Jonathan Gilligan is Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Vanderbilt University, or so starts his media blurb. To me, Jonathan is the ClimateBall fellow I met at Keith’s ages ago. His play style and his calm constructiveness makes him a good fit for my fantasy draft. To top it all, he wrote a play and an opera libretto with his mom, Carol.
A gent. Here’s the first part of our chat. Italics are mine, Jonathan’s text is in roman.
OK. Let’s chat.
how’s everything, you seem busy
Everything’s good, but yeah. I’m busy. I tend to overcommit and then spend a lot of time trying to keep all my balls in the air. Just finished a two-day conference on the tenth anniversary of my “Behavioral Wedge” paper. It was fun and very productive, but getting everything organized for it and preparing my part was pretty exhausting.
nice – do you have to rewrite everything
I’m in the middle of calculating what’s changed since the original paper. A lot is very similar, particularly on the benefits of household weatherization and upgrading heating and air conditioning equipment, but there were some things we didn’t predict and other things that we knew were coming down the line that we couldn’t include back then.
For one, we assumed that the 2017 Energy Independence and Security Act would push everyone toward efficient light bulbs and we didn’t think that LED bulbs were sufficiently available to include them. However, last year Lucas Davis at Berkeley showed that per-capita household energy consumption had dropped in the US and credited the adoption of efficient light bulbs for that. Meanwhile I find that only about half of US households have switched to mostly/all efficient bulbs, so there’s a lot more room for improvement beyond what the government regulations have produced. Another thing that wasn’t around for the original paper is electric cars, which look as though they have a lot of potential over the next decade or two.
good, you mention the LED example in the Carrot and Stick paper
i believe in those concepts, and liked the Walmart example
A big push going forward is going to be to see whether we can apply the same kind of analysis to businesses that we did to household and individual emissions.
is it harder to get corporate numbers?
The Walmart example is a good one, and there are others. The challenge is that there isn’t a lot of publicly available data, just as your question suggests. That’s a big challenge. There is some aggregated data from CDP and other sources, but it’s very hard to quantify the potential for efficiency improvement in industry. One of my big frustrations is that about a decade ago, McKinsey published a chart of potential emissions reductions versus cost, that was very optimistic, but they weren’t at all transparent about their methods or sources of data, so there’s no way to examine what went into it if you want to ask, “Do I believe this analysis?”
things should have changed since then
otoh, what is the incentive for companies to keep track of all this
Now there are more detailed analyses, but with the corporate side, you’re always running into the challenge that these things are very sensitive business information that companies don’t want to share with competitors (for good reason), so it doesn’t become publicly available.
it could be something related to audits
(although our actual auditing powers are limited)
However, investors are increasingly interested, in part because they want to understand the risks to companies from climate change (vulnerabilities and adaptation stuff), and also from possible future emissions regulations. This has created an opening for organizations like CDP [Carbon Disclosure Project] to get companies to disclose their emissions in a credible way, but keeping the information confidential except to subscribing investors. Then they can also publish aggregated data that does not expose anyone’s sensitive information.
i had a similar idea for scientific data – a fiduciary could vet private sets
ideally it could be as simple as a checksum
Also, consumers are interested in a company’s emissions footprint. What we see suggests that consumers won’t pay a big premium to buy the greenest product, but they will pay to avoid the worst product, so with consumers, companies often are like the hunters running away from the bear. It’s not important to be the fastest as much as it’s important not to be the slowest.
tell me about the Sullivan Principles, as AT is South African
The Sullivan Principles: Back in the 1970s and early 80s, when people were debating how to deal with apartheid, Rev. Leon Sullivan proposed that rather than boycotting South Africa altogether, investors and consumers look at a company’s record and distinguish companies that followed a set of principles that promoted racial equity versus ones that went along with apartheid uncritically. Many institutional investors preferred to continue to invest in companies that followed the Sullivan principles, but many activists called for an all-out boycott of companies doing business in South Africa.
