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Boomerangs versus Javelins: The Impact of Polarization on Climate Change Communication

Filed under: — mike @ 7 June 2016

Guest commentary by Jack Zhou, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University

For advocates of climate change action, communication on the issue has often meant “finding the right message” that will spur their audience to action and convince skeptics to change their minds. This is the notion that simply connecting climate change to the right issue domains or symbols will cut through the political gridlock on the issue. The difficulty then lies with finding these magic bullet messages, figuring out if they talk about climate change in the context of with national security or polar bears or passing down a clean environment to future generations.

On highly polarized issues like climate change, however, communicating across the aisle may be more difficult than simply finding the right message. Here, the worst case scenario is not simply a message failing to land and sending you back to the drawing board. Instead, any message that your audience disagrees with may polarize that audience even further in their skepticism, leaving you in a worse position than you began. As climate change has become an increasingly partisan issue in American politics, this means that convincing Republicans to reject the party line of climate skepticism may be easier said than done.

In my recent paper in Environmental Politics, I show the results from a study examining how Republican (and Republican-leaning independent) individuals react when exposed to persuasive information on climate change. I find that after these individuals are faced with messages that go against their party line on climate change, they further oppose governmental action on the issue, become less willing to take personal action, and, from a psychological perspective, become even surer of their distaste for climate change.

My study asked the question: “how do Republican individuals perceive persuasive information on climate change action, and what types of information are more or less effective?” To answer this question, I conducted a survey experiment wherein respondents in the treatment conditions were asked to read a paragraph about climate change. Each paragraph linked climate change to a prominent concept in American politics (either free markets, national security, poverty alleviation, or natural disaster preparation), attributed the message to a fictional but realistic-sounding source (either a Republican former Congressman or Democrat), and ended with a call for public action on the issue. These passages were rigorously pretested to ensure realism and impact.

The experiment, conducted in March 2014, used a nationally representative sample of 478 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, who were randomly sorted into one of the eight treatment groups or the control group, where respondents were asked in a single sentence to consider climate change as a political issue. Afterwards, all respondents were asked a series of questions to assess their support for or opposition to governmental action against climate change, their likelihood of taking personal action on the issue, and how sure they felt about their climate change opinions.

What I found was that every single treatment condition failed to convince respondents. In fact, treating Republicans with persuasive information made them more resistant to climate action regardless of the content or sourcing of that information. Overall, simply being exposed to pro-climate action communication appeared to polarize Republicans even further; they became more opposed to governmental action and less likely to take personal action compared to the control group. They also became more certain of their negative opinions on the issue, displaying significantly lower attitudinal ambivalence compared to the control group. What’s more, all of these treatment effects doubled to tripled in size for respondents who reported high personal interest in politics, all statistically significant outcomes. These highly politically interested individuals make up roughly one-third of Republicans in the sample and in the United States.

These are interesting results, though perhaps not unexpected given knowledge of American climate change politics. Traditionally, political communication research has focused on a phenomenon called framing, which basically deals with how information is presented to an audience. Framing effects come in two varieties: which facets of an issue are emphasized (“message effects”) and who is the communicator (“source effects”). A vast literature in political science, sociology, and psychology have shown that framing information may strongly impact how individuals perceive that information.

However, persuasive framing effects – meaning framing that shifts an individual’s opinion in the direction of the frame – have been hard to come by in climate change communication research. This is likely due to the fact that the issue is very much polarized, boasting public opinion gaps in the 40 percentage point range between Democrats and Republicans on an array of different aspects of the issue. For these polarized issues, we might expect framing effects to butt up against other effects. Specifically, the theory of motivated reasoning provides an explanation of how political identity influences how individuals process information and communication.

Motivated reasoning is essentially the concept that people may be spurred to think in specific ways by forming cognitive motivations. In particular, individuals may engage in directional motivated reasoning, which means that they have a preference to believe something and will process information in order to satisfy that preference. These motivations are borne out of aspects of one’s identity – those strongly held beliefs that a person understands to define him or herself. For instance, someone could be motivated by their identity as a New Yorker, an Ohio State fan, or, of course, a Democrat or a Republican. Motivations are not borne out of ignorance or irrationality or mis-education; they are oftentimes simply what makes someone that person.

In practice, motivated reasoning boils down to identity defense – motivated reasoners want to protect their beliefs. This effect manifests in two ways: a confirmation bias and a disconfirmation bias (for review, see Lodge and Taber 2013). When motivated reasoners comes across information that agrees with their prior beliefs, they tend to believe that information without a lot of conscious thought. However, when motivated reasoners are exposed to dissonant information, they tend to become critical and argue against the information. After all, simply accepting information that conflicts with their priors would weaken their sense of self. When motivations become strong enough, this process of counter-arguing can convince a motivated reasoner to be even surer of his or her preferred position and become even more polarized. This is known as a backfire or boomerang effect.

When it comes to politics, the strength of an individual’s motivated reasoning is strongly tied to that person’s interest in politics. This relationship makes sense for multiple reasons. Given that motivations arise from strong personal identity beliefs, political motivations go hand-in-hand with interest about the subject. Furthermore, as an individual becomes more engaged with politics, they are better able to recognize and process the political cues that align with their party and ideology. From these cues, the motivated individual can deepen their motivations. For instance, political interest helps with understanding that a pro-life stance has Republican connotations while a pro-choice position is associated with the Democratic Party. Without the relevant political savvy, these phrases lack much meaning.

In my study, I found plenty of evidence of these backfire effects when it comes to Republicans and climate change action. An example of one of these findings (support for or opposition to governmental action) is shown below to illustrate how Republicans, particularly those with high personal interest in politics, respond negatively to pro-action communication. In effect, for Republican respondents with low personal interest in politics (middle plot), exposure to treatment framing seemed to have had little impact – these individuals appear generally apathetic on the issue and on politics in general. But for those with high personal interest in politics (right plot), exposure to pro-action framing triggered a considerable backfire in opposition to governmental action.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 10.56.20 AM

Indeed, there are many potential unseen landmines to step in when trying to persuade skeptical audiences on the issue. Say you use an ineffective message. Those frames may turn off your audience or resonate with unintended thoughts or beliefs – such as a global security message backfiring on an audience of staunch isolationists. Suppose you find an effective message but your source is seen as lacking credibility. Your audience may feel they are being pandered to and backfire that way. Even when you have an effective source and message and can produce a persuasive framing effect, there’s no telling how long that effect will last before decaying or how that framing effect fares when countered with arguments from the other side that reinforce the audience’s prior attitudes.

For audiences who are motivated to be skeptical about climate change, providing corrective information, such as debunking the climate pause, may not work either. Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler (2010) have shown that factually accurate information used to correct political misconceptions are likely to fail when they fly in the face of strongly-held prior beliefs – another backfire. Indeed, there is evidence that an individual’s views on climate change are less related to education and views on science as they are to cultural and political identity (Kahan et al. 2012). Simply put, people have a tendency to believe what they want to believe.

