Has Carl Pope been reading Gristmill? Cause he’s speaking my language. (Leave me alone with my illusions, people.)
In a post today he makes this point:
There’s a sense that, with gasoline at $3 a gallon, Katrina, the shrinking Arctic ice sheet, and the overall thirst for new leadership and a new direction in the country, a breakthrough ought to be possible on global warming. The big debate is about where the breakthrough lies. Some advocate for a broad public-education campaign, perhaps linked with a hundred million dollar ad budget, either to deepen public understanding of the science, or to provoke elite policy makers into action. But the public-opinion researchers who appear at the first plenary throw a lot of cold water on that dream. The public, it turns out, already gets the science, accepts the problem, and favors action. In fact, most of the policy responses that would make the most difference are supported even by those members of the public who don’t believe global warming will be a major problem — they just think that more fuel-efficient vehicles and renewable energy, and less dependence on oil and coal, are good ideas regardless.
And this public support is not new — it goes back to the summer of 1997 and the lead-in to Kyoto. So Congressional and Bush administration resistance to action has never been based on public sentiment or public ignorance — it’s a policy driven by ideology and by the economic interests of the carbon lobby — in defiance of public sentiment.
This sounds awfully reminiscent of what I said about the recent Harris poll, namely that further "public-education" campaigns on climate science are pointless. The public gets it. They’re just not fired up. So how to get them fired up? A while ago I said this:
The broad public movement to fight global warming that everybody’s waiting for is never gonna happen. The subject is too abstract, too distant, too tinged with guilt and fear and sacrifice. What might happen is a public movement behind a healthier lifestyle, safer, more compact cities, and a turn from insatiable materialism to more rooted, community-based pleasures.
If it is to be solved at all, the riddle of global warming will be solved indirectly, as a side-effect of our efforts to solve humanity’s modern malaise.
Pope puts a little meat on those bones with the notion of "riding the waves" (read the linked essay — it’s an example of what The Reapers have been advocating, done better than The Reapers do it, by somebody The Reapers have spent the last year caricaturing and demonizing):
Instead of trying to build a mass movement around global warming, which seems very difficult and slow, I’m urging us to identify the intersections between global warming and existing public urgencies — gas prices, extreme weather threats, the need for new industries in rural America, the collapse of our manufacturing job base. By riding these waves, I argue, we can get a breakthrough on climate-change solutions faster. And once people start having daily experiences of a decarbonized economy — their electricity coming from wind turbines, their neighbor’s pickup truck getting 40 mpg, their business’s utility bill dropping 30 percent — these solutions will become even more attractive and compelling.
Exactly. Glad to have you on board, Carl. Ahem.