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Climate Politics as Manichean Paranoia

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Slides to presentation by Roger Pielke, Jr. Given to Global Warming Policy Foundation on 20 July 2017.

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Climate Politics as Manichean Paranoia

  1. 1. CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY RESEARCH CIRES/University of Colorado at Boulder http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu Climate Politics As Manichean Paranoia Roger A. Pielke, Jr. University of Colorado 20 July 2017 Global Warming Policy Foundation London, UK
  2. 2. slide 2 Main points of this talk • Debate over US climate policy can be characterized in terms of “Manichean paranoia” • This debate is pathological • The quality of the debate can be improved • I offer 5 suggests how that might happen • Improving the debate matters for much more than just climate policy
  3. 3. slide 3 Manichean Paranoia Drawing on Brzezinski, Z. (2008). Second chance: Three presidents and the crisis of American superpower. Basic Books. http://www.cc.com/video-clips/o7hest/the-daily- show-with-jon-stewart-zbigniew-brzezinski A politics defined by: • Belief that the issue is good versus evil • Sense that the ends justify the means • Unwillingness to engage in substantive policy debate • Millenarian rhetoric
  4. 4. slide 4 Example: Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) “With all the hysteria, all the fear, all the phony science, could it be that manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? I believe it is. And if we allow these detractors of everything that has made America great, those ranging from the liberal Hollywood elitists to those who are in it for the money, if we allow them to destroy the foundation, the greatness of the most highly industrialized nation in the history of the world, then we don't deserve to live in this one nation under God. So I say to the real people: Wake up, make your voice heard.” US Congressional Record, 28 July 2003 https://goo.gl/9KSD2D
  5. 5. slide 5 Example: Prof. Michael Mann, Penn State “[T]he villainy that we long suspected was taking place within ExxonMobil really was. It wasn't just a conspiracy theory. It was a legitimate conspiracy. . . As I've described in my book, fossil fuel interests, including ExxonMobil in particular, have been waging a bad faith assault on me (and on other climate scientists) for decades now. It makes me angry that they would knowingly risk the degradation of our planet for future generations in the name of their own short-term profits.” https://insideclimatenews.org/news/12112015/michael-mann-climate-change-scientist-interview-exxon-mobil- investigation-global-warming
  6. 6. slide 6 The paranoid style in American politics “[T]he paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated—if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention.” Hofstadter, R. (1964). The paranoid style in American politics. Harper’s Magazine, 229:77-86. https://harpers.org/archive/1964/11/the- paranoid-style-in-american-politics/
  7. 7. slide 7 Clearing the Field
  8. 8. slide 8 There can be no total elimination of enemies “This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.” Hofstadter 1964
  9. 9. slide 9 Does this sound familiar? “The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman— sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional).” Hofstadter 1964
  10. 10. slide 10 Manichean paranoid-in-chief?
  11. 11. slide 11 World’s leading climate scientist?
  12. 12. slide 12 Should we care about Manichean Paranoia? • We have to want to • But why should we? • Current state of the debate benefits both sides • It doesn’t benefit many others • The rest of the world is moving forward “Here, then, is the crux of the West’s crisis: our societies are split between the will of the people and the rule of experts – the tyranny of the majority versus the self-serving insiders. Britain versus Brussels; West Virginia versus Washington.” Edward Luce The Retreat of Western Liberalism (2017)
  13. 13. slide 13 How democracy works “In democratic countries you get things done by compromising your principles in order to form alliances with groups about whom you have grave doubts.” Richard Rorty 1998 Politics is not about getting everyone to think alike, but getting people who think differently to act alike. Walter Lippmann 1923 (paraphrased)
  14. 14. slide 14 How to improve the climate debate* * If you really wanted to Three criteria I employed to propose 5 recommendations: • Efficacy must be grounded in solid research, evidence based; • Must apply to all/both sides of the issue; • Must jibe with my experiences.
