4 Links: Bonnie Climate Sociology

Some things I’ve been looking at this week…

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Two good round-ups on what’s gone down in the world of climate science this year. Climate Progress has a top-10 rundown of natural science stories.  Mike Hulme does some framing analysis. Neither mentions their favourite YouTube video from the past year. It’s very obviously this from the Bonnie Prince and his Hot Chip friends:

>>>>2

Some of these themes are picked up well in a ClimateWire piece in the NY Times. The thesis: it’s time for a few more university sociology departments to open up research groups on climate science and just as importantly, climate scepticism. Obvs!

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I came across action-town.eu during my travels this week. Action Town is a super serious pan-European resource for civil society organisations promoting sustainable consumption and production that seems to take its outreach cues from the Teletubbies. See it. Believe it.

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Last thing: fancy your very own Northwest European Island? €900bn ono.

Full planning permission for 300,000 homes, 8 prisons, 5 public hospitals, one city metro system, 10,000 schools with extensions as well as hundreds of unfinished road developments ranging in size from national primary roads to larger motorway systems.
In need of some refurbishing, is quite dated but lies to the north west of continental Europe and is surrounded by hundreds of stunning islands and islets.
Neighbours are ****s but can be quite helpful. Generally a nice area. Also comes with a variety of weather, nationalities and political opinions.

The Network Grenade: Policy, Values and Behaviour

Grenade pieces

Image (cc) Profound Whatever.

Three things to cover. First off Andrew Jamison’s essay in the latest issue of WIREs Climate Change, which has just dropped. Second, values versus behavious and a little bit of Common Cause versus Chris Rose. Third up, networked society yo. From policy nudges to policy change through network effects.

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Andrew Jamison, where were you and your history paper on the history of climate change in the context of social movements six months ago? No really, I spent the summer trying to connect the dots between della Porta, Touraine and Beck. Jamison’s done the job in a manner more elegant and readable than I could ever manage. And something that immediately that tallies with my own experience is Jamison’s contention that there is a serious dearth of academic study out there on climate change and social movements. Jamison does a good job rounding up what is available and bringing in some relevant literature from the more general social movement field. It’s invaluable for anyone working in this area right now right now. We’re an an impasse between the social sciences (read Mike Hulme in yesterday’s Guardian) and the ongoing and seemingly hardening stance of the natural sciences (great round-up of important papers in Climate Progress).

Jamison outlines three waves of social movement. The traditional 19th and 20th century movement that worked on big ticket issues, such as women’s rights or the labour movement. Then post ’68 there were the New Social Movements (NSMs), in the North these were “lifestyle” movements, you choose feminism, I choose the environment etc. Emerging at the turn of the millennium are a new wave of movement focussed on the negatives of globalisation and perhaps even technology. Environmental justice fits in here too, as do anti-GMO, airports and roads.

Jamison identifies some important issues:

  1. The intellectual tensions between the traditional social movements (such as labour movements) and the New Social Movements of the seventies and eighties. Despite some progress, environmental NSMs still regard climate change primarily as an environmental issue. Ee-k-er!!!
  2. Progressives have misread some of the skeptics concerns. People like Al Gore, essentially neo-liberals, are commodifying science/academia. They are taking techno-social solutions to climate change and attempting to make a buck out of them and they are dragging universities along with them. Jamison’s point: let’s admit this and understand why skeptics get wound up by it. I know I get wound up by it.
  3. To not only “solve” (ha!) climate change, but to start tackling fairness in society, we need to not only cross pollinate scientific disciplines (particularly as Hulme suggests between the social and natural), but we need also to cross fertilise activist and academic knowledge. To create a commonly shared theoretical and conceptual framework.

Sounds great right? Of course, there’s a catch, the reason suggests Jamison is cash money. There simply is not the funding in universities, or more to the point, into universities, to get this done (Jamison would have it that this is because of expedient commercial demands).

But all of this begs the question more generally of progressive movements and institutions. Are we cooperating as best we can? Do we have a common cause. Funny you should ask, onto part two.

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Beliefs versus values. Y-fronts versus boxers. Chickens versus eggs. Tom versus Chris. Right yeah, boring. The point is, both are important. Obvs.

