2 to enter the atmosphere. But the reality is that, despite all the false scientific propaganda, there is no real evidence that CO2 has any effect on climate. There is also plenty of scientific rationale that the climate sensitivity of CO2 is zero, Hence excessive advertising has no effect on global climate. It is all a matter of science.

Carl Friis-Hansen
November 29, 2020 2:24 am

As long as shops are privately owned, they will advertise their products.
Solution to this Green obstacle is to let all shops be owned by the state./fascism

YouTube is in practice already gone state and Green controlled.
I had a short list of interesting videos regarding Corona. I wanted to see one of the videos again – terminated.
I went through the shortlist:

Tanzanian President John Magufuli
About the CoV-2019. Goats and fruits have corona virus.
Stop being afraid, work hard and go on with your lives.

An Inconvenient Covid Truth
150,317 views Jul 16, 2020
MIT, Duke, and Medical University of South Carolina graduate Dr. Andrew Kaufman, MD, joins Del for a mind-blowing discussion detailing what we actually know about the #COVID19 virus itself, and the very inconvenient truth every American needs to know.

America’s Frontline Doctors Summit 27.-28. July 2020
3h live event recording about HCQ+zink
American life has fallen casualty to a massive disinformation campaign. We can speculate on how this has happened, and why it has continued, but the purpose of the inaugural White Coat Summit is to empower Americans to stop living in fear.
If Americans continue to let so-called experts and media personalities make their decisions, the great American experiment of a Constitutional Republic with Representative Democracy, will cease.

Samuel Eckert
Corona Info Show 23.11.2020 Gast: Naomi Seibt

Becoming inactive:
Naomi Seibt’s Youtube channel

Before being closed down, these were not promoted/advertised by YouTube -welcome to 1984 – the only advertisement you will see in the future are the Green approved, whether food, thoughts, entertainment and health issues.

Climate believer
November 29, 2020 3:10 am

Advertising is all just hot air…….oh! hang on

November 29, 2020 3:15 am

Dunno about all that bullshit but I’ll tell you THIS fact:

Use of glossy card advertisements in the USPS completely negates almost all paper recycling efforts and should be banned. Plastic windows should also be banned.

Reply to  Prjindigo
November 29, 2020 12:38 pm

Paper recycling is pretty much a waste of time to begin with.

Tim Gorman
November 29, 2020 4:22 am

This is nothing more than a slow roll away from the philosophy of “you can do anything that isn’t prohibited” to the philosophy of “you can’t do anything unless it is specifically allowed”. It’s a move away from a free society to a totalitarian society. Shades of Orwell.

November 29, 2020 4:51 am

Bovine lives matter;-)
Im sure the cows would be offended to be lumped in with baccy

November 29, 2020 5:47 am

In fact, the report is co-authored by Andrew Simms of the New Weather Institute. NWI states that

The New Weather Institute is a co-op and a think-tank, created to accelerate the rapid transition to a fair economy that thrives within planetary boundaries. We find, design and advocate ways of working and living that are more humane, reasonable and effective.

No mention of climate or weather there, which is quite revealing, though of course they do peddle climate alarmism. Simms himself founded in 2007. The spiel there was

From today we have 100 months to save the planet.

100 months before the earth’s climate system could ‘tip’.

100 months to deliver comitted action.

100 months and counting…

I must have missed the ‘tip’ in 2017.

The NWI website states that another member, Sarah Woods,”has recently been commissioned to adapt Karl Marx’ Das Kapital for BBC Radio.”

Yes, I think I’ve an idea about where these people are coming from.

John Bell
November 29, 2020 5:49 am

I would love to examine the author’s life and his consumerism, make a mockery of it.

November 29, 2020 6:10 am

Rein in idiots like Maine Governor (King Godmother) Janet Mills before it’s too late….

November 29, 2020 7:03 am

Time to rein in the government funding of colleges, which has served mainly to drive up prices and produce political propaganda for the party giving the kickbacks.

Peter W
Reply to  Ted
November 29, 2020 3:07 pm

The problem is that educators naturally tend toward idealism, and idealism is what Marx and Gore, etc., are all about.

November 29, 2020 10:39 am

Anyone tell Google?

November 29, 2020 10:51 am

What is the funding source for the Guardian? What is his name?