A big distinction I see between the calls for divestment from fossil fuel companies and divestment from companies doing business in South Africa is that the anti-Apartheid activism emphasized divestment and boycott, whereas I worry that with fossil fuels, divestment without boycott will have much less impact on the companies. As I argue in my paper, unless the divestment is very wide-spread, divestment may benefit the company by getting rid of annoying shareholders who raise uncomfortable questions without affecting the share prices.
but divestment is just a stick, tell me about the carrot
The carrot involves both reputation and also potentially finding and addressing inefficiencies, where a company can reduce emissions and also save money.
i really liked the concept of solution aversion – the contrarian matrix is powered by it
Solution aversion is fascinating. That was discovered by Troy Campbell and Aaron C. Kay at Duke. But it’s also important to observe that everything will not be win-win, so we also have to look deeper than just the places where companies can profit from addressing climate change.
Starting with the win-win items is a good starting point, and looking down the road there are a number of other benefits for companies: Many companies (both places that people traditionally think of as liberal, such as Google and Apple) and also places more traditionally considered conservative, such as Ingersoll Rand, find that employee satisfaction improves when workers feel the company is doing well by society (e.g., cutting greenhouse gas emissions). And this helps a lot with recruitment and retention of skilled employees.
ohoh that sounds like your inner hippie talking
will we need to reform corporationhood?
I struggle between my inner hippie (who is very outspoken) and my sense that I’m well to the left of most people, so many things I want to do won’t win elections. If we have to reform corperationhood in order to address climate change (the Naomi Klein position) then we’re screwed, so as much as I would like to do that, I also look for how to work with corporations as they are today.
an S&P analyst told a friend that corporations can’t be sued because they would not seek profit for shareholders at any cost – courts upheld governance right
Corporations do need to make a profit, but they don’t need to maximize profits at the expense of other considerations. In my book with Mike Vandenbergh, we talk about Benefit Corporations, which include social benefit in their charters. Mohammad Yunus has also written extensively about Social Businesses that repay their investors the original investment, but then plough their profits into social good rather than dividends or shareholder value.
that seems to lead to this kind of corporatism –
i bet angels work hard to manage their social aura
One social business, Grameen Shakti in Bangladesh, operates on a business model (as opposed to a charitable one), but has provided affordable solar power for an enormous number of rural homes.
like here, perhaps
I can follow up later with links to more detailed reports on Grameen Shakti. [Here it is.]
reminds me of the study about bed nets
money is a good experience tool
I was about to point you to Duflo and Banerjee’s work. I really love their approach. Their book, “Poor Economics” is great and I would recommend that everyone read it. There’s a lot in Green Economics about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good in development work.
satisficing is tried and true – we’re doing it right now
imagine if we had to communicate in an absolutely perfect manner
Also, related to that I really think highly of Nancy Cartwright and Jeremy Hardie’s “Evidence-Based Policy: A Practical Guide to Doing it Better,” which covers similar ground with good common sense. You’ve got a lot of interest and knowledge about philosophical matters, and Cartwright is a prominent philosopher of science, who writes clearly and sensibly about epistemology applied to policy.
i know about her How the Laws of Physics Lie, or something like that
Yes. That’s her. You also brought up Ramez Naam on Green New Deal [GND] and I have strong opinions about GND and the way it’s discussed.
what are these opinions?
I get frustrated at the way everyone focuses on GND as a fully-fleshed out policy that its supporters expect to become law. I see GND as planting a flag, similar to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech (which was also very thin on details and which faced enormous political opposition in the Senate).
A well-known problem with climate policy has been that a majority of voters want to address climate change, but very few make it one of their top priorities, so politicians ignore it.
go off, king – i go grab coffee
What GND does is it connects the environment with jobs and prosperity, so instead of only being negative and warning people about looming catastrophe, we also inspire people with the benefits of massively rebuilding the nation’s energy infrastructure in a sustainable manner. That seems to me likely to get a lot more people excited that detailed spreadsheets of emissions tax rates and related wonkery.
If people become inspired by a vision of where they want to go, it seems to me that we’re more likely to get people putting priority on a policy—even if the end product isn’t much like the details spelled out in the early drafts—and getting something put into practice.
raising concerns has limits, as always
The end product of Obamacare lost many attributes that Obama emphasized in the 2008 campaign (e.g., a public option, which was the biggest thing differentiating it from Hillary Clinton’s plan), but something made it into law.