Tom Crompton and the merry band of NGOs behind Common Cause would have it, (after George Lakoff mostly), that the way to take on societies BIG problems is through value interventions. Emotion trumps fact in judgements runs the arguement, so change the emotional levers, through framing, and you change the outcome. Deep frames define one’s overall common sense and if we can redefine common sense, then we have a powerful underlying tool for change on our side. QED.

Chris in his lengthy smack down of Common Cause almost takes offence that a campaign would attempt to “alter” an individual’s value system. As if a person was normatively outside of a social network (of the original kind), in which value altering vectors were not assailing her every waking minute. My contention is this. As mostly rational beings we feel our (capital ‘v’) Values are important. We feel these Values will lead to a happier, more productive life for the majority. Well you know what, if that’s the case I’m going to try and share (note Chris, not “force”) my values with my friends down the pub on a Friday night. Hopefully they’ll pick up a few of them. And maybe buy me a drink. Chris in fairness to him sees this argument coming way down the track.

“And most obviously but apparently ignored by Common Cause , no decent campaign strategy should set out simply to convert an entire population, one by one, as in the manner of government social marketing schemes.” Why? Because who amongst us has the resources to possibly succeed at this.”

Now Chris is right, of course we don’t have the time or resources to stop people one by one in the street and . It’s taken the neocons 40 years, from Goldwater to Fox News, to establish their platform (Lakoff lays this out nicely). Maybe if we get our act together it takes us a decade or two. That’s no good for climate change though right. But pleaase, hold that thought for one minute, I will come back to why that may be changing presently.

For the most part I agree with Chris, show people change, show them success, and they will follow. And dealing with climate change, we know that we need to get results now. But to move on and not learn the lessons that Lakoff through Common Cause can teach us would be folly. For connected to climate change are issues of fairness and social justice have have always been with us. Crompton et al. offer a caveat ignored by Chris that allows us to examine each campaign opportunity and assign a weighting to the value intervention / behaviour adjustment ratio intinsic within. That surely offers us a place to start. And whilst we are doing this, surely creating a common progressive epistemological and resource infrastructure á la Jamison 3 makes total sense.

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Last night I saw Paul Ormerod talk at the RSA. Policy change by increments is over claims Ormerod. David Cameron’s Nudge-based initiative is its last hurrah. Offering incentives (e.g. tax breaks to encourage low-carbon behaviour) to society’s actors has only so much road left. The future is much more uncertain affair, where networked society takes over and has the potential to create social interventions in big steps. Ormerod’s bottom line: society is now more networked than it has ever been. Using network effects, we just may be able to instigate cascading change through networks, thus society, at a faster and more ambitious scale than ever before. And to do this we need to spend far more time identifying those most likely to adopt change (whether that’s value or behavioural change is not important according to Ormerod).

Okay, that’s the very very condensed version. As an example, Ormerod said that if he was IDS right now looking to alter the welfare state, he’d be trying to throw policy grenades into networks. Sure, the hit rate is going to be low (lots of these grenades come without fuses) but when it does blow, it’s going to be a whopper. Right now policy drives in general are big and risk averse, Whitehall policy wonks don’t like taking chances. And these initiatives cost a lot for only marginal gains. Ormerod’s suggestions are the opposite on all counts.

Why is this important? Well look at one of Rose’s main points I’ve highlighted. Given limited resources, we cannot hope to create widespread value interventions. Well not by traditonal means no. But working to a network paradigm, and working with those with access to these networks (IDS?!?!) maybe we see before us the beginning of a new strategy.

I would contend the level of influence bouncing around online networks has taken a marked step up over the past month with the launch of Facebook’s new messaging system and Path, the highly-influential-friends-only network. As such the ability to measure and track influence through networks of all types is perhaps growing and opens up opportunities unimaginable to the likes of Greenpeace and WWF 10, 15, 20 years ago. Opportunities to impact values faster whilst simultaneously showing as real behaviour changes. Surely this approach, and not a tired black and white debate over values versus behaviour should be central to our common cause.

UPDATE:

My friend Shilpa just sent me this link to a rebuttal of Rose’s newsletter by Martin Kirk, Oxfam’s Head of Campaigns, UK. Shame it’s the same tedious pdf style that Chris uses, but maybe that’s the point. Anyway, Martin rightly takes issue with the fact that Chris could find no common ground in Common Cause. Real shame. Go read it.