  15. 15. slide 15 Five ways to improve the climate debate 1. Talk & listen in person with those you most disagree with 2. Maintain the integrity of science assessments 3. Understand the Eff-U principle 4. Discuss policy proposals in terms of first-year benefits 5.Debate policies through causal pathways
  16. 16. slide 16 1. Talk & listen in person with those you most disagree with
  17. 17. slide 17 Engagement with others is frowned upon
  18. 18. slide 18 Investigated by US Congress
  19. 19. slide 19 Wikileaks revealed behind the scenes
  20. 20. slide 20 Groupthink is an empirical fact Sunstein, C. R., & Hastie, R. (2014). Making dumb groups smarter. Harvard business review, 92: 90-98. Schkade, D., Sunstein, C. R., & Hastie, R. (2010). When deliberation produces extremism. Critical Review, 22(2-3), 227-252. “What are the effects of deliberation about political issues by likeminded people? An experimental investigation involving two deliberative exercises, one among self- identified liberals and another among self-identified conservatives, showed that participants' views became more extreme after deliberation. Deliberation also increased consensus and significantly reduced diversity of opinion within the two groups. Even anonymous statements of personal opinion became more extreme and homogeneous after deliberation.”
  21. 21. slide 21 Strategies to counter groupthink 1/2 • Silence the leader. Leaders often promote self-censorship by expressing their own views early, thus discouraging disagreement. Leaders and high- status members can do groups a big service by indicating a willingness and a desire to hear uniquely held information. • “Prime” critical thinking. We have seen that when people silence themselves in deliberating groups, it is often out of a sense that they will be punished for disclosing information that runs counter to the group’s inclination. https://hbr.org/2014/12/making-dumb-groups-smarter Sunstein, C. R., & Hastie, R. (2014). Making dumb groups smarter. Harvard business review, 92: 90-98.
  22. 22. slide 22 • Appoint a devil’s advocate. If hidden profiles and self-silencing are sources of group failure, a tempting approach is to ask some group members to act as devil’s advocates, urging a position that is contrary to the group’s inclination. • Establish contrarian teams. Red teams come in two basic forms: those that try to defeat the primary team in a simulated mission, and those that construct the strongest possible case against a proposal or a plan. Red teams are an excellent idea in many contexts, especially if they sincerely try to find mistakes and exploit vulnerabilities and are given clear incentives to do so. Strategies to counter groupthink 2/2
  23. 23. slide 23 1. Talk & listen in person with those you most disagree with Actionable recommendations • Seek out those with whom you disagree • Engage (How? See #2, 3, 4, 5) • Agree to disagree • Call out those who demonize others or penalize engagement • Reward engagement
  24. 24. slide 24 2. Maintain the integrity of science assessments
  25. 25. slide 25 From my March, 2017 Congressional testimony: Scientific assessments can be essential to policy
  26. 26. slide 26 A climate “red team”? Likely a bad idea
  27. 27. slide 27 2. Maintain the integrity of science assessments Actionable recommendations • Hold scientific assessments to high standards • Include within them critical and minority perspectives (i.e., include the “Red Team”) • Engage with decision makers to ensure knowledge is relevant • Clarify purpose – policy options or science arbitration? • Watch out for stealth advocacy
  28. 28. slide 28 3. Understand the Eff-U principle
  29. 29. slide 29 What I learned in North Dakota in 1997 What did “49 feet” mean? • To forecasters? WORRY. A huge flood! • To citizens? NO PROBLEM. We survived 48.8 feet. LESSON: Words and numbers are vessels that carry meaning – Message sent not always the message received.
  30. 30. slide 30 What is really being communicated? “All the ‘social marketing’ of ‘scientific consensus’ does is augment the toxic idioms of contempt that are poisoning our science communication environment. The unmistakable social meaning of the material featuring this ‘message’ … is that ‘you and people who share your identity are morons.’ It's not ‘science communication’; it's a clownish bumper sticker that says, ‘fuck you.’” Dan Kahan, Yale University http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2016/2/9/they-already-got-the- memo-part-2-more-data-on-the-public-con.html Kahan, D. M. (2015). Climate‐science communication and the measurement problem. Political Psychology, 36(S1), 1-43.
  31. 31. slide 31 Some science issues are really about politics
  32. 32. slide 32 Environmental issues are partisan in US Congress
  33. 33. slide 33 What do people hear here?