I have pushed back against the book “Break Through” for the last 12 years or so, but I have to admit that GND draws on a lot of the arguments made in that book, about the political power of hope over despair or fear. Many aspects of GND are straight out of the Breakthrough playbook, but there are also important distinctions, particularly in the sense of urgency about taking action. I have felt that there was unsupported optimism that technological fixes could eliminate tough choices. It’s like fighting obesity, diabetes, etc. by saying that instead of getting people to change their diets, we invest in developing technology that would allow someone to eat all they want of whatever they want without harming their health.
it’s the concerns that kills their brand, imho
In Break Through, I felt the book did not give adequate attention to the willingness of the public during WWII to make big sacrifices for the cause. My hope is that if we can give a hopeful and inspiring vision of where we’re going, people will be more willing to grapple with the tough choices (including temporary sacrifices) necessary to get there. I don’t, however, imagine that the public will make the same choices that I would myself.
ok, we’re almost there
there is this – have you looked?
OK. On Plumer: I have looked at that. Plumer’s analysis is very similar to the original Sustainability Wedges approach and to the approach I favor: Instead of looking for a single silver bullet to solve the emissions problem, look for many smaller things that are compatible with one another, and which can add up to a large enough reduction to matter (even if it doesn’t get us all the way there).
I really liked the interactive policy tool that Plumer and Migliozzi used for that article.
me too, i tried to hack it
There’s a very interesting literature on how interactive computational models can be very useful at helping people get an intuitive feel for managing complex systems (see, e.g., D. Dorner, “The Logic of Failure“). Dorner also expanded that article into a nice book. Moira Zellner at University of Illinois Chicago and her colleagues have done fascinating work on using interactive computational models to facilitate community-level decision-making about sustainability issues, such as groundwater management and flood risks – here and there.
I love what I’m doing.
i think it matters
I also love being able to work with great colleagues on interdisciplinary projects.
Wow. When you put it that way, one thing that’s defined my career (which has been pretty unusual) has been that I have quickly jettisoned research projects when they stopped sparking joy.
it’s a great anti-depressant
I love working in teams. I get inspiration from working with other smart people, and I love getting constant constructive criticism and suggestions for how I can do better.
END OF THE FIRST PART
For those interested, Jonathan’s book is this one:
Something that struck me when reading Jonathan’s point about the GND is that common themes seem to be people criticising these aspirational policies because they’re unrealistic. At the same time, I’m seeing more people (in particular those who might be, or have been, associated with the Breakthrough Insitute) highlighting how the sensible way forward is what they’ve been suggesting for years (no regrets, policies that don’t damage growth, policies that have short-term benefits, etc).
When I was thining about this last night, I had a way of describing this that made sense, but I think I’ve lost it, so I hope I can express myself clearly. The issue that I see is some trying to paint themselves as the reasonable middle who want to do something about climate, but nothing too drastic because at least what they suggest can be implemented, while those who are actively promoting more aggressive climate policies will be painted as unrealistic and will ultimately be blamed for a lack of climate action because they didn’t promote policies that could be implemented.
I’m all for not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, but I also think there is little point in promoting policies that will ultimately not solve the issue that we’re trying to address. I accept, though, that it’s a fine line. Would be interesting to get Jonathan’s thoughts, assuming I’ve expressed this in a way that makes some kind of sense.
One question w/r/t the framework of the positions as you present them (which parallels other, more gwrneealbpolitical issues much in discussion w/r/t the Democratic party), is that it looks at the tension between those two basic positions within a static snapshot.
A follow-on question, one that is difficult to answer, is whether more aspirational policy advocacy might shift the entire discussion, to change the picture of what is and isn’t politically feasible to implement.
I love this.
Going slightly but not entirely off topic, I recently devoured Barbara Kingsolver’s nonfiction Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (2004, I think) account of taking a year to live on local food and her family farm in Appalachia (of course, most of us don’t have that advantage). It was very inspiring, and as a family effort folded in surprising reflections about our food supply.
Also, I’m reading Steven Stoll’s Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia which covers a much broader field including enclosure in England, African agrarian society, the development of barter, exchange, money, government, wealth disparity, etc. etc. and also includes useful reflections on how these entities affect land use. Its writing is good enough to consume at the pace of a good novel, but dense with fact and reference. Absolutely fascinating! It came up because of the popularity of Hillbilly Elegy which is not useful at this level. We in the US are having trouble with a rebellious and misinformed electorate that votes against its interest (for too many there is nothing more evil than a Democrat, not even pedophiles and murderers, but I digress).