If this is the case, what is to be done about climate change communication if Republicans are difficult to reach and the political environment on climate change remains toxic? I should preface that I do not think it is impossible to persuade Republicans to reconsider their stances on the issue. Rather, the state of polarization in American politics and on climate change in particular have stacked the deck against advocates of climate action. In addition, it is currently unclear what sorts of messages are seen as consistently persuasive, which messengers are considered credible, and if it is possible to recruit these types of messengers.

However, the issue is only growing in geopolitical import and circumstances, both political and physical, may change. Social science research suggests that framing is most effective when frames are repeatedly circulated and incorporated into political discussion, in effect shifting the societal understanding of climate change to include those frames. However, this means that, besides the times and effort needed to research effective frames and messengers, advocates need to continually reach audiences whom may be strongly resistant to such communication. This may be an inefficient use of political resources.

Instead, perhaps there are other populations who may be easier to reach, and with less gnashing of teeth. A 2014 New York Times/CBS News poll found that 37% of Democrats and 49% of independents thought that the impacts of climate change will not occur until sometime in the future or not at all. A 2016 Pew Research Center poll shows that just 55% of Democrats and 41% of Independents consider climate change to be an important issue for the President and Congress. These are a pool of individuals who may be, at the outset, agnostic on the issue or even in favor of action but not yet mobilized. Moreover, they are less likely to be polarized against the issue and more open to persuasive communication.


Kahan, Dan M. et al. 2012. “The Polarizing Impact of Science Literacy and Numeracy on Perceived Climate Change Risks.” Nature Climate Change 2(10): 732–35.

Lodge, Milton, and Charles S. Taber. 2013. The Rationalizing Voter. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Nyhan, Brendan, and Jason Reifler. 2010. “When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions.” Political Behavior 32(2): 303–30.

Zhou, Jack. 2016. “Boomerangs versus Javelins: How Polarization Constrains Communication on Climate Change.” Environmental Politics: 1–24.

191 Responses to “Boomerangs versus Javelins: The Impact of Polarization on Climate Change Communication”

  1. 51

    nigelj 48,

    Perhaps we could use the Milne-Eddington approximation:

    Ts = Te (1 + 0.75 τ)^0.25

    which relates surface temperature to a planet’s emission temperature Te, and its semigray infrared optical thickness τ. It’s an oversimplification, but the equation is a fairly simple one. τ goes up, surface gets hotter.

  2. 52

    re: #9 Spencer Weart:

    “It’s worth noting that opinion is molded by elites…[but] at present there don’t seem to be any respected conservative opinion leaders!”

    I think this is right (actually, crucial) in some ways, but misses the scope of the situation in others.

    I’m a reformed TV commercial director, so I spent 20 years working on the applied side of what Jack Zhou is studying. (The market research skillset of corporations is vast, btw; academia is slowly catching up, but it’s like moving from high school to the NFL. I did a commercial for Crest, which is P&G; as I recall that one commercial came with a 100 page briefing book.)

    I agree with Jack, I think it’s going to be hard to market one’s way through the communications barrier. I think role models are important; I also think gaining visible commitments from other groups in the ‘Six Americas’ is the most immediate thing.

    I’ve been working on climate communications for about ten years. I launched, and then stepped in to edit, which is a way to explore the future of NYC, overlapping my commercial career and now totally absorbing my efforts.

    I tended to think the way to get around the obstacles (particularly polarization) is through citizen engagement — and I still mostly think that. Consumers want to be happy (or to win), but citizens want to participate. Deliberative groups are a method to try; Thomas Dietz and Elinor Ostrom are people who have worked in that area, and James Fishkin is a leader in the field. How to structure a big enough program is another question.

    But I relay something else here, to keep us all from barking up the wrong tree.

    In the past couple of years, working in NYC, now known to be due for a couple of meters of sea level rise over time, I’ve been looking for obvious allies, especially from the blue-leaning hi net worth sector of the city.

    No luck so far, and there is also the curious silence of the city’s high end institutions, nonprofits, museums, and so forth. This parallels the lack of divestment from top universities; up the coast, Harvard is actually doubling down on fossil fuel investments right now. All of these individuals and institutions are led by educated, aware, capable people who are blocking out one of the central facts of life.

    Meritocracy is tricky; brilliant people make vast sums, and that can shape their thinking. Money changes everything, and changes the institutions that need it, too.

    Jeff Bezos suggests we’ll outsource our manufacturing to space to preserve the planet; growth will continue forever and so will Amazon. Compare that idea to a piece Kim Stanley Robinson wrote for the consulting firm McKinsey, comparing our civilization to a Ponzi scheme. (Retrieved from web archive, because McKinsey probably realized clients wouldn’t like where this is heading.)

    Kim Stanley Robinson’s piece dovetails with this paper by Motesharrei, Rivas and Kalnay:

    The reason there are no respected conservative leaders is because the GOP was a long-running shell game that finally collapsed; among other things bankers in NYC funded red state politicians to keep taxes low and policies favorable to the 1%.

    Not a hidden process, as you can see here:

    But the Ponzi scheme problem is still with us, as the Motesharrei paper describes. And for bright young people, the pull is strong to go with the flow, try to get onto the red curve in their graph, for fear of being left out. In a ruthless meritocratic economy victories and defeats seem to reflect on you alone.

    Under this pressure, the largest chunk of Harvard grads still go to Wall Street.

    If you study this tool (or think about the Great Barrier Reef as a disappearing elite vacation destination), that path seems crazy:

    I think an intervention is possible, but it’s hard. For the public as a whole, the scale of communications needs to be in proportion to the real world of marketing which is a $500B global industry, one that does not include the climate in its glossy portrait of life. For core groups like Harvard or Columbia grads, they need to see more of their peers changing their minds.


  3. 53
    Thomas says:

    Interesting comments by all. It’s important to keep in mind that all groups are made up of individuals. And yes ‘identity’ group think is real but first came the individual beliefs which comes from individual families already identified with groups and the larger national group – the most powerful group think of all. So ‘motivated reasoning’ is driven by a lot more that only climate change issues, there’s beliefs about the nation, it’s economy, it’s ‘status’ in the world, beliefs about religion and science, conspiracy theories vs critical thinking skills, of science, of politics, of social norms, and the natural environment.

    It’s my view that Republicans are only a minor symptom of a far greater malaise caused by false beliefs, a distorted historical narrative, and corrupted ‘identities’ at all levels of national life. It is America, the nation as a whole, that is the ‘outlier’ in the world at large and has been for a very long time.

    It’s multi-decadal abuse of power has downstream effects upon all other nations and it’s economic allies in particular. The Democrats won’t save you because it was Clinton who repealed Glass-Steagall remember? If not, you should recall the GFC and it’s effects upon every other nation on this earth. The difference between donkeys and elephants is only skin deep iow.