A Post-War Effort for Climate Change Mitigation

You could say that humanity's chances of surviving climate change is a little like walking a tight-rope but let's not think abou that right now. Photo of photo (cc Anthony Mayfield)
Re-photo (cc) Anthony Mayfield

Within the climate change mitigation discourse, a war effort is often called for. WWII is cited by some as the only time during the history of industrialization that a societal/productivity shift of the order of magnitude now required has happened. But we want to look at a slightly different point in history. Just like post-punk was an altogether better sound than punk itself, the post-war effort (in both Germany and Japan) has plenty of interesting lessons for us when it comes to the subject of societal change.

Let us consider for a brief moment the issue of social capital in post-war Germany and Japan. These countries had just been whooped ten shades of blue, millions dead, and in Japan, two nuclear craters. Understandable if the local populaces felt a bit put out and distrustful of the Allies restructuring plans. Yet the economic turnaround in each country was nothing short of miraculous. Now, we’re not going to get totally reductionist on this, there are plenty of reasons, common and independent, why the original Axis of Evil managed to get back on its feet, but one nugget provided here by Francis Fukuyama stands out in this decade old paper originally written for those friendly folk at the IMF.

Apart from religion, shared historical experience can shape informal norms and produce social capital. Both Germany and Japan experienced considerable labor unrest and conflict between workers, managers, and the state in the 1920s and 30s. The Nazis and Japan’s military rulers ultimately suppressed independent labor unions and replaced them with “yellow” ones. After their defeat in World War II, the democratic successor regimes opted for a much more consensual approach to management-labor relations that produced Germany’s postwar Sozialmarktwirtschaft and Japan’s lifetime employment system. Whatever their current dysfunctions, these institutions played a critical role in allowing the two societies to return to growth after the war, and constituted a form of social capital.

What did these institutions do? They bound society. They allowed trust to develop, crucially between workers, so that an honest day’s pay was not going to be wiped out by either hyper-inflation or schemes dreamt up by the occupying powers. An honest day’s work was rewarded and society could get back to rescuing cats from trees and whatever else they do on the banks of the Rhine.

Of course that’s not all Frankie has to say but he goes and ruins his nice ideas with a little apology for Globalisation right at the end, that’s to be expected we suppose. And while we’re on the subject, it’s 2010 and you know what, we’re still not at the end of history buddy!

Back to climate change. Post COP15, there’s a big argument that with the failure of our governments, it is time civil society, and business, stepped up to the mitigation plate. The job they have to do is huge and in order to do it they’re going to have to create even more social capital than was mobilized during the late forties and fifties in Germany and Japan, for without this social capital, the job for CSOs will be next to impossible. But the great thing about social capital is that much like economic capital (i.e. cash), surplus capital can be banked and transferred to those that need it most. Think about a trusted NGO. Let’s say the Red Cross. Over the last century the Red Cross has done a big job in warzones and natural catastrophe areas. On a whole, the world trusts them. When they come looking for money (and trust) in times of peace we happily supply. And when the shit hits the fan they’re ready financially, and in terms of trust, to get to the heart of the action.

Enter the likes of 10:10, a concept keepfakingit endorses so much we went and joined the company. If civil society organisations like 10:10 are to win the day in this battle, you had better believe they are going to have to become the Goldman Sachs of social capital, using every trick in the book to first-off generate that capital, then bank it, and have it spent in the most efficient way possible to cut emissions. Organisations are going to have to work together, and use additively created radii of trust to bring more and more people under their umbrellas of social action. This means building layers and layers of trust (thus social capital) across real life social networks, both horizontally and vertically. Horizontally from nuclear family to nuclear family, through communities, schools, businesses and clubs. Vertically through neighbourhood watch schemes, councils, religious orders and up and over international borders.
This is hugely ambitious, it has to be. And here at keepfakingit we think there’s a chance it may work.

10:10 - Doing the right thing to do the right thing

Change Congress and Keep Climate Where it’s At

One of the strands of thought coming from Copenhagen lays the blame of a lack of fair and binding deal at the feet of the internal US political system, namely the US Senate.

This has brought keepfakingit right back to March and a speech we saw one of our academic heroes, Larry Lessig, deliver to the SXSW interactive festival in Austin, Texas. Lessig, who has worked for a decade on copyright law in the US, speaks of classic tobacco science as it now applies to climate change and in particular the health industries in the US. His thesis is that money poisons trust. But that the cesspool of corruption is not the same as it ever was. The dynamics of money and access have changed dramatically in the past 15 years.

