How Liberals and Conservatives Can Talk About Climate change

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Many liberals are afraid to talk to their conservative friends and neighbors about climate change. They think it is a waste of time and that all conservatives are climate deniers. Their conservative friends have similar feelings about liberals. Here is why liberals and conservatives should talk to each other about climate and how a constructive dialog is possible.

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How Liberals and Conservatives Can Talk About Climate change

  1. Economics Issues from Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog How Liberals and Conservatives Can Have a Constructive Dialog about Climate Change Posted January 27, 2016 Terms of Use: These slides are provided under Creative Commons License Attribution—Share Alike 3.0 . You are free to use these slides as a resource for your economics classes together with whatever textbook you are using. If you like the slides, you may also want to take a look at my textbook, Introduction to Economics, from BVT Publishing. !!! ???
  2. Why Dialog is Worthwhile
  3. Don’t Fear Dialog  Many liberals are afraid to talk to their conservative friends about climate change Conservatives’ minds are made up They are all deniers  Conservatives are afraid, too Liberals’ minds are made up Climate change is just a trick to mask a big-government agenda  Here are some reasons why dialog is not only possible, but necessary! January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog !!! ???
  4. Reason 1: Opinions differ, but not as much as you might think  75% of liberal Democrats and 54% of conservative Republicans think climate change is happening and human activity is contributing  Only 6% of liberal democrats and only 9% percent of conservative Republicans think climate change is not happening at all January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog
  5. The real debate is over climate sensitivity  Climate sensitivity means the amount of warming that occurs if CO2 concentrations double  Most liberals accept estimates used by NASA, IPCC, and other mainstream organizations Bars in chart give NASA estimates of sensitivity The latest IPCC report gives a likely range of 1.5 to 4.5o C January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog
  6. Deniers are rare even among skeptical scientists  There are few if any outright global warming deniers left even among scientists who characterize themselves as “skeptics” or “dissidents”  Instead, they point to sensitivity estimates in the lower half of the IPCC range  This chart shows that many recent estimates fall in this low range for both long-run (ECS) and short-run (TCR) sensitivity January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog
  7. Lower sensitivity does not justify doing nothing  Both liberals and conservatives should be willing to accept lower sensitivity estimates as a framework for dialog  A focus on high estimates leads to polarization between alarmism and denialism  Low sensitivity does not justify doing nothing—it just means there is a slightly longer window of opportunity to take constructive action before serious harm occurs January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog Range of future temperatures as forecast by the IPCC Source: https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/spmsspm- projections-of.html
  8. Reason 2: People want more face-to-face discussion  Many liberals are content to leave climate issues to scientists and the mainstream media  Conservatives are more likely to trust what family, friends, and neighbors say January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog  65% of Americans are interested in hearing about climate change*  71% of all Americans* (but only 38% of conservatives**) trust scientists  The mainstream media are the most frequent source of news about climate change, but only 27% of conservatives*** trust mainstream media  67% of Americans trust what family and friends tell them, but only 16% hear family and friends talk about climate change at least once a month* Data sources: * http://environment.yale.edu/climate- communication/files/Global-Warming-CCAM-March- 2015.pdf; **http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/03/29/study- conservatives-trust-of-science-hits-all-time-low- *http://www.gallup.com/poll/176042/trust-mass-media- returns-time-low.aspx
  9. Reason 3: Both sides can learn from dialog No matter how sure you are of your own point of view, you cannot truly understand it until you test it against opposing opinions held by others January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion... Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.” —John Stuart Mill On Liberty
  10. How to Frame the Issues
  11. Facing the Challenge of Confirmation bias  Conservatives and liberals are prone to confirmation bias—the tendency to pay more attention to sources that agree with what we already think. We get much of our news from “echo chambers” where everyone agrees  People are resistant to information that is inconsistent with prior beliefs  Confirmation bias poses a challenge to dialog across ideological lines January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog Echo chamber at the Dresden University of Technology