    It’s root and branch reform that’s required. A revolution in meaning and a rejection of all the dysfunctional myths that underpins and forms both the individual and the national identity. Nothing much will change regarding the US response to AGW/CC until everything else changes first. The drivers for this kind of cultural reform usually comes from the ‘outside’ first or the least the undeniable shocks the rock the foundations of a society that nothing less than a total rethink is required.

    That is only a few philosophical musings based on human history. eg the EU also has it’s political and social issues to be worked out too. These things take time to build up and reach a critical mass. In the meantime what Zhou et al are doing, what the climate scientists are doing, and what activists for addressing agw/cc are doing should continue. From little things big things grow. All in good time, imo. :-)

  4. 54
    Scott Strough says:

    It is worth noting that the third place finisher (Kasich) in the Republican primary was not a AGW denier. He believes global warming is real and that humans play a significant factor, but cautioned against punitive regulations that could cripple the economy and kill jobs.

    That’s 1/2 the battle, changing the direction of the debate from one of denial to how do we mitigate the problem in this economic playing field.

    Now he did take a lot of heat for his position, and started to waffle around a bit, certainly a bad move for a politician. Probably one part of why he lost.

    In my opinion a better strategy would have been to say AGW mitigation is a great opportunity to build the economy and create new jobs. Then present a platform and strategy as to how. That would have given Republicans something to hang their hats on. But he cowered back, and Republicans really hate that in a candidate. They can have a differing view, but they must hold firm and pound on it, not cower and backpedal when confronted.

    I think you’ll find that there are plenty of conservatives with similar opinions that are simply waiting for a candidate with the proverbial balls to take the bull by the horns.

  5. 55
    zebra says:

    @ Richard 52 and Thomas 53

    Dudes, we just have too much of this over-the-top futurist fantasizing these days.

    It may come as a shock, but we all know it’s a Ponzi scheme, Madison Ave, yadda yadda. In all the time humans have been on the planet, that’s how it has always been, and it isn’t going to change any time soon.

    If the goal is to reduce the amount of CO2 we are emitting, we have to use the system not fight it. That’s really easy– you make it profitable for people with money and power to offer alternative solutions to the use of fossil fuels, as well as reduction of energy consumption. You use advertising to make the change a positive not a negative, playing on pre-existing motivations.

    “It’s the money, stupid.”

  6. 56

    Vendicar, #50–

    I think your point about ‘individual conversion’ is a good one. I’m in an extended conversation with a luke-warmer/denialist. The conversation is interesting, in that he maintains his group ideology via ongoing reading of WUWT, the Daily Caller, and the like. (Often this involves what Hank calls ‘rebunking’ of old canards.)

    Speaking of which, I wouldn’t be too sure about this:

    For example the claim that there is a pause in the warming is now gone from public discussion. The claims now are that ‘Sure the climate is changing but there is no proof that man is responsible.’

    It has taken the better part of 2 decades to get this far.

    I still see scattered claims of “It’s all the El Nino” and such. I think there is erosion of outright denial of warming, but I don’t expect it to be gone completely for some time. Just let a good La Nina kick in, and we’ll hear lots about it; the same folks who told us that warming in 2016 was all down to El Nino will have a mysterious case of amnesia WRT ENSO fluctuations, and will be insisting that the cooling is all trend… Call ’em neo-Maunderites, if you wish.

    But they do look increasingly loony to the innocent bystander, who must be our real ‘target’ in all of this.

  7. 57
    patrick says:

    Jack Zhou, 38: Don’t be bummed. It’s an excellent contribution. It’s clear, helpful, and not too technical. But technical enough. Thanks for taking on the challenges of climate change, sustainable energy, and political communication.

  8. 58
    Robin Johnson says:

    Lots of good comments…

    I can only add this…

    In conversations with my friends/acquaintances that are Denialists, it seems clear that they are in Denial because they fear the “solutions”. Occasionally, they try out Denialist junk on me – but [with help from RealClimate and many years of study] I can calmly argue the physics and bat away their silly talking points. But what I emphasize with them is this: “If you are a Denialist, when the rest of us discuss and implement the solutions, the Denialists will have no input. We will listen to someone who is skeptical of policies/solutions, there is plenty of room for passionate discussion there. But if you are a Denialist, we won’t likely pay any attention to your concerns when it comes to solutions. If anything, we’ll laugh when you complain that your retirement accounts that had loaded up on Coal took a nose dive.

  9. 59
    mike says:

    Piotr at 47: yes, I think that is right. We should not try to bring folks along who are not ready. When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

    AJ at 45: does anyone change? Yes, good question. I think they do, but most of us do it very slowly and this study may indicate what Piotr suggests, don’t bother talking directly to the opponents of knowledge and progress (kind of like “don’t feed the trolls”?) with a goal of changing their minds or bringing them along, it only makes them more rigid in their opposition mode.

    I do think there is another approach with this challenge and that is to pose a meaningful question, carefully structured, and in a very neutral manner that will make another party think hard about an issue outside the action and reaction of politics and ideology. Ask the right question. or drop the right neurolinguistic change statement ala Lakoff’s “don’t think of elephants”

    I feel pretty certain that the kind of presentation in these various studies was much too direct to promote/provoke the kind of significant thought that is required to help people grow/evolve/process meaningful information.


  10. 60
    Russell says:

    Cass Sunstein’s shrewd observation about the Sanders campaign should be cause for introspection on all sides of the Climate Wars:

    “Research on group polarization finds that when like-minded people get together, they will tend to go to extremes. If group members favor Britain leaving the European Union, or an increase in the minimum wage, or stricter sentences for drug offenses, their conversations with one another will lead them to greater extremism. Echo chambers are a breeding ground for polarization — and political campaigns often end up as echo chambers, especially in their late stages.”

  11. 61
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Richard Reiss … a piece Kim Stanley Robinson wrote …

    Thank you.

  12. 62
    Racetrack Playa says:

    Re#9 Spencer, “It’s worth noting that opinion is molded by elites”

    This seems to be the heart of the problem. What is the effect on elites in U.S. society of a rapid abandonment of fossil fuels and a switch to renewable energy on a nation-wide scale? The definition of elite really centers around wealth; but what are the economics of renewable energy relative to the economics of fossil fuels?

    Sunlight and wind, after all, are free. The renewable energy business is built around a manufacturing model – build and sell devices that tap into and convert these free sources of energy into usable electricity or various storage forms, such as chemical fuels.

    On the other hand, the fossil fuel industry is built around a resource extraction model – the equivalent of mining and selling sunlight and wind. Their partners in this, the analogues of the renewable energy industry, build fossil-fuel consuming devices – cars, trucks, ships, automobiles and airplanes.

