Repost: How to Win on Climate Change

One of the main purposes of this blog is to correct the record, but it has a secondary purpose, as well; I want toPUBs win elections and get the current incarnation of the Republican Party out of power and restore sanity to government. And one major reason we keep losing is because we don’t have a cogent message to present to voters. Instead, we see the outrage in an action someone takes or something someone says and because we’re outraged, we expect that everyone else is also outraged. Then, when someone isn’t sufficiently outraged, many on our side become outraged at the lack of outrage because, dammit, they should have been outraged.

If the above seems confusing, well… now you know what most voters think when our professional left and their perpetual outrage machine comes at them. It’s also a key reason so many of them they stay home on Election Day. Of course, the professional left and the PUBs (Progressive Unicorn Brigade — that strain of lefties who keeps demanding a unicorn that farts glitter and express their constant disapproval when they only get a thoroughbred to vote for) believe that everyone should feel a duty to vote and anyone who doesn’t is abdicating their civil responsibility, so they are summarily dismissed as unimportant and the current incarnation of Republicans marches to victory after victory.

There is no greater example of our political failure than when it comes to climate change.

Has anyone else noticed that most of the professional left blogs and a whole lot of PUBs spend way too much time demanding things from a government that is not equipped to give it to them and trying top see to it that 100 percent of all Americans “believe” in climate change? I have.

They fill out petitions and they tout all sorts of wonky reports proving that climate change exists. That may sound like it’s necessary, but it’s really not. Most people know that something is changing, and really, if you think about it, it’s not possible to know, absolutely for certain, WHY it’s happening. Oh, there are a lot of theories out there, to be sure, and most of them make sense. But focusing on the “why?” rather than actually working to fix the problem was always a pet peeve when I was a manager, and it bothers me the same way now. It’s like we’re on a ship and there’s a hole, and everyone on the crew is spending their time trying to figure out what caused the hole, rather than patching the hole. Finding what caused the climate to change might be a great thing to do for the future, but fixing it is a little more urgent right now.

I remember a report from a couple years ago from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and it was full of all sorts of facts and figures regarding government subsidies from around the world. The professional left pounced on it as a rallying cry for a new round of screaming bloody outrage over the idea of subsidies for oil companies.

Don’t get me wrong; oil companies should not be getting subsidies from taxpayers. But is that really a sufficient rallying cry? For that matter, what’s the point of a rallying cry, anyway? Progressives have been screaming rallying cries for 40 years; at what point are the loudest voices on our side going to figure out they’re not working. And in any case, citing a wonky, dry report as a reason for outrage is kind of ridiculous. You use IMF reports to make yourself sleep when you’ve run out of milk to warm. Here’s the first paragraph of the report; read it and tell me how this is a rallying cry of any kind.

Energy subsidies have wide-ranging economic consequences. While aimed at protecting consumers, subsidies aggravate fiscal imbalances, crowd-out priority public spending, and depress private investment, including in the energy sector. Subsidies also distort resource allocation by encouraging excessive energy consumption, artificially promoting capital-intensive industries, reducing incentives for investment in renewable energy, and accelerating the depletion of natural resources. Most subsidy benefits are captured by higher-income households, reinforcing inequality. Even future generations are affected through the damaging effects of increased energy consumption on global warming. This paper provides: (i) the most comprehensive estimates of energy subsidies currently available for 176 countries; and (ii) an analysis of ―how to do‖ energy subsidy reform, drawing on insights from 22 country case studies undertaken by IMF staff and analyses carried out by other institutions.

See? Too wonky; by the time someone reads three paragraphs, they’re gone. They write these reports for wonks. As progressive bloggers and activists, our job is to take this kind of thing and figure out a way to fix the problem. We have to take stuff like this and turn it into a message that resonates with the average voter and gets them on our side. However, that doesn’t mean we have to get them on our side about climate change. In fact, my first recommendation is to stop talking about “climate change” or “global warming” altogether.

ProfessorThere are a few reasons for that, of course. For one thing, to people living in really cold climates, warmer winters are likely to not be seen as a bad thing. Farmers may envision longer growing seasons and others may just see less snow on their commute. And while you’re trying to explain the other aspects of climate change, like more and greater storms, extended cycles of floods and drought, and all of that, their eyes are glazing over and they’re imagining being able to wear shorts and tank tops for a few extra months. Before you know it, you’re bogged down in trying to convince them of the horrors of climate change, and not convincing them that clean electric cars and a more modern electric grid and solar panels on the roof will save them a ton of money, prevent brownouts and blackouts and keep a lot of soot out of the air, which means they don’t have to paint the house as often, they won’t have to pay ever higher prices for gas and no more oil drips on their driveway.