  34. 34. slide 34 This  97% 97% 97% 97% 97% 97% 97% 97% 97% 97% 97% 97% 97% 97% 97% 97%
  35. 35. slide 35 Some advocates get it
  36. 36. slide 36 Climate policy as symbolic politics
  37. 37. slide 37 Spot the difference TRUMP’S BLM OBAMA’S BLM
  38. 38. slide 38 3. Employ the Eff-U principle Actionable recommendations • Understand that words are symbols, and some of those symbols say “Eff U” • Conduct research on symbols in the climate debate • Candidate terms? temperature trends, hoax, consensus … • To avoid polarization, use symbols that work and avoid those that do not
  39. 39. slide 39 4. Discuss policy proposals in terms of first-year benefits
  40. 40. slide 40 The Iron Law of Climate Policy “Efforts to sell the public on policies that will create short-term economic discomfort cannot succeed if that discomfort is perceived to be too great. . . The "iron law" thus presents a boundary condition on policy design . . . It says that even if people are willing to bear some costs to reduce emissions (and experience shows that they are), they are willing to go only so far.” Pielke Jr, R. (2010). A positive path for meeting the global climate challenge. Yale E360, 1-7.
  41. 41. slide 41 The Iron Law
  42. 42. slide 42 The Iron Law has been quantified Jenkins, J. D. (2014). Political economy constraints on carbon pricing policies: What are the implications for economic efficiency, environmental efficacy, and climate policy design?. Energy Policy, 69:467-477. “the political preferences of both producers and consumers can significantly constrain efforts to implement the optimal Pigouvian carbon price. Political economy theory and corroborating evidence from the United States context indicate the potential for both intense political resistance from producers in carbon-intensive sectors with high asset specificity and increasing consumer resistance as carbon prices rise. In the United States context, this WTP threshold may bind policy below an average household cost of $80–$200 per year, translating into a direct carbon price on the order of $2–$8 per ton of CO2. . . The estimated WTP range falls anywhere from roughly 60 percent below the lower-range estimates of the social cost of carbon to roughly two orders of magnitude below the higher-range estimates.”
  43. 43. slide 43 US Paris withdrawal consequences estimated: Looks big $8.2 trillion is real money http://www.g-feed.com/2017/06/the-cost-of-paris-withdrawal.html Burke, M., Hsiang, S. M., & Miguel, E. (2015). Global non-linear effect of temperature on economic production. Nature, 527(7577), 235-239.
  44. 44. slide 44 Actually, it’s just noise after we are all dead Burke, M., Hsiang, S. M., & Miguel, E. (2015). Global non-linear effect of temperature on economic production. Nature, 527(7577), 235-239.
  45. 45. slide 45 Short-term cost estimates of Paris implementation http://www.heritage.org/environment/report/consequences-paris-protocol-devastating-economic-costs-essentially-zero
  46. 46. slide 46 The Iron Law is central to climate politics Key point: It is not whether one of these studies is right and the other is wrong (both are probably wrong). Rather, only one of these studies has been produced on a meaningful time scale of politics: which is always next year.
  47. 47. slide 47 4. Discuss policy proposals in terms of first-year benefits Actionable recommendations • Know that while climate policies focus on the long term, the politics will always play out in the short term • Quantify the short-term costs and benefits of policy proposal, where short- term = first-year benefits • Understand that the Iron Law offers a path to effective policy design
  48. 48. slide 48 5. Debate policies through causal pathways
  49. 49. slide 49 How is that going to work? MODERATION OF VIEWS “Asking people to explain how policies work decreased their reported understanding of those policies and led them to report more moderate attitudes toward those policies. We observed these effects both within and between participants.” Fernbach, P. M., Rogers, T., Fox, C. R. & Sloman, S. A. (2013). Political extremism is supported by an illusion of understanding. Psychological Science, 24 :939-945.
  50. 50. slide 50 Causal Mechanisms vs Reason Giving “reductions in rated understanding of policies were less pronounced among participants who enumerated reasons for their positions than among participants who generated causal explanations for them. “ Fernbach, P. M., Rogers, T., Fox, C. R. & Sloman, S. A. (2013). Political extremism is supported by an illusion of understanding. Psychological Science, 24:939-945. REASONS FOR ACTION • The oceans are rising • Weather is more extreme • Fossil fuels produce pollution REASONS AGAINST ACTION • I don’t believe the science • It costs too much • It’s not fair to the poor EXAMPLES
  51. 51. slide 51 Debate policy mechanics, not your beliefs “Political debate might be more productive if partisans first engaged in a substantive and mechanistic discussion of policies before engaging in the more customary discussion of preferences and positions.” Fernbach, P. M., Rogers, T., Fox, C. R. & Sloman, S. A. (2013). Political extremism is supported by an illusion of understanding. Psychological Science, 24:939-945.