    So it seems inevitable that a large-scale transition to renewable energy in the space of ten years – which is possible, if global investments and government support move in that direction – than this will essentially bankrupt the global fossil fuel industry, as well as the elites that rely on their fossil fuel investment returns to maintain their elite status.

    Elites will thus only support public education on climate science and the transition to renewable energy if a way is found, economically speaking, for their investments to be moved out of fossil fuels and into renewable energy in such a way that they don’t all go bankrupt. So that’s what is needed; but there’s no doubt that such investments, in renewables, will not be as profitable as those in fossil fuels, since the raw materials, sunlight and wind, are freely available to anyone with solar panels and wind turbines and a storage and distribution system.

  13. 63
    Thomas says:

    52 Richard Reiss, good post.

    RE: “The market research skillset of corporations is vast, btw; academia is slowly catching up, but it’s like moving from high school to the NFL. I did a commercial for Crest, which is P&G; as I recall that one commercial came with a 100 page briefing book.

    Very true. I used to be on the corp side of ‘marketing/advertising’ dynamo that paid for such TV ads. Business people and Corporations especially are not fools. The established Political parties are no different, and their modern version of influence via social media is viral at present. All manner of “buttons” are being pushed in people pondering who to vote for. These gimmicks are far ahead of anything academia, climate scientists, or the People can keep up with.

    Why are $mlns from ‘special interests and industry/finance’ pouring into PACS to be redirected to advertising and promotion? Because it works everywhere and every time. The average Joe cannot bear to face how easily manipulated he really is.

    “Don’t think of an Elephant” :-)

  14. 64
    Thomas says:

    62 Racetrack Playa, yes!
    And it’s been estimated (see Kevin Anderson for more info) that ~50% of all GHGs are produced caused by only 10% of the global population. Guess which 10%?

    Self-interest is a powerful driver of current and future behaviour. :-)

  15. 65
    Edward Greisch says:

    62 Racetrack Playa: A specific mitigation strategy is off topic. Go to

  16. 66
    Thomas says:

    Zhou: “Rather, the state of polarization in American politics and on climate change in particular have stacked the deck against advocates of climate action. In addition, it is currently unclear what sorts of messages are seen as consistently persuasive, which messengers are considered credible, and if it is possible to recruit these types of messengers.”
    “As climate change has become an increasingly partisan issue in American politics, this means that convincing Republicans to reject the party line of climate skepticism may be easier said than done.”

    Polarization does not only effect American politics (obviously) for it is a global reality at present. Austria recently came within a whisker of electing a ‘neo-nazi/fascist’ party leader as their President. Early in the year Canada turned it’s polarization on it’s head kicking out a climate science denial Govt. IN Australia there’s a big chance the same will happen in July’s national elections, with The Greens/Independents still holding the balance of power in the upper house. Climate change issues are again front and center this election here.

    Nationally greens/independents are polling ~20% of the vote against the two major parties. IN some states it’s as high as ~40% being higher than the primary vote of either major party Duopoly. Long term I see the US voter heading in the same direction, just not yet.

    As an observer from afar (at present) I cannot see Clinton winning or gaining a majority in the senate. Things will be unclear until October rolls around, as there is much disturbance in the proletariat and rabid confusion across the media at present. imo it’s an unprecedented election cycle yet typical historical patterns still suggest to me that Trump will win as big as GWB did in 2004.

    Trump is not stupid and has the best marketers that money can buy. Every time Clinton opens her mouth she has been and will continue to reinforce Trumps own “framing” narrative that has captured (accurately or hijacked?) the mood of the nation already.

    At present, and this will change obviously, anecdotal polls show up to 80% of Sanders supporters (very pro-climate action vs Clinton) are unlikely to vote for Clinton – meaning they might be staying at home come November.

    Sanders single handedly pulled almost as many votes 12,009,562 as all of Trumps disparate opponents combined @ 15 million! It’s a big indicator his message having real traction despite Clinton winning the race.

    Trump’s primary votes is 13,300,472 now versus McCain/Romney @ 10 million each! What does that say about Trump’s chances in the general election?

    Clinton primary votes are 15,729,913 in 2016 versus Obama/Clinton @ 17 million each in 2008 – iow ~7 million Democrats did not vote this year. That’s a lot of voters!

    30 million Republicans did Vote which is up by ~11 million on the 2012 Republican Primaries. That’s a lot of voters! That’s an 18 million divergence between the two camps!!!

    Who is the more motivated in 2016 after 8 years of Obama? Remembering there are two key components to that question – the voters and the campaign financiers.

    Head to head against Trump, Sanders beats Clinton polling (and then beats Trump) hands down in many of the big states. With Clinton as the Dem candidate there’s a strong chance many Sanders supporters will not vote or vote Greens in protest – while the majority of Republicans will still vote for Trump anyway.

    Trump won’t win on policy or facts – he will like Reagan did in 1980 – on Rhetoric, Framing and “Motivated Reasoning” with Clinton and the Media repeatedly reinforcing his ‘framing’. imo.

    Look out for major cuts in govt funding of climate science institutions, EPA, NASA etc to ‘help balance the budget’ plus reversing of Obama’s ‘executive orders’ under a Trump Presidency.

    [ data refs from and,_2016 ]

  17. 67
    Thomas says:

    55 zebra says: “That’s really easy– you make it profitable for people with money and power to offer alternative solutions to the use of fossil fuels….”

    I think it is far too late for such ‘good time, good news’ strategies. History shows that that approach has never worked before to change damaging corporate behaviours. Only the Law has. Human nature has not shifted much since the East India Company gained the support of the British Government to go to war against China to maintain their profitable Opium trade. Corporations do not have ‘human morals’ Zebra – it simply doesn’t work like that in the real world. Study history of the EIC in India. It took 300 years before the British Govt finally took away the EIC’s Govt / Military powers over the people of greater India. Only the power and Laws of the State were able to change the behaviour of that Corporation.

    Today’s multinationals are no different in their ‘world views’ and ‘mindset’ – one can never have too much money or power. The most ‘secretive’ places on Earth are in Corporate Board rooms. Unless you’ve been there you have no idea what actually goes down and why.

    The fear of being jailed or your ‘product’ made Illegal and therefore you are out of business is what really motivates Corporate Boards to change their practices and drives Industrial scale reform. This ‘truth’ shows up across history across all nations since the 1700s world wide.

    I would refine your quoted comment like this:

    “That’s really easy – you make it essential for company and shareholder survival that people with money and power offer alternative solutions to the use of fossil fuels, as well as reduction of energy consumption.”

    Plus Govt’s (under sustained pressure from the population) to first implement a global moratorium on new fossil fuel mines/extraction and then lay out a planned program to progressively ban fossil fuels from the energy market in the OECD/G20 by 2040 and in the developing world by ~2075.

