Climate Action

Climate facts that cut through the clutter: How one initiative is making science more accessible

Climate Basecamp used ice cream to highlight the impact of climate change.

Climate Basecamp used ice cream to highlight the impact of climate change. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Rainn Wilson
Actor, Wil-Horn Enterprises
Charles Tatham
Screenwriter, Television producer
Gail Whiteman
Professor of Sustainability, University of Exeter Business School, University of Exeter
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Climate Crisis

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • We live in a world where extreme weather and other climate impacts are escalating and the effects are being felt across the planet.
  • However, it's still hard to get many people's attention on climate science and the need for radical and urgent action to act on climate.
  • That's where Climate Basecamp comes in, as a science communication organization that aims to cut through the clutter.

As Dwight Schrute – the lead character from US TV show The Office – might put it, “Fact! Climate change is the biggest threat to the future of humanity.”

Another fact is that climate science has clear evidence of why this happening: fossil fuel use and other greenhouse gas emissions. An even sadder fact:For most people, these messages don’t seem to stick.”

This year was the warmest year on record, and experts expect another record next year. We now live in a world where extreme weather and other climate impacts are escalating and the effects are everywhere.

Have you read?

The Taylor Swift concert in Brazil was postponed because of extreme heat; the 2023 Burning Man festival was rained out and everyone was marooned in a deluge of mud and tears… The effects of climate change are everywhere.

For scientists, these realities have been hard to ignore for a very long time. But it’s still hard to get the average person’s attention on the compelling conclusions of climate science and the need for radical and urgent action.

Climate Basecamp seeks to inform

That’s where our new initiative – Climate Basecamp – enters the stage. As a new science communication organization, Climate Basecamp’s goal is to highlight and promote the brilliance and importance of science and cut through the clutter.

Climate facts — and actions — need to be accessible and accepted by all, regardless of social status, income or political beliefs. We can’t continue to talk in environmentally-friendly silos or harangue those who will never get on board.

That’s a waste of time. Climate Basecamp is reaching out to the moveable middle and Generation Z – those groups that aren’t getting the message, partly because no-one is speaking their language.

Climate Basecamp's Save the Flavors campaign sought to highlight the impact of climate change on food production.
Climate Basecamp's Save the Flavors campaign sought to highlight the impact of climate change on food production. Image: Climate Basecamp

But short of confiscating their PlayStations and phones, how do we reach them? (Actually, let them keep their phones; it’s a great way to reach Gen Z.) One idea is to start with the ordinary things that people love but take for granted —air, water, cauliflower… – and communicate how these are becoming endangered or threatened by climate change. Our first activation, an event in New York City that launched Climate Basecamp, was an ice cream giveaway called Save the Flavors.

Ice cream is a universal language that cuts through political lines and Save the Flavors saw us give free ice cream to New Yorkers for an afternoon as a way to illustrate just how endangered certain foods are.

Fact is, most of our favorite flavours are threatened by changes to temperature, altered growing seasons, drought and precipitation, extreme weather and influxes of pests and fungi.

We sought to highlight this through new names for ice-cream flavour favourites: Choco-too-late; Piss-tachio it all away; Strawberry fields for a little time longer; Wake up and smell the coffee; OK Mango, we got a problem; and Vanilla Bean a good run.

Ice cream is loved around the world, but here’s the real scoop (pun intended). Climate change is coming for all things delicious, not just your favourite ice cream flavour. Many foods – including key commodity staples like wheat, rice, potatoes, corn, and soy – are also threatened by climate change.

But starting with fun flavours is a way to break through the doom and gloom and engage with new audiences. Moving forward, Climate Basecamp has created a playbook to jump start communication with the five key pillars of culture:


Food holds immense cultural significance reflecting the traditions, values and identity of ethnicities and communities. Imagine Italian cooking… without pasta. Cuban picadillo... without the rice, tortillas or tacos. Canadian cuisine ... without the maple syrup. It all sounds impossible to imagine, but climate change threatens key commodity crops as well as our favourite flavours.


Entertainment shapes cultural values by reflecting, challenging and influencing people’s perception of the world. Yet most movies, TV and streaming shows, and dirty limericks don’t have any mention re: climate action — it’s a missing plot line despite the inescapable signs in the ‘real world’. Entertainment can create subtle yet pervasive influences to educate, inspire and drive forward climate action.


Music is a universal cultural language, overcoming barriers between communities, playing a vital role in shaping and expressing cultural identifies. The power of music in everyday life can reinforce the facts and the action needed to be taken by everyone.


Sport fosters camaraderie, national pride and unites people from diverse backgrounds through a shared passion. Ice hockey without outdoor ice is wrong. Football without grass or grass that’s too hot to play on is wrong. Baseball and cricket without the wooden bats is wrong. Anyone who says fighting climate change isn’t important is wrong.


Fashion is a dynamic art form that is a powerful reflection of cultural norms, aesthetics and values. Imagine no more denim, the world’s most popular fabric; imagine no more cotton for T-shirts. Now imagine a world where resource intensive ‘fast fashion’ is an outdated concept…

There’s an old joke that starts with, “what happens when an actor, a comedy writer, and a climate scientist walk into a bar…?” But wait, that’s no joke…


How is the World Economic Forum fighting the climate crisis?

That’s The Office star Rainn Wilson, Arrested Development writer Chuck Tatham and climate scientist Professor Gail Whiteman – and the result, or punchline, is Climate Basecamp whose mission is to speak science to culture.

Climate change is the biggest threat to the future of humanity, and that’s a fact. By speaking science to culture, we seek to make it accessible to everyone and inspire effective action on climate.

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