Trying to convince people that fossil fuels are horrible is a waste of time if there is no alternative available that they know of. Besides, even if we managed a complete cessation of fossil fuel use within the next decade, which can’t even happen, there is no certainty that it will lead to an immediate turnaround. besides, if we keep electing Republicans, you know any advances we have made will be erased in a heartbeat. Under the energy regime Jimmy Carter put in place, without any adjustments we would be using roughly half the fossil we’re using now, most new homes would probably have solar panels on them, and we would be on our way to electric cars and high-mileage hybrids being standard. Instead, progressives trashed and abandoned Carter, we got Saint Reagan and he killed all of it.

Look at the IMF paragraph again. Do you see the words “climate change” in the above? No, because it’s not necessary. Put into simple terms, they’re noting that the price we actually pay at the pump doesn’t reflect the actual price of the oil and that one reason there isn’t as much investment into alternative energy is because it looks as if the use of alternative energy is costlier than it is. That’s been the problem all along; solar and wind power are actually cheaper.

That’s a winning argument, and it doesn’t require that anyone “believe in” climate change. That is how we get people to drive the move to switch to solar and wind power, and into electric cars. Economically speaking, imagine putting solar panels on the roof of your home, and watching your electric bills pretty much vanish? Better yet, imagine that you combine the switch to solar power with a conservation ethic, in which you use less power. You could end up getting a check for excess power from your electric utility.

Prof KoolIsn’t that a lot more appealing than “OMG! If you don’t ditch your gas-powered car for an electric, we’re all gonna die!”? And make no mistake; that is what the left often sounds like to the average voter. Everyone can wrap their head around spending a few thousand dollars on a solar system that will cut their electric bill by $200 per month AND increase their home’s value by more than the cost of a solar system. They can also relate to government investment in this arena that brings lots of manufacturing jobs and drive the economic engine in other ways, too. But we can never get there with the current Republican Party having as much control as they do.

Conservation is also a winner. There is no way people won’t go for vehicles that get 60-100 miles per gallon. Gas prices will not always stay where they are now; they will eventually head back to the $4-$5 range eventually, but it will matter a whole lot less is mileage is doubled. If someone has a car that gets 60 miles per gallon in a few years and the price is $5 per gallon, they will be paying the same for gas as they do now, if they only get 30, and if they can manage to get 90 miles per gallon, they will actually be paying much less.

Likewise, the best reason to invest in an electric car, when they’re feasible, is that you may never have to buy another car. Their motors are simplistic, they require much less maintenance, and they’re clean. How many of you have had to get rid of a vehicle that was in great shape on the inside, but had a dead engine? wouldn’t it be great to drive the same great car for 25-30 years than to change them out every 3-6 years? It’s good for the environment, sure, but it’s also good for the family and the family’s finances. Imagine a car where you only have to change out the electric motor every 10 years and the battery array every five, and which the cost of charging is half as much as gasoline? Funny how we can sell fixing the environment and use less fossil fuel without even mentioning climate change or global warming, isn’t it?

Then there’s the pollution angle. Do you know why you have to powerwash your vinyl siding so often? Mostly, it’s because of car and truck exhaust, and exhaust from power plants fueled by oil and coal, which turns everything black with soot. Again, the oil splotches that appear on our driveways and on our streets would disappear, and none of that dripped oil would ever wash into sewer drains.

The point is, the way to “fix” climate change has to do with people using less oil, gas and coal and by expanding our use of alternative, renewable energy, including solar arrays, solar panels on roofs, wind turbines on farms and electric cars. And really, getting people excited about using less and spending less is a hell of a lot easier than trying to convince that last 30 percent that climate change is “real.” The way to win the war is to give people a reason to change that makes sense to them. I know some of you – particularly the PUBs and professional lefties – feel smarter and more superior by showing everyone how smart you are when it comes to climate change, and here’s your cookie and pat on the head.

Wait — you’re not fixing the problem, so give me back that cookie!

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