    The ‘money’ will immediately follow such Laws to the Letter. Science, Technology and Innovation will do the rest. This is where we are at now. imo. Your mileage may vary but this is where the future lays. Or it won’t be much of a future for anyone.

  18. 68
    Thomas says:

    55 zebra: PS It’s a very complex subject. Many pots are simmering on the stove. The US is only one small part of the globe and yet most things are so interconnected one can’t see the forest for the trees. Add to that american society (and media) is incredibly myopic vs other western and G20 nations.

    While both major political parties here are backing a new coal mine, biggest in the world, to supply coal to India, India Govt Ministers are saying they are heading to a moratorium on all coal imports because they can meet growing electricity demand with renewables, nuclear and home coal reserves.
    India energy group GVK Power & Infrastructure last weekend reported its year-to-March 2016 results, detailing its fourth consecutive annual loss…

    The point? The coal market is already suffering insecurity and disruption globally. Some energy corporations are facing serious threats of bankruptcy in the short to medium term.

    Try these refs as but one example of deeper changes afoot

    Google Scholar – this DiEM idea is far from brand new

    Explained well here YANIS VAROUFAKIS | NOAM CHOMSKY, NYPL, 26 April 2016

    The UK version of Bernie Sanders

    The Australian version of Donald Trump – Billionaire Clive Palmer
    His party polling has collapsed to 0.1% and he isn’t re-contesting his own seat this election. His big-ego shooting star didn’t last 3 years.
    Spanish election –

    Nothing is as it seems these days. The natives are restless.

  19. 69
    zebra says:

    @ Racetrack Playa 62,

    Good, but a couple of points.

    As per my 55, the system allows for replacing one set of winners with a different one– Elon Musk comes to mind. The problem is with the political power of the extractionists and their downstream allies enabling them to actively oppose the change. As we observe, again with EM’s enterprises.

    And, what has to happen beyond removing phony obstacles to new technology is to appeal to the consumer’s inclinations– status and so on. But we’re really good at that– look at how we’ve created all these screen-zombies who pay insane amounts for “minutes”. What, we can’t sell them solar panels as well?

    In addition of course, one must deal with the economic realities for the working (rather than owning/investing) individuals in the transition. If you switch to electric cars, for example, you destroy lots and lots of existing jobs. Much bigger deal than coal miners.

  20. 70
    patrick says:

    zebra, 55 > “…we just have too much of this over-the-top futurist fantasizing these days.”

    > “If the goal is to reduce the amount of CO2 we are emitting, we have to use the system…”

    > “…you make it profitable…to offer alternative solutions to the use of fossil fuels, as well as reduction of energy consumption. You use advertising to make the change a positive not a negative…”

    Exactly. You have the sanity gene. The view you provide is realistic.

  21. 71
    patrick says:

    Russell, 60: That’s a weak choice–for a “shrewd” observation–when it would be so much more meaningful to cite the published work of D. Trump: people love exaggeration. On your point.

  22. 72
    John Mashey says:

    Thanks to Jack Zhou for useful results (and open access), and I’ll study the paper more carefully after recovering from 2 weeks in AK, including week of no Internet.

    But, I would also strongly urge people read A four-party view of US environmental concern by Larry Hamilton & Kei Seito (2014).

    I don’t know the extent to which this generalizes across US (Maybe Larry can say more), but in NH surveys, they categorize:
    Tea Party
    Other Republicans
    See especially p.7 Fig 1 and p.8 Fig 2.
    R and T are actually fairly different, and aggregating them a conservative may not show that effect.

    I’m not sure if these results contradict Zhou or just look at the problem differently, but in particular, right now, I’m not sure “Republican” is as useful a category as it perhaps once was.

    Anyway, I really don’t know how far the New Hampshire studies generalize, although they have done a few other states, I think.

    But I strongly recommend: Poison Tea: How Big Oil and Big Tobacco Invented the Tea Party and Captured the GOP (2016).
    Really, the Tea Party was built in part to reject climate science.

    See also Global Warming’s Six Americas 2009 by Anthony Leiserowitz, Edward Maibach and Connie Roser-Renouf,
    and check the description of the Dismissive category.

  23. 73
    Thomas says:

    I have found 10 mins of a Lakoff lecture video that should, by way of example using Obama’s health care reform package, help people understand what is meant by Frames, Framing and so ‘motivated reasoning’ that does connect with conservatives aka republicans.

    It very much addresses Zhou says in his article above:
    “I show the results from a study examining how Republican (and Republican-leaning independent) individuals react when exposed to persuasive information on climate change. I find that after these individuals are faced with messages that go against their party line on climate change, they further oppose governmental action on the issue, become less willing to take personal action, and, from a psychological perspective, become even surer of their distaste for climate change.”

    In particular the study asked the question: “how do Republican individuals perceive persuasive information on climate change action, and what types of information are more or less effective?”

    I’m suggesting to watch only the first 10 minutes of this video: George Lakoff, “Retaking Political Discourse”

    For it clearly spells out what types of information are more or less effective.

    The biggest myth and fundamental error made in communicating climate science implications to date is “If you tell people the facts they will all reason to the same right conclusion.” That is 100% Wrong – it’s False – and science has proven this so.

    The second biggest myth is that “Political communication is educating the public about their interests and the facts.” That is wrong too. The same goes for educating politicians, economists, corporate and society leaders.

    The first 10 mins of the video basically explains why this is so. For more details watch the rest of that video or others by Lakoff or read the mountains of cognitive science neuro-science literature on this subject from the last 30+ years.

    What business people learn from “marketing” (which is much more than advertising btw, I know) in college and in the field is how people (their customers) think and why they think that way. 70+ years of marketing experience was first captured by Reagan in 1980 and applied to politics. Business interests have been feeding that need ever since.

    In 2008 Obama beat them at their own game by applying his personal NLP skills in rhetoric – but he dropped the ball on Health Care – fighting congress is not the same as winning a free vote in an election.

    ( PS these comments and my view is totally non-partisan. The issue is not what ‘party’ is better, the issue is HOW best to communicate the implications of Climate Science to the public and politicians everywhere. It should be self-evident it’s been a failure up to now. Lakoff point blank tells people what must change and how. It’s science:101 )

    The implications of Climate Science in AGW/CC is a Life or Death Moral & Ethical issue first and foremost. That is the true battleground for hearts and minds.

    It’s an issue about individual Responsibility and individuals Responding now to a real Crisis, a clear and present danger. It’s an individual Freedom and National Security issue. The President cannot defend and protect the Constitution of the US from enemies within or without, if he or she cannot protect the USA from the impacts of Global Climate Change now and into the future.

    In fact to ignore or deny the clear and present threats from climate change to the United States is an Impeachable offense under the Constitution. That’s how it should be being treated – that’s how it should be being spoken about. Freedom and Morality and the principles of the Dec of Independence and the US Constitution.

