By Reed Hundt.
The quote below from a recent NYT op ed explores the language used to talk about political candidates, but it also teaches how to talk about climate change. First, the words:
“Our studies found that the degree of support for Scott Miller [the hypothetical candidate] wasn’t much affected by whether his policy platform was highly progressive or more moderate…What mattered far more was how Scott Miller talked about those policies. We found that when he spoke of his platform in terms of conservative values like patriotism, family and the American dream, he consistently drew more support than did the Scott Miller who couched those same policies in more liberal values like economic justice and compassion.”
The Coalition for Green Capital is raising funds for more robust polling on how these lessons apply to climate change messages . If you’d like to send charitable contributions to the Coalition for Green Capital, we need to raise about $40,000 to do the polling nationally and in key states.
Our best guess is that the most broadly effective language makes it clear that the climate crisis jeopardizes the prospect of an increasing standard of living for all Americans. The dimensions of trouble need to be explored: devastation for agriculture, destruction of housing, migrations of people looking for work. Economic prospects may rise in more northerly climates like Canada, and correspondingly fall in Florida, Georgia and Texas.
We need to know what facts to research and present. This is what polling must do: explore what the National Climate Bank should invest in, and test how to discuss and present those messages to the public.
For years, mathematical models have made the case for action against climate catastrophe. While true, these arguments have been a political failure of the highest magnitude- possibly the worst political blunder seen during my lifetime. A big part of the inefficacy of climate politics is the failure to link it to traditional values like the American Dream.
“Families” suggests emphasis on what parents owe children. “Patriotism” leads to a discussion about American advantage as against other countries, and specifically suggests that it is an imperative to link American actions against climate change to a proactive program directed against climate polluters.