When it comes to dealing with the issue of climate change, the government of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni appears to have two very separate audiences: the domestic one and the international one.
Meloni, for instance, renewed the Italian commitment to reduce carbon emissions at COP27 back in November and she agreed last week through a statement from the White House on the importance of fighting climate change.
But at home, things are different.
Although not outrightly coming out as a climate denier, when addressing the domestic audience Meloni prefers vague words: weather-related disasters become "tragedies", extreme weather events are "bad weather" and climate change is "unpredictable weather".
"The last time she hinted at climate change on social networks dates back to August 2022,” Christian Ruggiero, a communication professor at La Sapienza University in Rome, told Euronews.
That was before the elections that would make her leader. She admitted then that "the climate emergency was the biggest challenge of our generation."
Meanwhile her minister of infrastructure, Matteo Salvini, recently claimed ice melting is a naturally recurring phenomenon, a fact easily disproved by data -- this year, some parts of the Alps received 49% less snow than the average of the last 12 years.
'This duplicity is not new for Italy'
Meloni's right-wing populist party, Brothers of Italy, and its allies have always been skeptical about climate change, often characterising the green transition as ideologically biased.
The party voted against the European Nature Restoration law and the phase-out of fossil fuel cars. Last month, the government cut out several environmental projects from its Recovery and Resilience Plan to access EU funds.
"The Italian government refuses to admit climate change at home. But when meeting with global leaders, Giorgia Meloni is tied to the official position of the EU," Giampiero Gramaglia, former director of the Italian news agency ANSA, told Euronews.
"This duplicity is not new for Italy. It is the same as blaming Brussels for unpopular regulations that the government backed," Gramaglia added.
This ambiguity has helped Meloni navigate her dual role as Prime Minister and leader of Brothers of Italy in a coalition whose official positions often contradict her own. It is a strategy also used for other issues including Russia's war in Ukraine and LGBTQ+ rights.
While Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi, respectively the leader of the League and the late former leader and founder of Forza Italia, backed pro-Russian claims on Ukraine, Meloni was busy reassuring allies of the Italian commitment to the war.
During her recent meeting with US President Joe Biden, Meloni vowed to defend LGBTQ+ rights but her government has started to erode the rights of same-sex parents in the country.
Italy's climate change reality
The Italian premier called during an address to parliament in March for "pragmatism" against an "ideological approach," and the use of "neutral technologies," such as methane gas, to support the transition and affirmed that there are no climate deniers within her ranks.
"But nobody is doing anything to prove they believe in it either," Gramaglia said.
For Ruggiero, her very limited use of "climate change" in public, the expression only appeared once in her party's 2022 manifesto, stems from the fact that "her communication strategy is pretty materialistic".
"She focuses on things she believes are concrete for her voters, such as nationalism and traditional values. You can touch your home, but not climate change. That is what she thinks," Ruggiero said.
Yet Italians are already experiencing the reality of climate change.
This May, the equivalent of a year's worth of rain fell on central Italy in just a few days, triggering flash floods that killed 15 people, displaced tens of thousands more and caused damages estimated at €8.8 billion.
Last month, a heatwave exacerbated wildfires in Sicily, engulfing the outskirts of Palermo with the record temperatures leaving hundreds of thousands in Catania without drinking water and electricity. In Northern Italy, tropical storms destroyed cars, forests, crops and roofs.
According to Coldiretti, the Italian association of farmers, the number of extreme weather events shot up 57% this summer compared to last year, a figure it obtained by aggregating data from the European Severe Weather Database.
"The Mediterranean region is indeed a climate hotspot, an area where the impact of global climate change is particularly evident," Valerio Lembo, a climate scientist at the Italian Research Council (CNR), explained to Euronews.
"That is why the IPCC is closely monitoring Italy. The country is warming faster than the rest of the world. The average temperature rose by 1,5 C° compared to a global average of +1,1 C°," Lembo said.
Activism vs extremism
As in other parts of Europe, climate activists have sought to pressure the government into action but their acts of civil disobedience are finding an increasingly harsher reception.
After Ultima Generazione activists spread orange paint on Palazzo Vecchio in Florence the government instated fines of up to €60,000 against the vandalisation of monuments. For the government, these are not acts of climate activism but instead "ideological extremism".
Alessandro Berti, a spokesperson for Ultima Generazione, accuses some talk shows, in particular those aired on the Berlusconi-owned Mediaset TV channel of scapegoating activists.
"TV hosts treat us in paternalistic tones," Berti told Euronews. "Some are blatantly climate deniers, while others like to ignite aggressive confrontation. Nobody is impartial or defending the reality of the climate crisis," Berti said.
One of these TV hosts is Meloni's partner, journalist Andrea Giambruno.
Earlier this week, Ultima Generazione activists and Gilberto Pichetto Fratin, the country's minister of environment held a meeting.
The meeting did not yield any results. Ultima Generazione called for a bill to cut fossil fuel subsidies, Pichetto Fratin demanded activists stop "vandalising monuments." Both sides refused