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Op-Ed

Cigarettes' lessons for climate change

Successful anti-smoking efforts of decades past offer a blueprint for how we might tackle global warming.

March 04, 2012|By Auden Schendler

We are also slowly but surely chipping away at cultural norms with advertising and other media. The movie"An Inconvenient Truth"was a watershed in this effort, but many other examples abound. The Prius has been marketed as not only energy-efficient but also cool. Marketing leaders, like Alex Bogusky of VW ad fame, are turning their energies toward getting people to think about climate. A good maxim is that when a social debate reaches a charged state at the dinner table, the battle is nearly won. Think about civil and gay rights.

Last, science is slowly but surely taking back the game. When the Wall Street Journal published a series of baseless lies about climate change in January, it was debunked rapidly and widely by third-party groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists. Other science arbiters, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Academy of Sciences, have also made overwhelmingly clear the need for action.

Sure, there's a long way to go. Denial is rampant, and the money behind the effort to delay action is as plentiful as civilization has ever known. But one only need recall the despair of the "nonsmoking" section of an airplane to remember that often sea change laps at the edges of convention. It really is darkest just before the dawn.

We've come a long way, baby. But we've got a bit further to go, and the path forward is illuminated by the soft glow of cigarettes.

Auden Schendler is the author of "Getting Green Done" and a board member of Protect Our Winters.

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