Advertising and its Interdependence with the Roots of Climate Change: Rethinking the Role of Agency to Address Global Warming

18:00 Tuesday 28 May




David Park (United States of America) 1

1 - Florida International University

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) views the production and consumption of goods and services, aided by advertising, as key drivers of global warming through their contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (Climate Change, 2014). These mechanisms exist within a historical global political and economic structure rooted in growth economic policies. The purpose of this paper is to identify and understand the manner in which advertising interacts with the main mechanisms (i.e. production, consumption and growth economics) of human-made climate change. It does this by synthesizing scholarship to trace the complex interrelations among these variables with the environmental crisis. Understanding these relationships within this context helps us understand the power dynamics among the mechanisms that influence global warming, as well as assists us in the development of future theoretical frameworks that connect advertising with the climate crisis. With limited time to reverse the trajectory of the crisis, often referred to as one of the most urgent problems facing humankind (Anderson, 2012; Hansen, 2009; Lewis & Boyce, 2009), it is hoped this paper can also inform new policies to assist in reversing the crisis’s trajectory.

This paper makes two arguments. First is that the manner in which advertising interacts with production, consumption, and growth economics, suggests these mechanisms are interdependent in their ability to influence global warming. This interdependence implies that significantly altering any one of the four mechanisms, would likely change the present teleology of the climate crisis. The second argument, which is premised on the first, is that there is a need for scholars to reassess the role of power-relations and agency within advertising. Its interdependence with the other mechanisms suggests that if modified, it has substantial aptitude to alter these mechanisms, and thus positively impact climate change.

This paper begins by briefly defining advertising and ecology, which helps inform how capitalism, as a historic mode of production, cultivated the operationalization of contemporary advertising. It next defines and traces the relationships between advertising and the other main man-made mechanisms (production, consumption, and growth economics) that influence global warming. The trajectory of how these relationships negatively affect the environment in both the industrial and the postindustrial digital eras are then discussed. Last, this paper contributes to theory building by highlighting the complex relationships among variables (Donohew & Palmgreen, 1989; Reynolds, 1971) that connect advertising with environmental degradation, while informing new strategies and policies to address the climate crisis.