Factoid from Kingsolver: you can fit 1,152 chickens in a space 6×8 feet. Also, it is possible to include meat in the diet if it is raised differently (start with grain fed) without ecological mayhem. And the average food item of a normal family travels 1,500 miles. “A quick way to improve food economy would be to buy a quart of motor oil and drink it.” (from her husband, academic Steven Hopp).
One more personal story. I work with Home Health Aides and have occasion to try to bring them up to speed on environmental concerns. They’re not unsympathetic, just not interested, despite being good people. They’re just too busy and somehow they have not received the message that it will be bad for their children (they’re young enough it will be bad for them as well). They also feel entitled to treat this as a social gaffe on my part, sadly. My point: most people can’t be bothered (you have Brexit, so you know the line of nonsense they’ve swallowed).
That reminds me, I read (on your recommendation) Flight Behaviour, which I thought was very good.
aTTP, hope you don’t mind me saying that imnsho you are remarkably broad and open minded. Most men find her books too female. I thought the point about education was interesting, and it started me on this kick about Appalachia. The Appalachians are roughly the size of New Zealand, though slightly broader, so it’s a big subject. Her book with a male (closeted gay) subject, The Lacuna was a more difficult read, but fascinating, as it focused on Trotsky, Diego River, Frida Kahlo, and the US McCarthyite era when “communists” (including at least one of my parents’ friends and scientists) were put in jail. Trump was taught by Roy Cohn, who was also Joe McCarthy’s amanuensis.
Diego Rivera. Never mind the failed italics, meaning is clear enough …
I thought the Poisonwood Bible was excellent, so I’ve also read Lacuna. I hadn’t read anything else until I read Flight Behaviour.
ATTP raises a crucial point. Stabilizing greenhouse gases before things get extremely bad will require rapid, aggressive, and coordinated global effort. However, there is no sigh that the political process, especially in the US, can provide that.
So for the near term, our choices appear to be to take small, inadequate, but politically feasible measures, or to focus on politically unfeasible measures and get nothing done. If those are the choices, I’d take the inadequate measures that can at least provide some progress.
My work on private governance has always emphasized that this is not going to come close to solving the whole problem, but can perhaps move quickly to buy time for the political process to become more amenable to bigger action. To that end, it’s important not to think in terms of dichotomies.
Instead of saying that we have to choose between inadequate policies we can act on quickly and large-scale policies that we can’t act on in time, ask how we can do both, using the smaller policies in the short term to buy time for and possibly build support for the bigger policies that will follow.
To this end, when I propose smaller-scale initiatives that appear feasible in the short run, I try to be careful to make sure that they are not likely to conflict with, or undermine support for bigger, more comprehensive policies later on.
y I know the Breakthrough agenda is anathema to some readers here, but perhaps Mr. Gilligan can help legitimize some parts of it. As I’m a fan of TBI, I certainly hope so.
Climate Skeptic is kind enough to let me post my lukewarmish thoughts on occasion. Here’s one post that might be relevant to the discussion: https://cliscep.com/2019/03/10/an-alternative-to-the-green-new-deal-fifty-2-solutions/
Those who consider innovation a skeptic unicorn or deus ex machina might note that Mr. Gilligan writes here about having to update a fairly recent paper to take into account the arrival of such innovations as LEDs and EVs. When CO2-free cement (or its newer competitor, cement that sequesters CO2) gets a bit more popular, he may need to revise again.
The portfolio of approaches we will need to adopt to combat climate change is already packed with possibilities, ranging from uprating hydroelectric facilities to painting roofs white, and a lot more besides.
The fact that later steps will be somewhat painful should not stop us from starting. Small, (almost) painless steps can get us in the habit. When you consider the process by which smoking became socially unacceptable (cautiously limited and then banned in planes, then cinemas, then hospitals, etc.), an incremental approach can work more quickly than pessimists assume.
And without trying to be offensive, the ‘mood’ of much climate communication has been pessimistic. Optimism works better. Even if you don’t believe it at first, you can fake it ’til you make it.
“The Sullivan Principles: Back in the 1970s and early 80s, when people were debating how to deal with apartheid, Rev. Leon Sullivan proposed that rather than boycotting South Africa altogether, investors and consumers look at a company’s record and distinguish companies that followed a set of principles that promoted racial equity versus ones that went along with apartheid uncritically. Many institutional investors preferred to continue to invest in companies that followed the Sullivan principles, but many activists called for an all-out boycott of companies doing business in South Africa.”