He believes legislators’ integrity is actually higher today than any time in the Senate’s history. The corruption he speaks of is a ‘good souls’ corruption that has come from systemic faults . Senators are spending 30-70% of their time on raising money for their own, or their party’s re-election. And this opens up the cracks for the lobby industry.

Some stats. Since Bill Clinton left office the number of lobbyists has doubled and their daily rate has doubled. Using the laws of simple economics, Lessig notes that if the number and value of lobbyists is rising, they must be becoming more effective. He also notes how nobody, on the right or the left, has any interest in changing this system.

Whether you want to blame the EU, China, Obama or indeed the Senate on the failure of Copenhagen, Lessig’s points here are eminently valid. To keepfakingit’s mind this is the biggest, most important political issue in the US today. Lessig does a simple cost benefit analysis on the lobbying industry and the cost here is trust. Ultimately Lessig calls for a ‘Declaration for Independence’. How? Through citizens funding.

Pascal’s Wager is ofter referred to by climate change activists; if we’re right we save the planet, if we’re wrong, we change society for the good anyway, win-win. The situation is exactly the same in the US Senate. To take on big coal, big oil and all the other big lobby groups funding tobacco science we need institutional change. And if we get it there are a lot more benefits, for both the right and left of the political spectrum, than simply a chance to ‘meaningfully’ tackle climate change.

I can’t find a video but here’s some audio that turned up on mediatedhumanities.org.

If you have 45 minutes at all this Christmas, listen to this.

Here’s the audio of the Q&A:

There’s more info on Lessig’s campaign at http://change-congress.org.

COP15: Lynas and Juniper on what went wrong and where we are going

This is one of the best interviews Franny did all week. We grabed Mark Lynas as he was leaving at a huge all night session. And Tony Juniper is in there too with his analysis of a long and depressing COP15.

COP15: Depends how you define ‘Meaningful’

Too busy working on the #stupidshow today to post any reaction or analysis on this morning’s non-agreement.

Here’s a screenshot that sums up some of the issues we’re facing as a society, and one of the many reasons COP15 has been so spectacularly unsuccessful at putting a binding agreement on the table.

BTW, tonight’s StupidShow has some great analysis from Ed Miliband, Prez Nasheed, Vicky Pope, Tony Juniper and Mark Lynas, who hadn’t slept in three days, and spent most of the night in the war room with Obama, Brown, Merkel and 20-something other world leaders.

The Shell Times

COP15: Stupid Show – Vivienne Westwood says don’t buy clothes

‘Don’t buy clothes for six months. Then you can buy some of mine.’

It’s always refreshing, but all too rare to hear an A-List fashion icon say something sensible, and be anyway self aware, but Vivienne manages to just about pull it off. Brilliant.

COP15: Thursday – Artists, Activists and No (real) Action

Tonight's show

That’s not quite true, but never letting fact get in the way of alliteration is one of keepfakingit’s most closely held maxims. The artists of course were two of the Stupid Show’s guests this evening. Thom Yorke and Vivienne Westwood. While neither have the capacity to gets us the FAB (fair, ambitious and binding y’all) treaty we need, we think both represented to the max.

We’ll have some YouTube here just as soon as its ready.

In other news from around the town, here’s Hillary Clinton’s speech from earlier.

Whatever.

Keepfakingit’s good friend @jamieandrews had this to say, hard to disagree.

@jamieandrews

Two other issues. First off, it looks like we’re making some progress on REDD. The forestry expert, Stupid Show pundit and 100% hero that is Danilo Mollicone looked like a pretty happy man this evening. If all goes well he believes he has a $25bn per annum commitment on the table. You go D! Of course that’s contingent on the larger scale deal getting done.

Unfortunately that’s about it on the good news stakes. We’re down to only 300 civil society representatives left in the Bella Center meaning NGOs and CSOs are now all but totally locked out. We had a leaked UNFCCC doc that probably wasn’t as big news as the bloggosphere thought it was. It simply stated that if we go ahead and sign what Annex 1 wants us to, we’re looking at 550ppm carbon dioxide and 3 degree warming by 2100. But you know what, we already knew that.

