The Alliance for Climate Protection: From the top down
Everyone should immediately go check out Amanda’s exclusive scoop on the Alliance for Climate Protection. It’s a huge new group being put together to raise awareness about climate change. Some interesting facts about it:
- Though Al Gore conceived it and will provide a big chunk of the initial funding, he won’t be a member. He doesn’t want it to be viewed as a political group. Several prominent Republicans are conspicuously involved for the same reason.
- The group has lined up millions in funding and plans to raise tens of millions more.
- There’s only one enviro-group rep — Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation — on the board, and no other prominent enviros will be involved.
Said Gore, “We came to realize that it was a disservice to the climate campaign to frame [the issue] as an environmental concern, not a universal concern — a fundamental threat to all citizens, not just those who identify with the green movement.”
- The group estimates that around 60% of its money will go toward national and local advertising.
This is all juicy, interesting stuff, and worthy of discussion. More below the fold.
Within the United States, climate change has traveled an unusual path in the public policy cycle. …
In the initial stages of the cycle, a concept usually is driven by an individual or small group. It is articulated in different ways by various small organizations — often by groups deemed "radical" by the general public — until it becomes a concern for larger activist groups that have attained a certain level of credibility with the public. Over time, the issue becomes appealing to increasingly credible nongovernmental organizations, and ultimately to groups that are not necessarily viewed as activist. Once credible nonactivist organizations have embraced the idea, it moves into the mainstream — where public policy is debated and eventually formed.
In the United States, the climate change issue skipped this typical cycle.
Climate change began as a concern for a few scientists and environmentalists, and then it was an issue promoted by the most credible national environmental groups. Because of this, it did not have to be articulated to grassroots environmentalists or to local activist groups in a compelling way. Thus, grassroots activists were never challenged to consider whether climate change was an issue worth sacrificing for or worth fighting about. The issue became (and largely remains) a priority concern for only a portion of the environmental movement.
As Bart rightly points out, the "Americans and Climate Change" report I’ve been reprinting is also a top-down affair — the summarized thoughts of society’s elites.
Mongoven tells a story about how climate-change concern basically started in the elites rather than reaching there through the normal bottom-up process. It’s plausible enough.
But I’m inclined to think that there’s no other way it could have happened. Global warming is just not the kind of issue to prompt spontaneous, passionate grassroots concern. It doesn’t affect anyone yet, not directly. Nobody’s visibly suffering or dying from it. Everybody’s involved in making it happen. The science is complex. It is, like the report says, a perfect problem, resistant to all the usual pathways through which our society solves problems.
The Alliance is an experiment at pushing an idea down into the grassroots, rather than dealing one that’s bubbled up. It will be fascinating to watch.