If you’ve got a message that’s so scary that you don’t really want too many people to notice — in case they might, you know, get scared by it — and yet you want to be in the position of being able to say ‘well, I told you so’ after the event, one way to do this is to embed it right in the middle of a long document, at the point where most readers will most likely have gone into zombie reading mode by the information overload.
To further increase the chance that the message is likely to be skipped over, and not taken in and fully appreciated, it’s a good idea to:
- make it short
- use big words
- split the sentence across a page boundary
- embed an infographic in the page separating the two parts of the message as a further distraction.
The intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) released the Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) report on 28 March 2012.
The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) was actually released on 18 November 2011. It contains the following message:
Low-probability, high-impact changes associated with the crossing of poorly understood climate thresholds cannot be excluded
… and that admission, Dear Reader, is the only mention that the ‘Summary for Policymakers’ makes that humanity’s wilful disregard of its responsibilities as stewards of Planet Earth might be far more dire than most people are willing to think about.
Another way to hide such a message is to use far less obscure language, but to put it near the end of a long book that very few people are likely to read:
I’ve come to conclude that if we burn all reserves of oil, gas, and coal, there is a substantial chance that we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty.
Dr James Hansen (2009) Storms of My Grandchildren p236
Drill, baby, drill.