November 29, 2020 11:36 am

At my age advertising has very little effect on me, I buy what I want because I want it. Sometimes an ad for something that is new, or I have never tried, catches my eye, but I usually eventually don’t bother, or the price puts me off.

November 29, 2020 12:14 pm

Focussing on beef is rather peculiar when the obvious ‘consumerism’ goes for throwaway gear of all sorts. It suggests that they think the first step in revamping the economy is to make us all vegetarian. The reference to tobacco, advertising of which is already controlled, is also weird.

Off topic. I listened to a recent lecture on global health by Chris Whitty (Chief Medical Officer for UK & lockdown czar) to find out more about him. His take on health is that it is unevenly distributed at both large and small scale topographic analysis. He will not be satisfied until health outcomes are completely homogeneous – everything from suicide rates to heart disease. How he is going to make dangerous professions like tree falling and mining have life expectancies identical to parliamentary secretaries is beyond me.

Reply to  Fran
November 29, 2020 12:42 pm

“How he is going to make dangerous professions like tree falling and mining have life expectancies identical to parliamentary secretaries is beyond me.”

“Logan’s Run” comes to mind.

November 29, 2020 12:16 pm

This goes back to the standard liberal belief that the only reason why everyone isn’t a liberal is because evil capitalists don’t want them to.

In this case, it’s a firm belief in the myth that advertising has brain washed the masses. Of course the progressives aren’t swayed by this advertising, because they are morally superior beings. The average citizen though is too weak minded to resist, and thus has to be protected from himself. Our self declared superior beings are more than willing to to provide this service, for the good of mankind of course.

The reality is that advertising doesn’t create demand. Watching a Burger King ad doesn’t make someone who isn’t hungry suddenly start craving a Whopper. What it does do is direct someone who is hungry, to drive to BK instead of say, MacDonalds.

November 29, 2020 1:07 pm

A lot of people in the ad biz are quite left of center. Although a loss for freedom of speech, it would be poetic justice if some got laid off.

November 29, 2020 2:45 pm

Well he went from, “I do not like this,” to “You shall not be allowed,” in a split second.

Reply to  OldGreyGuy
November 29, 2020 3:04 pm

That’s a progressive for you.
Also, it’s pretty short distance from “You shall not be allowed” to the gulags.

November 29, 2020 4:24 pm

Let’s start with cutting back with advertising in The Guardian. Let them set an example for all as they lead the way with the headlines “Save the World, Stop Advertising with Us!” and start refusing money so they can rely upon the unicorn farts and unobtanium that will soon power the world and make us all millionaires.

Paul C
November 30, 2020 3:01 am

I have avoided the politicised rag for decades, but seem to recall there was not a lot of commercial advertising in that bumf even then. Mostly public sector (BBC, local government), so was a way to skew their recruitment even more to the left. Hopefully, commercial advertisers will take note, and support the Gruniad’s position by not forcing that paper to take their money. There are plenty of other papers to advertise in, and even some that people still read from time to time.

Just Jenn
November 30, 2020 6:18 am

Hmmm…psychology professor pronouncing the destruction of advertising for the greater good, who has advertised to sell his own books. Sent in his article to a publication that has advertising.

People in Glass Houses really shouldn’t throw stones.

As for the attack on beef and tobacco—I won’t even go there. I will say this: did he bang his cane against the floor when announcing beef as the big advertising problem?

Sam L.
November 30, 2020 8:26 am

Guardian HEAL THYSELF of all those advertisements by swearing OFF of them!

michael hart
November 30, 2020 2:37 pm

It’s a simple corollary that when global warming is claimed to affect everything, then everything thus becomes a legitimate target for regulation or outright banning. Which is just fine for those people that really really really like controlling what other people can do, say, or even think.

December 1, 2020 6:47 am

And of course, ‘studies’ ‘proving’ what the Grauniad claims magically appear… I recently heard of one on the Freakanomics podcast, which stated that some 90% of advertising was a waste of money.

Of course, the replicability crisis likely rears its ugly head in this case… I’m betting that in a handful of years, we’ll see another study which cannot replicate the results of the study highlighted in Freakanomics, with a quiet retraction and ‘correction’ which completely changes the results of the Freakanomics-featured study while claiming in the abstract that the ‘correction’ doesn’t change the takeaway, using some handwavium excuse as to why being diametrically opposite to reality is really just the same as reality.

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