Prof’s challenge of ‘misleading’ climate change advert dismissed

2013-03-15 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s advertising watchdog has dismissed a complaint lodged by a professor who objected to a government advert blaming drought on climate change.

The advert stemmed from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 17th Conference of the Parties in Durban in 2012.

The Department of Environmental Affairs produced advertising content at the time, including one advert which depicted a desert-like landscape under the heading “More climate change means less water”.

Professor Philip Lloyd, of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, objected, saying the advertisement was dishonest, misleading, unsubstantiated and inaccurate.

His complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) was dismissed, however.

This week, department spokesperson Albi Modise said the advertising campaign was meant raise awareness of climate change during the COP event.

“The advertisement in question appeared in most mainstream newspapers across the country during 2012, conveying the message that the country must take action against climate change now to avoid serious consequences on our water systems in the future,” said Modise.

But Lloyd was defiant yesterday, saying he “knew this to be false for several reasons — the weather service looked at our rainfall patterns some years ago, and failed to find any trends, even though it has been warming for the past 150 years”.

He said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report on extreme events, and its findings were inconclusive.

“I myself have looked at quite a lot of our rainfall data, and can also find no evidence for any trends. I have even published a paper on the statistics of rainfall to aid those looking for trends,” said Lloyd.

He said that in its response, the ASA had said, in effect, it believed it was in the public interest to allow the department to publish such claims even though they were not literally true.

“I think it raises an interesting point, and could change the face of South African advertising/propaganda if allowed to go unchallenged,” said Lloyd.

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