No, the real issue here is that with just over 24 hours to go, this is where we’re at yo.
On the show tomorrow we’re going to have a couple of pieces on the inequality that’s been on display the last fortnight. Despite the optimism and hope shown by our guy Thom earlier, keepfakingit would contend that this conference of the parties is over, and we’re going home. However, once we get over ourselves, we absolutely need to examine, from a science, activist and civil society perspective, how we step up to the plate in the next 6 months. It’s damage limitation time. It looks like we’ve lost a battle here. And while we can blame our politicians and accuse them of not being leaders, you know what, one gets the feeling more people give a shit about Tiger Woods. Let’s think about that one over the next 24. It’s going to be a late night tomorrow so we’re getting some rest. And maybe a drink.

COP15: Wednesday Round-up

Just in from cycling, metro-ing and running around Copenhagen with the #stupidshow team (BTW we have Vivienne Westwood and George Monbiot on the show tonight, 8pm CET). We took in most of the march, until it got to Bella, and I’ll post some photos here. It was just kicking off when keepfakingit had to move so not much to report. We did see a very professional ‘snatch’ of an activist from the middle of the crowd by some local police. But other than that not much had happened up until we had to leave to get footage back to the the studio.

Lots going on now though, both inside and out. The NGO access issue has truly fallen apart. We received a mail from Nick Berning of FOE US in the last hour. It’s published in full below and is quite upsetting.

We’ve also this morning seen the mass walkout by the people’s assembly. This was the first big non-sanctioned action of the COPinside the Bella Centre and timed to coincide with the action out side the conference centre. It illustrates the total frustration being felt by those on the insiders right now.

Just in case keepfakingit’s mother is reading this we won’t say that Canada are still acting like total fucking c***s. But they are. Seriously Canada, you have elected some bad people, and have not elected some even worse oil lobbyists. Sort your shit out.

Targets and financing are still the big two issues. But they always have been, so that’s telling you nothing at all. There are some sideshows going on that have produced some interesting initiatives, the sub-national governmental meetings, The E20, the Billion Trees campaign. But these mean absolutely compared with what’s on the table downtown at the Bella Centre.

Finally, if there are signs in the mainstream media that this thing can be pulled out of the fire at the last minute, don’t believe a word of it. This isn’t the World Cup final. There’s not going to be a last minute goal. Our reading of the situation right now is that as the prime ministers and presidents get into town tomorrow and Friday the priority for delegates, or certainly those from the developed world, is posturing.

***** UPDATE 15:20 from Steve Kretzman, Executive Director, Oil Change International at the TckTckTck FreshAir Bloggers Center in Copenhagen

  • No real emissions targets being talked about inside centre.
  • The Danish PM parachuted in new text today. All developing world nations inc. China are majorly pissed off. Including people who worked until 5am this morning.
  • They’re feeling their work is useless and voices simply aren’t being heard.
  • G20 agreed they’d phase out fossil fuel subsidies (a good thing).
  • About 100 countries coming together around the 1.5 degrees (AOSIS & other small nations but good nevertheless).

Okay, here’s that FOE mail

We’ve been sitting here for two hours now, about 50 Friends of the Earth representatives, all with accreditation and secondary badges, who have been refused admission to the conference. We are sitting in the registration area, between the registration/credentials desks and the photo desks.

UN climate chief Yvo de Boer came out and spoke to us awhile ago and said he wanted to resolve the situation. A few of our representatives have gone to talk to UN officials while we sit here, but our lack of access remains unresolved.

Initially there were a lot of reporters, but the UN has now cordoned us off and closed access to media.

The UN still has yet to give us a coherent reason for our having been denied access. We have been given different explanations by different officials: (1) we are a security threat or (2) there was no more room inside. It’s hard to see how the “no room” explanation makes sense, as they continued to allow other NGO observers to enter even as we were denied access. And as for the security threat, we’re a bunch of policy wonks and youth activists who have been participating in the negotiations every day for two weeks.

We’ve had both a member of the Norweigan and a member of the Canadian parliament come speak to us to lend us their support while we’ve been sitting here

One of the key roles Friends of the Earth has played at the conference has been to advocate for climate justice and the interests of the poor countries that have done the least to cause the climate crisis but will feel some of its strongest impacts. Negotiators from those countries are tremendously under-resourced here. For example, I’ve worked with negotiators who have no media officers (I do media work) to help them communicate their position. They are totally outgunned by the massive delegations of the rich countries, and now thanks to the UN’s decision to exclude us, they will have even less support inside the Bella Center to fight for a fair agreement. It’s really shameful.