I’m so glad he brought that up.
back in the day some of us were called racist for supporting the sullivan principles as opposed to outright divestment. (psst recall that Northwestern had Denis brutus on campus, hey maybe MT will rememeber the infamous incident surrounding that?)
“So for the near term, our choices appear to be to take small, inadequate, but politically feasible measures, or to focus on politically unfeasible measures and get nothing done. If those are the choices, I’d take the inadequate measures that can at least provide some progress.
My work on private governance has always emphasized that this is not going to come close to solving the whole problem, but can perhaps move quickly to buy time for the political process to become more amenable to bigger action. To that end, it’s important not to think in terms of dichotomies.
Instead of saying that we have to choose between inadequate policies we can act on quickly and large-scale policies that we can’t act on in time, ask how we can do both, using the smaller policies in the short term to buy time for and possibly build support for the bigger policies that will follow.”
But a lukewarmer agrees, must be wrong.
Yes, I agree that we should aim to do both (enact policies that we can actually implement but that might not be adequate, while aiming for policies that will be more ambitious and effective). I was, however, getting at something slightly different. How do you do this in a way that doesn’t ultimate lead to people we may call delayers, ending up controlling the narrative? In other words, if those who support ambitious policy accept pragmatic, but ineffective, policy, how do they do this in a way that doesn’t completely undermine our ability to enact more ambitious policy? For example, how would we do this without making it seem that Bjorn Lomborg was right all along.
Having written this, maybe it’s something we shouldn’t worry about and should just get started. However, it does feel as though we’d have to be careful of accepting something on the basis of it being a start even if it would be ineffective, and then finding that everyone thinks it’s basically done.
“However, it does feel as though we’d have to be careful of accepting something on the basis of it being a start even if it would be ineffective, and then finding that everyone thinks it’s basically done.”
That sounds like diet programs. Where there is a commercial interest in selling people the idea that they do not have to make radical and permanent changes in food consumption, simply eliminate carbohydrates/gluten/dairy for 6 weeks and perhaps take statins and vitamin supplements, and their obesity problem will be solved.
The danger is that when faced with a problem which really needs permanent change, people would prefer a solution that may involve some temporary or partial sacrifice, and adopt that as a total solution, rejecting any fundamental alteration in their behaviour.
If AGW could solved by 6 weeks of reduced energy consumption it would be easy. But like obesity it will take significant, ongoing reductions in consumption.
To be successful small climate actions should have the potential to move the global economic/political needle at scale. Solar and wind are good examples. The school strike may turn out to be another. Not sure how useful personal consumption decisions are.
In the end, the rules of the game need to be changed. Per article below, looks like the financial community is starting to recognize the current disconnect. Bottom-line, science denial is causing inaccurate pricing signals, which cause bad long-term investment, the housing crisis on steroids. Ironic that free-market advocates are the most resistant to change, one would think a rigged, inaccurate, market would bother them.
“Ironic that free-market advocates are the most resistant to change, one would think a rigged, inaccurate, market would bother them.”
‘Free’ market advocates mean free from government regulation so that the market CAN be rigged and inaccurate in favour of the biggest, or most rapacious players.
@Mosher: I totally agree with you there, so why did you have to undermine your point by making it about what you think people think of you at the end? https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2019/03/21/jonathans-carrot-and-stick/#comment-150237
And, in the process of trying to sort out my comment now, I thought, that’s interesting. One thing aTTP does is provide a forum where people who are lightning rods for those of us who think reality has been undermined by politics advocacy actually show up. Despite my disgust about ClimateGate, I admire your courage in showing up here and demonstrating that principled action is a mixed bag subject to misinterpretation in the broad middle. I’ve always thought namecalling is stupid. We’re stuck with the real world, and pushing at people with insults that may or may not be accurate rather than reasoned arguments makes them harden their positions.
Principled action is only okay when the principles enacted are in line with the facts. We could consider Steven’s past actions and his present tone-tr0lling in the light of this, for example.
Which begs the question of to what extent Steven’s actions are principled, at least in the usual understanding of the word.
If we could focus on Jonathan’s stuff, that’d be great.
