Seahorse is thrilled to announce that Costanza Poggi has joined Seahorse as a Consultant. Costanza joins after three years as a policy adviser in the politics team of leading think tank Green Alliance. She has experience of collaborating with stakeholders across the sector to promote political leadership on the environment including on climate change, air pollution, Brexit, marine protection and low carbon trade. Before Green Alliance she worked as a research consultant for the International Institute for Environment and Development, focusing on the political economy of low carbon and climate resilient development. She holds an MA in Environment, Development and Policy and a BA in International Relations, both from the University of Sussex.
With the Met Office confirming that summer 2018 was the joint hottest summer on record in the UK, Seahorse questions the impact this summer’s notorious heatwave has had on the way climate change is framed.
Across the Northern Hemisphere, summer 2018 has been characterised by extraordinary climatic extremes, from soaring temperatures to persistent droughts and devastating wildfires. The heatwave has had severe and extensive impacts on human health, agriculture, nature and infrastructure: there were 663 more deaths than average in England and Wales during June and July, whilst consistent water shortages and hot temperatures have caused alarm over crop yields and livestock vitality.
Due to its extremity, the heatwave received a great deal of media attention, beginning towards the end of June when temperatures started to soar across Europe. According to preliminary research by the World Weather Attribution consortium of scientists, this summer’s heatwave was made more than twice as likely by human-caused climate change. The media, however, initially portrayed the heatwave as a result of an unusually weak jet stream, without highlighting any possible links between climate change and the weather we were experiencing. Over time, however, there was a shift in the media’s narrative. Climate change began to be presented as a key cause with even traditionally climate sceptic media outlets, such as the Sun and the Daily Mail, citing the link.
The extreme weather of summer 2018 is in line with climate model predictions, namely that a warmer world will experience more extreme weather. In contrast to remarkably persistent views of climate change as a distant threat, this summer’s extreme weather provided clear evidence that the consequences of climate change are materialising on our doorstep, with serious consequences for human health, livelihoods and the natural environment. It would have been difficult to avoid observing the persistence and unusualness of this summer’s weather, and it inevitably became a key topic of conversation, as evidenced by the increased media interest. So, what might the long-term impact of this summer’s weather be on our framing of the climate change debate? And will this translate into strengthened action?
Primarily, the first-hand observation of the impacts of climate change and warming within the UK this summer has made it increasingly difficult for climate change to be solely termed in the language of prediction; observational data can now add to the framing of the climate change conversation here.
This shift from solely prediction to both prediction and observation in our framing of climate change is key in promoting action and communication. Predictions inherently involve some degree of statistical uncertainty, which makes them subject to scrutiny for various reasons and with various motives. In the case of climate change, the degree of scrutiny plaguing discussions has often served to hinder much-needed action. Observations, on the other hand, cannot be refuted to the same degree as predictions – it is much harder to deny what is clearly happening around us. Observations from this summer’s heatwave therefore act as vital wake-up calls. In demonstrating that climate change has arrived, this heatwave has increased awareness of the lack of climate change resilience and adaptation currently in place, across both the UK and the world.
Climate change is no longer a future phenomenon framed only within predictions. Instead, it is a present-day threat that we are observing with our own eyes. With its record-breaking temperatures and deadly droughts, summer 2018 has ultimately shifted the way we can discuss climate change and its threats. This heatwave has refocused lost minds and engaged new ones in the fight for action against climate change. Seahorse hopes that once autumn arrives and we experience the inevitable cooler weather, this summer’s irrefutable display of the abnormal changes in our climate system are not forgotten and that the chorus of calls for essential action on climate change continues to grow.
The Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has praised Isabella Gornall, Managing Director of Seahorse for her "Brilliant Essay" on how the Government could tackle the air quality crisis in the UK. The essay, 'Driving Towards a Smog-Free Britain' is part of a new collection from the Centre For Policy Studies on 'New Blue- Ideas for a New Generation' with other contributions from Ben Bradley MP, Simon Clarke MP, Helen Whatley MP and Bim Afolami MP.
LONDON — Isabella Gornall, who previously headed specialist environmental practice Maitland Green, has set up a new agency, Seahorse Environmental Communications. The firm launches with four clients including Greener UK and World Wise Foods and an advisory council including DEFRA board member Ben Goldsmith. Alastair Gornall, chairman of Hanover Communications, is the new agency’s non-executive chairman.
In September 2017, photographer Justin Hofman revealed an image that sent shockwaves around the world and seemed to almost uniquely capture our collective imagination. A tiny seahorse clings on to a plastic cotton bud as it drifts through the waters surrounding Indonesia. The striking contrast between the purity and beauty of the seahorse and the disposability of the cotton bud clearly communicated the existential threat posed to the natural environment by our unthinking everyday actions and further opened the eyes of the world to the need for change.
The past year has seen an encouraging increase in public awareness around environmental threats, most notably an upwelling of concern about the catastrophic impact of marine plastic pollution. Images such as Hofman’s, not to mention the phenomenal global success of Blue Planet II, have been critical in generating this awareness. The public, governments and major corporations alike have been quick to respond in seeking ways to protect and enhance our natural environment.
In the past week alone, we have seen Iceland committing to end palm oil use in their own brand products, Waitrose removing disposable coffee cups in store, Apple moving to 100% renewable energy, the world’s largest wind turbines installed and the UK Government introducing a ban on live exports of animals. While recent commitments from these corporations and governments should certainly be commended, there are still frustrations felt from the lack of ambition and action. A notable example this week, when the UK Government revealed that cuts to their scheme to insulate Britain’s draughtiest homes mean it would take 400 years to complete. Clearly, this is not a sustainable solution nor the most effective way for the UK to meet its Paris Agreement commitments.
The photographer Justin Hofman wrote about his now world-famous seahorse saying, ‘It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it.’ This quote resonates not just with marine life but with many aspects of the natural environment and the need for clear, impactful communications to mobilise the public and decision-makers.
That is why we are today launching Seahorse Environmental Communications, a new specialist consultancy which will design and execute political campaigns and communications programmes that enhance both the natural environment and the commercial success of our clients.
The environmental impact of any organisations’ activities is now of major and growing importance to consumers, governments, shareholders and NGOs. As a result, every organisation needs to plan and manage their environmental impact and strategically communicate this to all stakeholders. This demands specialist advice from people who understand the environmental community matched with top level communications skills and first-hand experience of how governments, parliaments, civil servants, shareholders and consumers operate, think and behave. This is the market where Seahorse Environmental Communications will operate.
At Seahorse, we’re driven by our passion for enhancing the natural environment and tackling climate change. We provide expert policy advice, impactful communications programmes and winning campaigns for clients who share our vision for a cleaner, greener, more sustainable tomorrow.
If you have an issue you would like to discuss with us do please get in touch at email@example.com.