Also —

Re the entry way more generally: appears that access to the conference has been almost completely shut down. We have a very clear view of the front doors and the security area, and people come through only very sporadically.’

Best,

Nick Berning
Friends of the Earth U.S.

COP15: José Bové – ‘Pas de Planet B’

Our French here at keepfakingit isn’t nuanced enough to give you a full word for word translation of the end of his Klimaforum speech. But we don’t think it’s needed. José Bové (MEP!) clearly leaves nothing on the table during a typically fiery delivery. And we have no doubts he had a tractor load of cow shit in the green room just in case he needed to illustrate his point a little further.

COP15: If you’re not in, forget the win.

After arguements over the text of any potential agreement itself, physical access to the Bella Centre is becoming a key issue on the ground here in Copenhagen. As they say, if you’re not in, you can’t win. And it’s not the big guns who aren’t in, it’s you and me, civil society. More to the point, the NGOs whom the UN have deigned to represent us.

At this point you may be saying to yourself, ‘ah, but why do all these civil society orgs need to be there anyway, just let the political delegates get on with it.’ The answer to that is enshrined in the text of the Rio Declaration. Go check Principle 10:

Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings,
including redress and remedy, shall be provided.

The role civil society has to play here is immense. And we’re being cynically and structurally locked out. Yvo de Boer has today taken responsibility here (trying to track down reference), but that’s not a lot of good to the scores of people who have traveled around the world to take part in proceedings.

Here’s a YouTube clip of yesterday’s queue. It took four minutes to shoot, walking the full length of the queue. We had members of the Stupid Show team wait seven hours in temperatures that fell to zero degrees.

The most galling part of this situation is that it’s going to get worse as the week progresses.

Here’s an overview from @ApolloGonzales:

1) Number of passes
– Tuesday and Wednesday 7000 observers will be allowed in the building as per the current allocation of secondary passes
– On Thursday the allocation will be reduced to 1000 observers only.
It is not yet decided whether this will be done on a tertiary pass system, or by stopping anyone else coming in once 1/7 of any
organizational accreditation has been reached
– On Friday the allocation will be 90 in total

2) Access to the plenary room
– On Tuesday 450 people will be allowed access to the plenary room
– On Wednesday and Thursday it will be 300
– On Friday it will be the 90 accredited people The allocations will be decided by the constituency focal points. [keepfakingit: 90 people! This is going beyond a joke]

3) Booths
At some point all booths in the NGO area will have to come down. It is not yet decided when that will be but likely Wednesday or Thursday [keepfakingit: What the fuck!!! The UNFCCC has had years to plan this. How can they not have this figured out yet]

4) Other space
– The secretariat is speaking to Danish Radio which has big offices nearby the Bella Centre about possible use of their space to transmit what is happening in the meetings

COP15: Mohamed Nasheed, Climate Change Superstar

President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives. Photo (cc) Matthew McDermott
President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives. Photo (cc) Matthew McDermott

Keepfaking it just about caught the end of the 350 / Bill McKibben / Mohamed Nasheed rally at Klimaforum last night. Wow. Nasheed is now being talked of as a true rock star of the green movement and it’s easy to see why. He has a personal political biography that’s straight out of a Disney movie, he knows how to work a crowd and he’s got some great speech writers on his team. Big thanks to 350 from where I’ve lifted the transcript below. It’s worth noting the relative simplicity of the language, yet the complexity of the issues Nasheed is clearly not afraid to confront head on.  Any why should he be, along with Tuvalu and Bangladesh, the Maldives are first under the climate change bus.

Keepfakingit is always a little weary of the reductionism that leads us to turn numbers such as 350ppm and two degrees into sacrosanct targets. The reality is that the societal change we need is way beyond digestible pseudo-scientific soundbites. But in the hands of a leader like Nasheed maybe these numbers work. If they are used to construct a larger, more inclusive framework. More on this thought a little later in the week.

