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Climate ads running on TV

Television advertising may be pivotal in the coming debate about climate legislation in the U.S. Senate. Analysts believe that 20-25 senators may still be undecided on how they will vote on an energy/climate bill later this year. That leaves room for TV ads like this one from Clean Energy Works, a coalition of environmental and labor organizations, to make a difference:

At a time of rising unemployment, the emphasis on “clean energy jobs” may be particularly effective. Another ad produced by shows war veterans highlighting national security concerns.

Meanwhile, the World Wildlife Fund just launched a series of ads that point out the environmental risks of climate change with specific versions that target undecided senators in Alaska, Indiana, Maine, Montana, and North Dakota.

These ads represent a new development in the modern environmental movement, which in its 40-year history has rarely had the resources to advertise on television. Now the proliferation of cable TV channels and more precise audience targeting are giving environmental groups new access to the airwaves.

Opponents of climate legislation, including oil and gas interests, are already out in force with their own ads (see this announcement from the National Association of Manufacturers). And they will spend a lot more money (probably 5-10 times as much) than environmental groups. But at least viewers — and some senators — will see both sides.

Thirty-second ads aren’t the best way to explain an issue as complex as global climate change. However, to the extent advertising can shape public opinion and influence votes by elected officials, we had better pay attention.

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