Climate Change Denier's Estate Could Go Underwater - Literally

On Wednesday the Obama administration announced a new website created with data visualization tools to make it easier for Americans to see the effects of climate change on their communities that are all but certain to occur within the coming years. True to a government-made website, Climate.data is hard to use, but after a bit of tinkering I was able to find an interesting mapping tool that showed the likely impact of sea level rise on coastal communities. 

But why pick just any coastal community to visualize? After doing some research, I managed to zero in on the location for billionaire Bill Koch’s $16 million waterfront compound estate on the tony island of Oyster Harbors on Cape Cod. Koch, who made his money in the fossil fuel industry, thinks climate change is a liberal fiction, and will do whatever he can to stall the adoption of clean energy in America. 

Well, I have bad news for Bill. According to the latest projections, sea level rise is happening even faster than scientists previously thought. Along the Massachusetts coastline, projections show between a three- and six-foot rise between now and the end of this century. Using the data visualization tool, his estate is in serious jeopardy of being under water. I’m not talking about a mortgage being underwater – the kind of problem that hits regular folks. I’m saying his whole estate will very likely be under the Atlantic Ocean, a kind of billionaire Atlantis. I make this point not only because I strongly disagree with Koch’s climate change-denying beliefs, but also because the Climate.Data website needs to make it much easier for people to see how the un-checked changes hitting our atmosphere and weather will affect us personally. Our houses, not just our regions or towns. It would work like Zillow.com; just enter your address and see if you’re property will be under water. An interactive map of this nature would be relatively easy to make, and would go a long way towards making climate change a real and urgent issue for more Americans. Maybe even Koch – although I doubt he’ll believe in climate change even with the waves are lapping at his leather armchair.  

What this means for green marketing

Just as personalizing the impact of climate change with better web interactivity can change attitudes, a more personal and custom web experience can help sell green products to consumers. Here are some different approaches marketers can take to make more sustainable products personally relevant.

Solar: Integrate a Google map function that allows a homeowner to input their home address and other data (such as their roof size), see their home on a map, and get customized information on whether or not their house is a good fit for solar based on light exposure and available space for panels. 

Laundry detergent:  Let the consumer input how many loads of laundry they do each week, then – based on the average cost of electricity in their region – show them the typical electricity (or gas) savings based on differential between cold water usage and hot. A yearly savings could be substantial – more than enough to make a consumer switch over to cold water, which usually gets the cloths just as clean anyway

Electric cars:  Car companies such as Tesla convey the savings message in relation to the average cost of gas, showing the cost of their model S as $610 per month after gas savings. But where is the gas being purchased? The cost of gas varies considerably in different parts of the country, and even within specific states. Why not let the consumer input their address, then show them a more accurate cost based on where they are likely to actually buy gas? Entering their address would also show the proximity of charging stations, something that’s critical for anyone to understand prior to taking the next step.

To sum up, we are not longer in the era of the generic message or website. The technology exists today for creating personalized communications that help people visualize complex information and see why it matters to them. This is true for the next billionaire weighing the purchase of Bill Koch’s coastline estate (hurry, it’s on the market), and it’s true for my family and yours.

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2 comments about "Climate Change Denier's Estate Could Go Underwater - Literally".
  1. Jonathan Hutter from Garrand , March 26, 2014 at 10:44 a.m.
    The problem with this site (besides the usability) is the credibility. It comes from the government. Democrat, Republican, it doesn't matter. Trust of the government is so low, used car salesmen look like paragons in comparison (here come the letters). Combine that with the government's web expertise (health care site), and it's just too easy to dismiss this information. Combine that with FEMA's approach to flood assessment (using blanket data and trends rather than individual community assessments) and it's likewise too easy to credibly refute their evaluations. More fuel for climate change-deniers, rather than a look at personal impacts. The problem with this approach is that the supposed "personalized" tools create an "average" look. As in, "on average, this will affect you..." Ask any person if they are average, or if they are unique. See which answer you get.
  2. Katherine Putnam from Package Machinery Co Inc. , March 26, 2014 at 10:58 a.m.
    Some of what you are looking for already exists. I have seen flood maps of Martha's Vineyard across the Sound from Mr. Koch's house. In fact, it scared me off one house that I looked at. You can get electricity usage calculators out of many electric companies. The solar one would be cool since the existing ones are inconsistent.