    Burning fossil fuels is the equivalent of King George imposing unfair IMMORAL taxes upon the poor people of the Colonies – King George and his British Parliament are the equivalent today to international Fossil Fuel Corporations and global Financial Behemoths imposing their Will upon the freedom loving people of the United States WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT. :-)

    The ‘scientific facts’ are still critically important but they must be used within an effective Frame that everyday people can RELATE to and understand implicitly without thinking about it.

  24. 74
    Thomas says:

    Multi-national Mining Corporations across the world are destroying America’s Farmlands, our Seafood and our nation’s Food Security!

    Coal-Burning power stations around the globe are contributing to the flooding of Florida and erosion of our beaches and coastlines!

    Droughts and floods in central and south America are pushing hoards of illegal immigrants and natural disaster refugees into the United States!

  25. 75
    Thomas says:

    The tools and knowledge to solve the ‘hard problem’ of communicating the implications of AGW/CC Science is already available, although little known and rarely applied.

    Here’s another example: Non-Violent Communication – Engaging with Corporations by Dr Marshall Rosenberg, Psychologist –

    “NVC is one of the most useful processes you will ever learn.” William Ury, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

    Imagine having the conflict resolution skills to defuse conflict right in the moment, whether with a boss, neighbor, spouse or even a complete stranger. What if you had the skills to clearly express what you want to co-workers or family in a way that strengthened your relationships rather than led to disconnect or resentment?


    Nonviolent communication (abbreviated NVC, also called compassionate communication or collaborative communication) is a communication process developed by Marshall Rosenberg

  26. 76
    Adam Lea says:

    I have seen a few comments relating to denial of the problem and its relation to cognitive biases like group-think, which I think have at least partially provided reasons why collective action has been so painfully slow to non-existant. I have another thought which may explain lack of action on the individual level. That is, that for an individual to take measures to reduce their carbon footprint, to make a significant dent will require personal sacrifices to be made, but the individual won’t directly see any benefit from making those sacrifices. By “sacrifices”, I mean things that some people enjoy, such as flying abroad on holiday, drivivg, eating meat, high consumption (i.e. shopping). An example of what I mean comes from my own experience. Over the last 10 years or so, I have been trying to reduce my car usage and substitute driving for cycling. In 2013, I finally got fit enough to give the car up and make all journeys by bicycle or public transport (later on I joined a local car club as a just in case measure). In doing this, I had to make some compromises in my life. Some journeys I would have liked to have made (for the purpose of attending social events) could not be done being too far for me or only possible along high speed roads which are very unpleasant/dangerous to cycle on. Other times, I have struggled with carrying heavy/bulky loads (you can’t transport several cubic meters of horse manure to an allotment using a bicycle for example). Then last year I was nearly killed after being hit by a careless driver, which effectively wiped out most of my summer, and my allotment gardening that year (thank goodness I’m not growing my own food primarily for self sufficiency and survival). The point is that since going car free I can’t do some activities I would previously have enjoyed doing, I have lost some transport flexibility, I have to put up with being directly exposed to regularly poor UK weather (icy conditions in winter are nasty), and I have increased my vulnerability. Despite all this there is no visual (from my perspective) benefit to society from me stopping driving, the roads are more crowded than ever before, and the death and injory toll is similar. I doubt that anyone looking at my experience would think that cycling instead of driving is a great idea, despite the benefits to society and the environment when done on a population scale. I strongly suspect the same could be said for other changes that could be advocated in the interests of lowering an individuals carbon footprint, hence any one individual will likely be highly reluctant to make anything other than very simple (and minimal effectiveness) changes to their lifestyles, and thus we persist with carbon intensive lifestyles in the western world.

  27. 77
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    The streets of Miami now flood during particularly strong high tides. And yet, the state government of Florida still maintains a ban on state workers using the language of climate change. The seas are in the process of inching up the land. Physical, tangible proof of climate change. And nothing from the deniers.

    Maybe the course of the debate will follow the path of Irish Independence. In the Easter Rising in Ireland, English forces quickly overpowered the rebellion, and, in fact, until that time most Irish opposition to the English had taken the form of constitutional nationalism. Yet, the toll of the rebellion acted as a catalyst and 2 years later, the War for Independence broke out.

    Were I in charge of framing the argument, there would be a steady stream of photographs of the water in Miami Beach. No charts. No argument. It may not move the needle (as they say) now, but the next incident could be like rock candy coalescing around a piece of string.

  28. 78
    Mal Adapted says:

    Adam Lea:

    I have another thought which may explain lack of action on the individual level. That is, that for an individual to take measures to reduce their carbon footprint, to make a significant dent will require personal sacrifices to be made, but the individual won’t directly see any benefit from making those sacrifices.

    Mr. Lea, you have discovered that AGW is a Tragedy of the [unmanaged] Commons (that Wikipedia article is quite good IMO). Without coordination with other exploiters of the commons, individual actions are subject to the sort of disincentives you describe. That’s why limiting AGW requires collective action at multiple levels of political and social organization.

  29. 79
    Jim Harper says:

    Re #10 Hank Roberts

    My response to the “Of course it’s changing, it always has changed” argument is this: Know something else that’s always changing? Your blood pressure. Systolic, diastolic, all the points in between. It’s always changing, just like the climate. So the next time you go to your doctor and he or she tells you your blood pressure is high, just tell ’em, “c’mon doc, blood pressure is ALWAYS changing, there’s no problem!”

    It may not change their mind, but at least they think twice about using that lame argument the next time around.

  30. 80
    Scott Strough says:

    @76 Adam,

    Interesting story. I think for someone like you it might be important to actually calculate your impacts so you get an idea of scale. Just to give you an idea as an example, I have done similar analysis of my activities and even a few others who have asked me to do it for them. I picked you because you have an allotment, and are concerned enough about AGW to personally do something about it.

    Here is an example I did for someone else who was concerned about the CO2 emissions running a tractor, even though the tractor was being used to carbon farm. They had thought the solution was actually part of the problem. But as you will find out, if your actions are actually sequestering CO2, then the fossil fuel use that allows you to do it can be trivially small. In this case the question was “Are there any numbers on the amount of land that needs to be carbon-farmed to offset the carbon produced by carbon-farming with petroleum-powered farm equipment?”:

    The case studies mentioned by Dr. Christine Jones [1] show a range in results between 5 & 20 tonnes CO2e/ha/year increases in soil carbon by using permaculture pasture cropping methods. (direct seeding grain crops into perennial pasture and cell or pulse rotational grazing integrated together)[2]

    Using this as an estimate of fuel use, Estimating Farm Fuel Requirements[3], we get a range of between .39 – .59 gallons of fuel to run the no till drill / acre. Using the conversion of 2.5 to convert to hectares and rounding up, we get from 1.0 to 1.5 gallons per hectare to run the no till drill.