So for the near term, our choices appear to be to take small, inadequate, but politically feasible measures, or to focus on politically unfeasible measures and get nothing done.
I suppose that might be the near term choices, but the dividing line between near and short term is somewhat vague…and with that in mind…
What is politically unfeasible is not really a static measure. One question I have is whether more aggressive positions, that seem politically unfeasible in the current moment or judged by standards of the past, might be be moved towards feasibility by more advocating for stronger measures. IOW, there is the question of “moving the Overton Window.”
This seems to me to be a structural question that parallels similar questions on any variety of political issues. One argument I’ve often seen is that if the civil rights movement, as an example, had focused only on initiatives that seemed feasible in the short term, it would not have advanced the cause of civil rights (long term) to the extent that it did so.
I’m fairly agnostic on this question… this seems to me to be a very “uncertain” question…and of course, even if we had a clear answer w/r/t to civil rights, that doesn’t necessarily mean it should be a guide to understanding the political realities of climate change policy.
The interactive tool may have have been missed:
I thought you’d like to toy with it.
If you do, please report your results.
OK, I reread the whole thing to try to focus. Willard, I owe you two apologies, one for going off topic and the other for not noticing that it was you who did the interview. That said, I still love the material, difficulties and ambiguities and all. I got my parents’ copy of How to Change the World (origins of Grameen bank etc.) decades ago and remember being inspired as heck about it, gave it away to a fellow train passenger who was captured by my enthusiasm. Since then, I’ve become jaded. But the Green New Deal situation, as discussed above, is important, and the metaphor with MLK Jr. appropriate. It’s aspirational and essential, and those who attack it have no alternative solution to the destructive power of our acquired habits and the power of fakery. People think they can just get on, but it’s clear from events (recently, Idai and our midwest floods, and many other problems invisible to most of us (Singapore: https://www.razor.tv/video/flash-floods-across-singapore-caused-by-heavy-rain/4802324435001/5294365066001 )) that our current ideas are not functional. There is coverage this week about poisons in our food supply, and that doesn’t even touch the way we hunt for food in a plastic packet, ignoring its vast carbon footprint.
I’m for the leapfrog approach of the GND. Just as I’m for the current marchers in the UK – https://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2019/mar/23/brexit-hundreds-of-thousands-expected-to-march-for-peoples-vote-london-live-updates – It’s time to say “to hell with convention” and do what we must. I’m also for the acceptance of reality and promoting the possible, as described above.
The difficulties of now seem overwhelming, but accepting limitations has not worked so far. I think it’s time to let the realists have their say. Our wholly owned corporate marketing and cheating system is not working.
I’ve been thinking more about possible parallels with the Civil Rights movement.
During that era, there were different components of the movement overall. If we consider MLK “mainstream” in a sense (although he certainly wasn’t tightly constrained in his approach to what was political feasibility, he was also quite aware of the importance of leveraging “mainstream” public sentiment), there were also elements such as Malcolm X and the Panthers. Consider the equivalent, in perhaps a sense, to the GND here:
Were the Panthers a necessary part of the movement that maid the “mainstream” Civil Rights advocates more politically palatable? Were they an element that only made “mainstream” Civil Rights advocacy all that more difficult? Was their existence essentially not material to the larger forces in play that manifest as the trajectory of the larger Civil Rights movement\?
I go back and forth, on a regular basis, between thinking that the GND and the more “radical” activists will have a net negative effect, to thinking that they can help shift the definition of what is “feasible,” to thinking that the impact of advocacy – irrespective of views on feasibility – will not have much impact one way or the other. I think that I lean towards the last viewpoint most heavily; perhaps the only thing that will result in truly impactful climate policies is for people to recognize a clear and unambiguous signal of climate change in their day to day lives. Until that time, uncertainty about the effects of ACO2 emissions is too easy to weaponize. Certainly anti-civil rights advocates have tried to leverage uncertainty all along (e.g., think of the disaster that would befall us if slaves have rights, or blacks have rights, or women could own property and vote, or gays can marry, etc.), but the risks and impact of climate change have an indirect and abstracted impact on people’s lives, in a way I suspect is quite different than the impact seeing a epithets hurled at a girl trying to go to school, or finding out that a close relative is gay
thomaswfuller2: Yes, I agree that hopeful messages may be more effective. That point is one thing I like that comes from the Breakthrough Institute. But I think we need more empirical research to test that hypothesis. Right now, it’s just speculation. I hope there’s some truth to it, and I think there may well be, but I’m prepared to be convinced otherwise if that’s what empirical data say.