  12. Framing is the Key  Proper framing is the key to overcoming confirmation bias  If liberals want conservatives to listen to what they say about climate change, they should present a message that is perceived as consistent with other conservative beliefs  The same goes for conservatives—in discussing climate change with liberals, emphasize shared values, avoid accusatory language January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog
  13. Unproductive Framing on the Liberal Side  Alarmism does not resonate well with conservatives—it turns listeners off and triggers denial  The 2009 climate documentary film “Age of Stupid” illustrates how not to approach the topic Do not start by insulting your audience Do not start with the worst possible case. (This film assumes a rate of warming that is at or beyond the upper limit supported by IPCC models) January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog Promotional poster. Fair use exemption claimed for purpose of criticism and commentary
  14. Unproductive Framing on the Conservative Side Accusations of bad faith are a bad way to start a constructive dialog:  “If you look at global warming alarmists, they don't like to look at the actual facts and the data.”  “Today, the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers. It used to be . . . accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier.”  Global warming is a Trojan horse for "liberal politicians who want government power over the economy, the energy sector and every aspect of our lives." January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog Ted Cruz quotes from Washington Post, March 25, 2015
  15. Two Ideas for Good Framing  Messages that emphasize shared values of responsibility, duty, and stewardship form a good basis for dialog, especially when Christian conservatives take part  Messages that emphasize risk- reduction, markets, and property rights form a good basis for discussion among people who have a background in business January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog “Preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense. Our physical health, our social happiness, and our economic well-being will be sustained only by all of us working in partnership as thoughtful, effective stewards of our natural resources.” –Ronald Reagan July 11, 1984
  16. Questionable Framing: Emphasis on Top-Down Regulation Messages that emphasize top-down government regulation and increased government expenditures are a poor starting point for dialog with conservatives January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog Just 10 percent of conservatives would support a candidate who says: “Climate change is an urgent challenge and therefore we need to strengthen the EPA’s restrictions on carbon emissions and significantly subsidize clean energy.” Source: Clearpath.org http://polling.clearpath.org/docs/clearpath _survey_report.pdf
  17. Better framing: Emphasis on market-based approaches Policy proposals that emphasize incentives and market-based approaches are a better basis for liberal-conservative dialog than the command-and-control philosophy January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog 71 percent of conservatives would support a candidate who says: “Climate change is a challenge, and we need an approach that is market- based instead of one driven by more top-down government regulation Source: Clearpath.org http://polling.clearpath.org/docs/clearpath _survey_report.pdf
  18. Better framing: Emphasis on risk management  Both liberals and conservatives understand the idea of insurance  Conservative support for climate action rises when the issue is framed as one of risk management January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog 75 percent of conservatives would support a candidate who says: “Even if we aren’t certain what the climate will be decades from now, we should accelerate clean energy now to minimize the risk of serious climate change effects or the need for harsh regulation.” Source: Clearpath.org http://polling.clearpath.org/docs/clearpath _survey_report.pdf
  19. Better framing: Emphasize a full range of benefits Conservatives are more likely to get on board when it is pointed out that clean energy is a good thing regardless of who is right about climate change January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog 82 percent of conservatives would support a candidate who says: “We should expand the use of clean energy regardless of the debate over climate, because it will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, reduce air pollution, and improve public health.” Source: Clearpath.org http://polling.clearpath.org/docs/clearpath _survey_report.pdf
  20. The Environment vs. The Economy
  21. The environment vs. the economy  Many progressives see climate change as such a serious threat that we should stop it at all costs  Their first instinct is to support top-down regulations to stop corporate pollution and force consumers to change their lifestyles January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog  Conservatives who show concern about climate change worry more about the cost of environmental regulation  They favor market-based policies that provide incentives and encourage innovation
  22. Climate Change Action is Good Business January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog  Steps to reduce global warming are good business practice Product design Clean production methods Support for environmental causes  A third of all consumers reward companies that behave responsibly by buying their products  A quarter of consumers have punished irresponsible companies