    According to this: How much carbon dioxide is produced by burning gasoline and diesel fuel?[4], about 19.64 pounds to 22.38 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) are produced per gallon depending on the fuel used.

    Lets just say you have a gas guzzling old tractor and round everything up to make the math easier to understand. Say 25 pounds. So to no till drill 10 hectares would release 250 pounds of CO2, but the plants on those 10 hectares would sequester to the soil 50-200 tonnes of CO2.

    Or to frame it in the above terms terms: 250 pounds CO2 = 0.113398 tCO2
    So the number of hectares required to offset the no till drill on 10 hectares is approximately in the range of .001 hectares +/-. That really is trivially small.

    (PS I converted from us standard to metric and back so many times, and most the math in my head, I may be slightly off in the math, but should be close enough to get an idea of the scale)

    I think if you did the same thing in calculating your impact, you might see that the fuel needed to get to your allotment could potentially be offset by management at that allotment in a carbon sequestering manner. It’s even possible, depending on the size of your allotment and how you use it, that you using a bicycle is counter productive to your goals.

    But there is a bigger issue here. To what degree can fossil fuels actually be part of the solution? Obviously the above example where a tractor is being used to carbon farm, doing the same thing without a tractor gets increasingly difficult and decreasingly productive at larger scales. There are huge benefits to industrialization. The trick being in what we do with that energy, tools, and industriousness.

    Are we using our fossil fuels and tools to benefit the land and the environment (including AGW mitigation)? Or is the use of that energy further degrading the land and the environment? When you change your POV from “fossil fuels be bad” to “How do we use fossil fuels?” then it opens up a whole new line of dialogue which can hopefully help break the political deadlock.

  31. 81
    Hank Roberts says:

    > always changing
    Yeah, the point I try to make is — how unnaturally fast it’s changing.

  32. 82

    Th 66,

    Don’t know where you’re getting your information, but mine is that 70-90% of Bernie supporters WILL vote for Clinton in November. I voted for Bernie in the Pennsylvania primary, and I will vote for Hillary in November. Let’s see how that goes.

  33. 83

    JH 79,

    I love it! I intend to steal that argument.

  34. 84
    Thomas says:

    78 MalA, I think that is “The Tragedy of the Unregulated Commons”

    Have mentioned ‘regulation’ myself. Could be a tip there, in conjunction with Lakoff’s line of “Reason is 98% Subconscious Metaphor”

    Wiki also ref’ed “the “negative commons” of pollution”

    I’m reminded of GW Bush’s “The Healthy Forests Initiative (or HFI), officially the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003”

    aka the “NO Tree Left Behind” initiative.

  35. 85
    Mark Shaw says:

    Regarding Comment # 6 By Hunter Craig
    “So, why don’t we see this boomerang effect in real life?”

    We do see the Boomerang Effect in REAL Life all the Time.
    The fact that some poll saying 47% of Conservatives now say the Climate is Changing Proves nothing other than what the believe about themselves.

    The actual reason for this increase comes from the New Improved Climate denialist Stance.
    ” We always knew the Climate is changing and we mostly knew it was being Forced by Man…But let’s not do anything drastic here.”

    These ‘Reborn’ Conservatives will still sit on their A@#$$ and tell us we need more studies

  36. 86
    Hank Roberts says:

    Keep in mind the classic five stages:

    1. Denial and Isolation: “I’ve never heard of anything like that”

    2. Anger: “You’re conspiring to take away my good things”

    3. Bargaining: “It’s anything but CO2 and the free market will take care of it”

    4. Depression: “I can’t believe I ate the whole climate”

    5. Acceptance: “It’s too late to fix the problem anyhow”

  37. 87
    John West says:

    This is not really that difficult. Somewhat equating Republican and Republican leaning to conservative it doesn’t take psychoanalytic gymnastics to understand why persuasion texts tend to backfire among this particular group. Conservatives tend to be older and having more life experience more wary of what basically boils down to a sales pitch no matter how it’s “framed”. Eliciting action from this group takes a bit better presentation than a propaganda pamphlet. Basically, for any call to action to be effective with this group it’ll have to be free of any hint of Zohnerism, include a decision matrix / risk analysis that explores every viable option in depth including the “do nothing” option, and be completely transparent with respect to data sourcing and methodologies employed. As an engineer often tasked with preparing requests for capital expenditures from our corporate office (older, conservative, businessmen), I have to have these elements to make any headway at all. If an in depth analysis for the “do nothing” option isn’t included, for example, any request will be rejected not because it is incorrectly framed but because to them it is incomplete. I recently watched Dr. Mann being interviewed by Dave Rubin. I thought Dr. Mann did an excellent job, he came across as very personable, sincere, and knowledgeable representing the state of knowledge very well. However, as someone who’s been following this issue very closely since about 1994 I couldn’t help but notice the information that wasn’t covered, although as with any media outlet that could have been due to time constraints. But I digress, a key theme of the interview centered on this communication problem. I’m not denying there’s deniers out there, I’ve spent untold hours attempting to explain the GHE to certain groups, but I don’t think that’s the biggest hurdle faced by advocates for action in the mitigation direction. I certainly understand how the GHE works. I certainly understand that increasing the atmospheric GHG concentration will cause warming of some unknown magnitude. And I certainly understand that that uncertainty is disconcerting and favors taking action. What I have yet to be convinced of is mitigation efforts being the appropriate response over adaptation measures. Which direction has the most chance of success and which is the most efficient use of resources. Assuming mitigation requires near unanimous collaboration while adaptation only requires local/regional collaborations, are we really going to be able to get global cooperation or does adaptation have the better chance of actually getting done? What does the last 15+ years of failed attempts to gain global cooperation say about mitigation’s chances of success.

    (green hat)
    What if the entire situation was framed differently?
    The problem: World Hunger.
    The proposed solution: Increase atmospheric CO2.
    Pros: Increase primary production globally.
    Cons: Increase average temperatures, SLR, ocean acidification.
    Con relief: Infrastructure and local/regional ecological geoengineering investment.
    Would we spend the money to aid adaptation of both ourselves and nature to GW if it meant we solved world hunger?
    (/green hat)

  38. 88
    Jon Kirwan says:

    Then last year I was nearly killed after being hit by a careless driver, which effectively wiped out most of my summer, and my allotment gardening that year (thank goodness I’m not growing my own food primarily for self sufficiency and survival). The point is that since going car free I can’t do some activities I would previously have enjoyed doing, I have lost some transport flexibility, I have to put up with being directly exposed to regularly poor UK weather (icy conditions in winter are nasty), and I have increased my vulnerability.

    I am really sorry to hear this. I’m over 60 and fell off a house while working on the roof, so I have an idea how long such recovery can take (or, if ever.) Putting yourself at risk on a bike is one of those questions that makes the whole thing difficult to sell to people without systemic changes.

