My friend Sean just told me about Deutsche Bank’s huge carbon counter in Times Square. Here’s a picture of it. It supposedly counts the number of tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere.

I have to be careful to moderate my language here, so I’ll just say: What idiot thought of this?

It’s exactly the “message” I’d use if I wanted to psychologically disempower people doing anything about global warming: a huge, seemingly unstoppable, blood-freezing, onrush of authoritative numbers, mathematically cataloging the road to doom. A slap in the face for anyone naive enough to believe change is possible.

This is an example the “in-your-face” theory of change that assumes that, if people aren’t (in this case) reducing their carbon emissions or lobbying governments, then they haven’t had the problem smashed sufficiently hard in their faces. If that doesn’t work, what next? Children with dead polar bears tattooed on the foreheads?

Al Gore talks about our “hope budget” and the need to keep it in the black. Such dunderheaded corporate social advertising grinds hope into the dust.

Here’s an alternative: a giant widget in Times Square that shows the number of dollars invested in sustainable energy, or the size of the carbon trading market. Or how about the amount of money that Deustche Bank has invested in same. THAT would be statement of commitment that others would talk about and emulate.