by Paul D. Hoffman
The headlines tell the story, and it’s not a pretty one. Climate realists, like me, are losing the climate change debate. Not because we are wrong. Factually, we win every time! But, we are losing the hearts and minds of the people because we have failed to tap into their emotions.
The climate alarmists don’t care about the facts. They beat us down with children, like Greta Thunberg, and lecture us about self-interest and our cowardice in the face of a “mass extinction event.” They play to our natural emotions and worst fears by linking climate change to those uncontrollable things we are most afraid to face—hurricanes (lions), wildfires (tigers), and tornadoes (and bears, oh my!).
Despite these facts:
- Climate change models have failed to accurately predict the future global average temperature change.
- There is no ideal average temperature for a world where on any given day the temperature could be -50 degrees F in one place and 120 F above zero somewhere else. (Remember, if you live by averages, you would be comfortable standing with one foot on a block of ice and the other in a fire.)
- Global average temperatures have fluctuated much more and have changed much faster in the geologic past and well before humans started burning carbon-based fuels in significant quantities.
- Weather patterns are much more attributable to cyclical changes in ocean currents than to climate change.
- The use of oil, gas, and coal creates a significantly higher quality of life for billions of people, reduces poverty, provides abundant food supplies, and means cleaner air and water.
- There is overwhelming evidence that climate change is neither caused primarily by humans nor an existential threat to mankind or any other species.
Despite all this and more, we are gradually losing the battle for the minds of the people when it comes to the climate change debate. And we are not just losing the debate at the political level. We are losing in the board rooms, and not just the woke corporations like Amazon, Nike, Apple, or Google, but in the corporate board rooms of the utility companies, the oil & gas industry, and the manufacturers.
We tend to make our case using wonky science that even scientists don’t fully understand. People can’t get their heads around our rational explanations, but they darn sure understand fear of events that may affect them directly and personally.
We tend to argue about the adverse macro-economic effects of climate change policy—the loss of millions of jobs, green energy costing trillions of dollars, and the failed goals of wealth redistribution. These effects are real and catastrophic.
However, have you ever wondered why the voters do not support Social Security or Medicare reforms, despite the overwhelming macro-economic evidence that both systems will likely be bankrupt within the next decade? The answer is fairly simple. People make decisions based on micro-economics, not macro-economics. People will choose to protect their personal benefits over the solvency of the system—every time.
Consider these examples of the micro-economic impacts of climate-change policies. Here in Virginia, Dominion Energy is closing coal-fired power plants in favor of solar and wind farms, and this move toward renewable energy sources will lead to a $1,000 per person per year increase in electric bills by 2030.
Ask anybody if they are willing to pay a thousand dollars a year when it is not likely to change the average global temperature at all? This question brings the issue home, and the answer will much more often be a resounding “No!” Ask the same person if they think climate change is a threat and whether we should do something about it, and you will get many more affirmative responses.
The Transportation & Climate Initiative, a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states plus DC, is proposing a 20-25% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions for the region. Their policy of choice is a “carbon [dioxide] tax.” Recently, Virginia enacted a carbon dioxide tax on utility generation, and the General Assembly will be considering one on transportation fuels that may include a 28 cent per gallon gasoline tax and a 26 cent per gallon diesel tax. Based on current mileage rates and miles driven per capita, these tax increases could cost each driver more than $1,000 per year! Once again, I can fairly easily predict the response from most people to the question of whether they are willing to pay another $1,000 per year for no material effect on the climate.
People expect their lights and their computer to work when they flip the power switch. Talk about the potential for rolling brown-outs, or planned black-outs, so that someone else can charge their electric vehicle at the charging station built with tax dollars (ever seen a government-built gas station?), and I think you will get a predictable negative response.
I am certain that we can come up with many more examples, but my point is this: let’s take the case against climate change down to the personal, micro-economic level. Remember the charge against George H. W. Bush: “It’s the economy stupid!” It wasn’t that Bush didn’t understand that there was a recession; it was that he failed to recognize how that recession affected people at the personal level.
To put it another way, everything in life is political, except politics, that’s personal. When you explain how a policy threatens someone’s pocket book, you’ll get their attention.
Paul D. Hoffman has been involved in environmental policy making and communications throughout his career. He has served as State Director for then-Congressman Dick Cheney, Executive Director of the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce just outside Yellowstone National Park, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the US Department of the Interior. He is currently the publicist for Hope Springs Media and a consultant for Resource Management Strategies. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Biology from the University of California at San Diego, Revelle College. He wrote this article for The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.