    In the US, before cars, all of the roads were used and paid for by people who used horses, bicycles, walked, and otherwise just moved at relatively slow paces. As a few wealthy elites began to take advantage of these roads, out of their own convenience, there were a number of accidents and troubles. The public was up in arms. So the new laws made pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles always have the right of way and the wealthy elite accepted this (at the time.) Since then, of course, much has happened and there are all manner of laws which modify that traditional view. (Pedestrians must cross at marked walkways, when lights are green, where available. J-walking can be ticketed. Etc.) And besides, drivers regardless of law are often simply dangerous in the way they behave and feel about the roadway. It doesn’t actually help much having the law on your side, if in the end you still get just as injured or killed.

    I don’t know what to say to make it better. And it is going to be very hard to trump the idea of one’s own personal health or the health of one’s children, when discussing lower carbon lives. As I’ve said here and elsewhere before, I think the only viable solution which both provides greater safety as well as a life that may be still better is communal life, where people aggregate into small communities of 20 or so. Less travel is required, there is savings from better and lower use of capital expenses, there is economy of scale, and more political power as well. Their are risks of course. But these are also manageable in a way that everyone can consider fair, I think. It just takes some extra practice and effort to nail it.

    Sorry to hear about getting hit like that! I really do feel for you here.

  39. 89
    Steve Fish says:

    Re: Comment by Scott Strough — 12 Jun 2016 @ 4:09 PM, ~#80

    Scott, I realize you were making a point with an example, but it is worth noting that if you put in a couple of acres of oilseed (e.g. sunflowers, rapeseed), get an oil press and with a relatively minor modification a diesel tractor will run directly on the oil. Steve

  40. 90
    Omega Centauri says:

    Scott at 80. Yes, its important to strive to increase numeracy, otherwise people can’t compare tradeoffs. Also note that the tractor could be electric, and could be charged off the farm’s solar panels. The carbon cost is not intrinsic to the activity, but is a path dependent result. Here the path dependence, is that we developed fossil fuels before we developed effective wind and solar. Your analysis shows your friend shouldn’t delay doing his work until he has the zero-carbon solution in hand. It can be an eventual aspirational goal, not a show stopper.

  41. 91

    JW 87: Pros [of CO2 increase]: Increase primary production globally.

    BPL: I don’t think you understand the problem. Global warming, with the present continental configuration, moves the rain. Continental interiors dry out, coastlines get hammered with storms and sea-level rise. Neither is good for crops.

    Raising CO2 only helps if CO2 is the nutrient available in least supply–Liebig’s Law of the Minimum. Around the world, the nutrient in least supply is usually water, not CO2.

  42. 92
    Dan H. says:

    I agree partly with your post. Yes, green technology will create new jobs. However, it will eliminate old jobs. Politicians touting the first axiom, tend to neglect the second. It is a half-truth, and people do not like to be lied to. Be up front. If he had said that this cost x number of jobs, and cost y number of dollars, but the environmental benefits will be z, then people might listen. Most were willing to accept higher costs to clean up the land, air, and water back in the 70s and 80s. People are willing to pay to clean up their own backyard. The question is how much people are willing to spend to make these changes, and what are the benefits to be gleaned. If you try to hide the costs or exaggerate the benefits, people become suspicious that you are selling them snake oil.

  43. 93
  44. 94
    MJB says:

    Thanks for a well written summary. It lead me to read a paper I might not have otherwise read. I do take issue with a couple points.
    Your introduction to this post mischaracterizes the study by using the term “persuasive information”. The vignettes in the SI are presented as statements of opinion, not information. If the vignette for energy for example, quantified the amount of subsidy, ideally with a comparison to renewable energy subsidies to further inform on energy market balance then it might be correct to call it information. As it stands it is just characterizing the opinion of a former congressman.

    I am also curious why you did not test framing from the other side of the aisle by creating similar contrary statements to mainline democratic beliefs. Something like: former democratic congressman agrees it will be cheaper to adapt in the future than implement mitigation measures today. By not including a test of this possible corollary you risk the study being labelled as partisan and therefore discounted via the same influences you discuss in the paper.

  45. 95
    Scott Strough says:

    @89 Steve,
    Again doing the math gives you a better idea of scale. According to this: Rapeseed and Canola for Biodiesel Production[1]. Canola and rapeseed produce about 127 to 160 gallons per acre, compared to 48 gallons oil per acre for soybeans. So again to convert to hectares use 2.5 and you yield in the range of 75 – 400 gallon per hectare. We need 250 gallons to plant 10 hectares. So even in the best case scenario it takes the majority 1 hectare of oilseed to run the no till drill on 10 hectares. Probably another hectare to run the harvest equipment. But just ignore that. .6 hectare to get a zero net emissions with oilseed, and .001 hectare to get a zero net emissions carbon farming.

    Nothing wrong with oilseed crops, but they are food. Bio-diesel is not a good AGW mitigation tool.


  46. 96
    Mal Adapted says:


    MalA, I think that is “The Tragedy of the Unregulated Commons”

    Thomas, my use of “unmanaged” was a reference to Hardin’s 1998 remark:

    the weightiest mistake in my synthesizing paper was the omission of the modifying adjective “unmanaged.”

  47. 97
    patrick says:

    Richard Reiss,52: Thanks for the big slice of life, and your evolving role. City Atlas is a rich contribution. Bravo Atlas Lab.

  48. 98
    sidd says:

    “Nothing wrong with oilseed crops, but they are food.”

    Agreed. Crush the seed into meal and oil. Run the meal thru animals in your pasture rotation (which includes the plots you grow oilseed on,) send the oil into restaurants and recollect 60-90%, which you turn into FAME biodiesel and glycerol. The glycerol makes soap, which goes right back to the restaurants, who love it.

    A good pitch for your salesman to a restaurant is that they can rent the oil and we throw in the soap for free …


  49. 99
    patrick says:

    In economic affairs, The Wealth of Nations (1776) popularized the “invisible hand,” the idea that an individual who “intends only his own gain,” is, as it were, “led by an invisible hand to promote . . . the public interest” (5). Adam Smith did not assert that this was invariably true, and perhaps neither did any of his followers. But he contributed to a dominant tendency of thought that has ever since interfered with positive action based on rational analysis, namely, the tendency to assume that decisions reached individually will, in fact, be the best decisions for an entire society. –Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” 13 Dec 1968.

    Includes: “Tragedy of Freedom in a Commons,” etc.

    “Tragedy” underscores the inevitable entrainment of events over time. The indispensable role is that played by population itself. The abstract of the article is a single sentence: “The population problem has no technical solution; it requires a fundamental extension in morality.”

    Mal Adapted: I got your comment (78) in the first place and I like your link (96) to the article at the Garrett Hardin Society–plus link to the 1998 extension of the article–because of other resources there. Garrett Hardin deserves serious consideration as the next Adam Smith.

  50. 100
    Thomas says:

    96, thanks.