  52. 52. slide 52 Source: BP 2017 R. Pielke, Jr. Example: Global carbon-free energy consumption
  53. 53. slide 53 NOTE: To achieve >90% global carbon-free energy by ~2090 requires a linear (additive) increase of ~1% per year. From 2015 to 2016 the increase was 0.5% (from 14.0% to 14.5%). This is half the needed rate of increase. Source: BP 2017, R. Pielke, Jr. Context for decarbonizing global energy
  54. 54. slide 54 Climate Policy Conventional Wisdom Win public opinion via closing the science deficit (consensus! extreme weather!), defeating the skeptics & deniers The now-scientifically informed public will pressure politicians for action Politicians respond by passing laws, and international treaties are signed Dirty fossil energy becomes more expensive People consequently feel economic pain (incentives) Not liking economic pain, people change their behavior & the market responds with more energy efficiency and fossil fuel alternatives Such market demand stimulates innovation in the public and private sectors, as well as in civil society The resulting innovation delivers low carbon alternatives GHG emissions go down to ~zero, extreme weather (and other) problems are thus solved Source: Updated from Pielke (2014)
  55. 55. slide 55 Where Conventional Wisdom Fails Win public opinion via closing the science deficit (consensus! extreme weather!), defeating the skeptics & deniers The now-scientifically informed public will pressure politicians for action Politicians respond by passing laws, and international treaties are signed Dirty fossil energy becomes more expensive People consequently feel economic pain (incentives) Not liking economic pain, people change their behavior & the market responds with more energy efficiency and fossil fuel alternatives Such market demand stimulates innovation in the public and private sectors, as well as in civil society The resulting innovation delivers low carbon alternatives GHG emissions go down to ~zero, extreme weather (and other) problems are thus solved Source: Updated from Pielke (2014) VOTERS DO RESPOND TO HIGHER PRICED ENERGY . . . AT THE BALLOT BOX.
  56. 56. slide 56 What Really Happens Win public opinion via closing the science deficit (consensus! extreme weather!), defeating the skeptics & deniers The now-scientifically informed public will pressure politicians for action Politicians respond by passing laws, and international treaties are signed Dirty fossil energy becomes more expensive People consequently feel economic pain (incentives) Source: Updated from Pielke (2014) Not liking economic pain, people change their behavior & vote for politicians who promise cheaper energy (Iron Law!) Climate policy becomes an economic issue, framed along partisan lines The result is gridlock, rancor & myopia GHG emissions respond to economics & legacy innovation policies, extreme weather becomes a symbol and the rest of the world moves ahead on pragmatic energy policies
  57. 57. slide 57 An Alternative: Climate Policy Pragmatism Focus on innovation with the goal of making clean energy cheap. Pay for this with a low carbon tax Successful energy innovation lowers the costs of energy production and consumption The price on carbon is ratcheted higher as the political context allows Dirty fossil energy becomes more expensive Lower cost alternatives fill the gap Energy access is expanded, economic growth continues, people are generally better off because of energy innovation policies. Energy innovation policies create a virtuous cycle where public support is reinforced by felt short-term benefits The resulting innovation delivers low carbon alternatives GHG emissions go down, unlikely to zero, but innovation focuses on backstop technologies to help finish the job
  58. 58. slide 58 5. Debate policies through causal pathways Actionable recommendations • Express the mechanics of your preferred policy – How, exactly will it work? • Focus on causal pathways rather than reason giving • Examine each step in a policy causal pathway for realism, feasibility and evidence that it can actually work • Remember Walter Lippmann on politics
  59. 59. slide 59 Why improve the climate debate at all? 1. POLITICS
  60. 60. slide 60 Why improve the climate debate at all? https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/01/china-new-silk-road-bumpy-ride/ 2. POLICY
  61. 61. slide 61 Five ways to improve the climate debate 1. Talk & listen in person with those you most disagree with 2. Maintain the integrity of science assessments 3. Understand the Eff-U principle 4. Discuss policy proposals in terms of first-year benefits 5. Debate policies through causal pathways
  62. 62. slide 62 Thank You  pielke@colorado.edu  Blogs: – http://theclimatefix.wordpress.com – http://thehonestbroker.org – http://theleastthing.blogspot.com  About me: http://rogerpielkejr.com/ 2007 2010 2011 2014 2016

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