I don’t like the idea that we’d have to choose between absolutes: “The BTI is wonderful” or “The BTI is horrible.” I agree with some things they say and disagree with others. I try to evaluate ideas without ascribing motives (good or evil) to the people who come up with them. One has more interesting conversations if we focus on the ideas rather than the people.
ATTP: You raise good question. I don’t have solid answers. We’re all trying to figure this out by the seat of our pants.
To me, the last 30 years of climate policy point me to the conclusion that holding out for a comprehensive solution isn’t working, so I’m proposing something else and basing it to the extent that I can on empirical psychology and political science.
But there’s a lot of uncertainty and I don’t think anyone can be sure whether something is a good short term supplement to advocating for a bigger response versus becoming a delaying tactic.
Joshua: You make good points. I agree with everything you write and I don’t see a contradiction between the good points you make and what I’m pushing for.
I am hopeful that GND may move the Overton window and I don’t see any contradiction between that hope and also pushing for more concrete actions in the short term. Similarly, as you point out in your last comment, the civil rights movement had many parts, some of which pushed for smaller short-term victories while other parts pushed for bigger long-term goals.
I also agree with your point that climate change is more abstract and harder for people to connect with viscerally than seeing assaults on children, or seeing their relatives and neighbors ostracized for being queer.
So, just as I said to ATTP, I agree with you about uncertainty, but that shouldn’t stop us from being active and following our best political judgment, even if there’s a lot of guesswork involved. You might be interested to take a look at a very influential essay on policy and planning, “The Science of ‘Muddling Through’,” by Charles Lindblom: https://faculty.washington.edu/mccurdy/SciencePolicy/Lindblom%20Muddling%20Through.pdf
I agree that the BTI presents ideas important for discussion. That said, I think the characterization that they are “hopeful” deserves some due dilligence.
This might be as good a place as any to start.
Lest it might have seemed otherwise, I agree with your approach.
Speaking of the Green New Deal,in insightful article about it is contained in the April 1 print edition of Time Magazine with AOC on the cover.
Three key paragraphs from the article:
Love the Green New Deal or hate it, the conversation it has unleashed represents a shift in the discussion surrounding climate policy in the U.S., with ripples that will spread across the globe. The outcome of the debate will go a long way toward determining if humanity can avoid the most catastrophic consequences of a rapidly warming world.
Even before Ocasio-Cortez released her Green New Deal resolution, critics had begun to scrutinize the program, using every detail as a chance to condemn it. A congressional newcomer, Ocasio-Cortez has developed a reputation for taking critics and their talking points head-on, but in a recent interview with TIME she rejected the idea that she should have to defend the particulars.
“It’s a statement. It’s a vision document. And people want to pick it apart to death,” she says, agreeing with those who liken her proposal to the “bold persistent experimentation” that President Franklin Roosevelt advocated to end the Great Depression. “I hope that we start to get to more of an experimental spirit in government,” she says.
How the Green New Deal Is Forcing Politicians to Finally Address Climate Change by Justin Worland, Time Magazine, Mar 21, 2019
Another definition of the Green New Deal is set forth by William Rivers Pitt in a recent essay:
Another definition of the Green New Deal is set forth by William Rivers Pitt in a recent essay:
These concerns comprehensively miss the point on the GND and the climate disruption it seeks to address. The GND is a non-binding resolution, which means it has precisely the same force of law as a non-binding resolution celebrating the fact that children enjoy ice cream cones. The GND exists for one reason: To finally get elected officials talking seriously about what we need to do in order to prepare for what is already here, what is definitely going to come and perhaps to mitigate the damage as best we can.
Mozambique Is Drowning. Nebraska Has Flooded. We Need a Green New Deal. by William Rivers Pitt, Truthout, Mar 23. 2019
Another source of quality information about mitigation efforts is Project Drawdown
From its website:
Project Drawdown is the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming. We did not make or devise the plan—the plan exists and is being implemented worldwide. It has been difficult to envision this possibility because the focus is overwhelmingly on the impacts of climate change. We gathered a qualified and diverse group of researchers from around the world to identify, research, and model the 100 most substantive, existing solutions to address climate change. What was uncovered is a path forward that can roll back global greenhouse gas emissions within thirty years. The research revealed that humanity has the means and techniques at hand. Nothing new needs to be invented, yet many more solutions are coming due to purposeful human ingenuity. The solutions we modeled are in place and in action. Humanity’s task is to accelerate the knowledge and growth of what is possible as soon as possible.
