“We Could’ve Stopped Global Warming…We Didn’t”

A sobering ad campaign hits Copenhagen, ahead of the pivotal 2009 climate summit.

old obama


Next week, the 15th U.N. Climate Change Congress convenes in Copenhagen–and the world leaders and functionaries passing through the airport might be met with a bracing message: A new series of ads, created by Arc Communications for Greenpeace, which depicts aged world leaders ruing what might have been, if they’d acted more decisively.

According to Creative Review:

The ads all feature a doctored image of a current world leader – so
that they look about ten years older – apologising from the future
(2020 to be precise) saying, “I’m sorry. We could have stopped
catastrophic climate change… We didn’t.”

“It’s an apology from the future aimed at putting pressure on- and
just maybe making these world leaders think twice about the
consequences of their action or inaction now,” explains the writer of
the ads Toby Cotton of new agency Arc Communications.

“The brief from Greenpeace International was simple,” he continues,
“to put pressure on world leaders to create a fair and binding
agreement at Copenhagen.”

Now, Copenhagen has often been hailed as a last-ditch effort, coming at a pivotal point when we can still act to radically curb our carbon emissions.


But not everyone thinks that the ideas being mooted are effective. The most powerful criticism has been that the various cap-and-trade proposals being tabled are all so complex and prone to loopholes that it would be better to scrap them in favor of a straight-up carbon tax. Which might be the best solution–while also being about as likely as breeding solar-powered unicorns who’ll fly us to work.

Check out the rest of the Copenhagen ads at Creative Review.


About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.