  23. Economists Left and Right Agree on a Carbon Tax January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog Conservative and liberal economists agree that the most effective way to moderate climate change is through a carbon tax  Conservative perspective on carbon tax: ClimateUnplugged  Liberal perspective on carbon tax: Citizens Climate Lobby Larry Summers Chief Economist for Barack Obama Greg Mankiw Chief Economist for George W. Bush
  24. Key Framing Issue: Use of Carbon Tax Revenues January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog  Support for a carbon tax depends critically on how revenues from the tax are used  Support is low when no use of revenue is specified Source: Issues in Energy and Environmental Policy, No. 13, 2014 U. Michigan and Muhlenberg College http://closup.umich.edu/files/ieep-nsee-2014-spring-carbon- tax.pdf
  25. Support is stronger for a tax-and-rebate plan January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog  Support for a carbon tax increases among both Democrats and Republicans when revenue is returned as a rebate Source: Issues in Energy and Environmental Policy, No. 13, 2014 U. Michigan and Muhlenberg College http://closup.umich.edu/files/ieep-nsee-2014-spring-carbon- tax.pdf
  26. Support is stronger still if revenue used for research January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog  Support is stronger still if revenues are used to fund clean energy research  This variant gets majority support from both Democrats and Republicans Source: Issues in Energy and Environmental Policy, No. 13, 2014 U. Michigan and Muhlenberg College http://closup.umich.edu/files/ieep-nsee-2014-spring-carbon- tax.pdf
  27. Links and Readings
  28. Conservative-leaning Climate Websites January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog  Climate, Etc. ( http://judithcurry.com/ ) is a forum for cautious but open-minded climate scientists. Conservatives who read this will learn that real climate scientists, even those who criticize the political agenda of liberal climate activists, do not deny that the climate is changing and that human activity is a significant cause of global warming  Climate Unplugged ( https://climateunplugged.com/ ) offers fresh ideas to advance effective climate and energy policy from libertarian and conservative perspectives. It strongly supports carbon taxes as the most efficient and effective policy for dealing with climate change.  The Carbon Tax Center ( http://www.carbontax.org/ ) is a nonpartisan organization that seeks to build a consensus for a carbon tax across the political spectrum.  ClearPath ( http://www.clearpath.org/ ) is an organization founded by a wealthy former entrepreneur to show why clean energy should be a conservative cause  R Street Institute ( http://www.rstreet.org/tag/carbon-pricing/ ) maintains a page with many links to conservative policy views on climate change
  29. Liberal-leaning Climate Websites January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog  RealClimate (http://www.realclimate.org/ ) Is an explicitly nonpolitical forum for climate research that includes contributions from climate scientists whose work is often cited by liberals  Climate Progress (http://thinkprogress.org/climate/issue/ )is the climate page of the website ThinkProgress.org  Citizens’ Climate Lobby (http://citizensclimatelobby.org/ ) is officially nonpartisan but is regarded favorably by many liberals and progressives  Center for American Progress (https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/view/ ) discusses climate change on the “energy and environment” section of its website
  30. Further Reading on All Sides of the Issue January 27, 2016 Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog  “Why Conservatives Should Love a Carbon Tax,” Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog, July 1, 2013. First in a series that also covers why progressives and libertarians, too, should love a carbon tax.  “One Answer to Global Warming: A New Tax,” Greg Mankiw (formerly George W. Bush’s Chief Economic Adviser), NYT, Sept. 16, 2007  “A Progressive Carbon Tax Will Fight Climate Change and Stimulate the Economy,” Richard W. Caperton, Center for American Progress  But Will the Planet Notice? Gernot Wagner. In this book Wagner tells his fellow liberals why climate change policy needs a grounding in sound economics.  “Why We Support a Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax,” George P. Shultz (Nixon Treas. Sec and Reagan Sec. of State) and Gary Becker (Nobel Prize in Economics)  “Breaking the Link between a Conservative World View and Climate Skepticism,” The Conversation, Oct. 29, 2015 Prof. Andrew Hoffman, U. Mich.  “A Conservative Answer to Climate Change,” The American Conservative, Dec. 9, 2015, Catrina Rorke, R Street Institute  “Climate Change: It’s Time for a Conservative Alternative,” Environmental Law Institute, Sept. 2013, Eli Lehrer, President, R Street Institute
  31. Click on the image to learn more about Ed Dolan’s Econ texts or visit www.bvtpublishing.com For more posts and slideshows, Follow Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog Follow @DolanEcon on Twitter

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