Well, yes, that’s certainly true for me 🙂
The Breakthrough Institute is just another allegedly progressive think tank that more elegantly spews out contrarian rhetoric under its ‘ecomodernist’ banner, They promote neoliberal doctrine while effectivly saying, ‘Be happy! Don’t do anything and everything will be fine!’
But it won’t. We have procrastinated for 30 years as the ‘fire engulfing Rome’ grows larger, deeper and more destructive. We are passing tipping point after tipping point while we sit by idly, mitigative policy paralyzed by those with wealth and power who are doing everything to guarantee our descent into the abyss.
I disagree that hopeful messages will have more positive effects. As Chris Hedges said to Peter Jay in 2013 on an episode of ‘Reality Asserts Itself’, hope is like a pathology that blinds us to the nature and reality of the predicament. Hope has to have an empirical foundation and embrace reality, as the program’s title made clear. Clive Hamilton spelled out his frustration at human apathy in his book ‘Requiem for a Species’, which is now almost 10 years old. He said even then that it was too late for mankind to avoid some of the serious consequences of anthropogenic climate change, no matter what we did, yet a decade and the five warmest years on record later we have done little to address it. Unfortunately, the chickens are coming home to roost. Clearly, our primitive brains are not wired to deal with threats that are perceived as being gradual and almost existential. It will be our undoing.
Steven: You’re welcome.
> I don’t like the idea that we’d have to choose between absolutes
The same should apply to messaging. Both optimism and pessimism work. One is like a carrot, the other like a stick. Sock and buskin.
Carrots and sticks may look strange when used at the same time:
ATTP: Fodder for a new OP…
Early results suggest ECS values from some of the new CMIP6 climate models are higher than previous estimates, with early numbers being reported between 2.8C (pdf) and 5.8C. This compares with the previous coupled model intercomparison project (CMIP5), which reported values between 2.1C to 4.7C. The IPCC’s fifth assessment report (AR5) assessed ECS to be “likely” in the range 1.5C to 4.5C and “very unlikely” greater than 6C. (These terms are defined using the IPCC methodology.).
Why results from the next generation of climate models matter, Guest Post by Stephen Belcher, Olivier Bucher & Rowan Sutton, Carbon Brief, Mar 21, 2019
That we are still debating how to communicate the seriousness of the climate problem, in order to prompt support for dealing with it tells me the climate problem is going to be much worse than it otherwise could be – and should be.
I think we have more of a top down problem than a bottom up one – effective leadership uses the truth to inspire support for the things we need to do, even for things that are hard; throwing this back to the public has been responsibility avoidance. But add in deliberate efforts to mislead and confuse and divert the public at the same time – leadership using lies to avoid the rise of popular support for the things we need to do – and it becomes something much worse than mere incompetence or apathy. People in positions of trust, responsibility, power and influence do have higher levels of obligation to take the expert advice seriously. Even so, if it takes a popular movement with majority support to demand better – and we are belatedly become a majority – then that is good. Of course we are portrayed as unthinking followers of an extremist led fad so that majority will to be rejected by policy makers.
Positive messaging, avoiding making a fuss about the changing the planet’s climate will be disastrous won’t work in my view; unless we accept how deathly serious the problem is we won’t accept the policies that will do the job.
yes john, there are many things on that list that conservatives would not fight to the death for. some ive talked about before,
An alternative frame to carrot and stick might be heat and light, as explicated by Dolly Chung:
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IIRC, the GND wasn’t intended to be a policy in itself, but was made into one when McConnell disingenuously put it to the vote.
I scrolled down to find a thread where this fits (into a convo about the relationship between personal carbon footprints and collective emission levels)… but got kind of tired of scrolling and figured this would be close enough (for jazz).
Oh, h/t Judith (Climate Etc.)
And since I’ve interrupted the discussion about black knights, I’ll offer this link that discusses about nights, and hot days, among other things.
I’d be curious to read thoughts on the “urban cool island effect.”
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