Mr McKibben, fellow environmentalists, ladies and gentlemen,

Four years ago myself, and many fellow activists, sat in solitary confinement in Maldivian prison cells. We sat in those jail cells not because we had committed any wrong. We sat in those cells because we had deliberately broken the unjust laws of dictatorship. We had spoken out for a cause in which we believed. That cause was freedom and democracy.
There were times, sitting in that prison, when I felt more alone than you can imagine. There were times when I started to believe the doubters, who said the Maldives would never become free.  Sometimes it felt like the doubters were right. The dictatorship had the guns, bombs and tanks. We had no weapons other than the power of our words, and the moral clarity of our cause. Many democracy activists like us had vanished, forgotten by history, their struggle a failure.
But, in spite of the odds, we refused to give up hope.We refused to listen to the voices of doubt and discouragement. We refused to be swayed by those who could not see that change was on the way. And we were right to stand up for what we believed.
We won our battle for democracy in the Maldives.  I stand before you today as the first democratically elected President in the history of my country.
The path to democracy in the Maldives was not straight-forward. It was bumpy and full of turns. But we were determined that no matter how difficult the terrain, we would reach the end of the road. And we succeeded in our cause.
Four years later and a continent away, we meet here to confront another seemingly impossible task. We are here to save our planet from the silent, patient and invisible enemy that is climate change.
And just as there were doubters in the Maldives, so there are doubters in Copenhagen. There are those who tell us that solving climate change is impossible. There are those who tell us taking radical action is too difficult. There are those who tell us to give up hope.
Well, I am here to tell you that we refuse to give up hope. We refuse to be quiet.We refuse to believe that a better world isn’t possible.
I have three words to say to the doubters and deniers. Three words with which to win this battle. Just three words are all I need. You may already have heard them. Three – Five – Oh. Three – Five – Oh.
Three – Five – Oh, saves the coral reefs. Three – Five – Oh, keeps the Arctic frozen. Three – Five – Oh, ensures my country survives. Three – Five – Oh, makes a better world possible.
I am here to tell you that down the road in the Bella Center the Maldives team is fighting to keep Three – Five – Oh in the negotiating text.
They need all the help they can get from you. Please keep supporting them.

And the good news is that we are now part of a growing bloc of nations, all committed to keeping Three – Five – Oh as the central guiding goal of our global survival plan.
These nations need your help and support too.

I am not a scientist, but I know that one of the laws of physics, is that you cannot negotiate with the laws of physics. Three – Five – Oh is a law of atmospheric physics. You cannot cut a deal with Mother Nature. And we don’t intend to try.
This is why, in March, the Maldives announced plans to become the first carbon neutral country in the world. We intend to become carbon neutral in ten years. We will switch from oil to 100% renewable energy. And we will offset aviation pollution, until a way can be found to decarbonise air transport too.

For us, going carbon neutral is not just the right thing to do. We believe it is also in our economic self-interest. Countries that have the foresight to green their economies today, will be the winners of tomorrow. These pioneering countries will free themselves from the unpredictable price of foreign oil. They will capitalize on the new, green economy of the future. And they will enhance their moral standing, giving them greater political influence on the world stage. In the Maldives, we have relinquished our claim to high-carbon growth.

After all, it is not carbon we want, but development. It is not coal we want, but electricity. It is not oil we want, but transport. Low-carbon technologies now exist, to deliver all the goods and services we need. Let us make the goal of using them.

Let us make the goal of reaching that all-important number: three – five – oh.
We believe that if the Maldives can become carbon neutral; richer, larger countries can follow. But if there is one thing I know about politicians, it’s that they won’t act until their electorates act first. This is where you come in.
History shows us the power of peaceful protest. From the civil rights movement, to Gandhi’s Quit India campaign; non-violent protest can create change. Protest worked in the struggle for democracy in the Maldives. And on 24 October, we saw how protests across the world put Three – Five – Oh firmly on the Copenhagen agenda.
My message to you is to continue the protests. Continue after Copenhagen. Continue despite the odds. And eventually, together, we will reach that crucial number: Three – five – oh.

In all political agreements, you have to be prepared to negotiate. You have to be prepared to compromise; to give and take. That is the nature of politics. But physics isn’t politics. On climate change, there are things on which we cannot negotiate. There are scientific bottom lines that we have to respect. We know what the laws of physics say. And I think you know too.
The most important number in the world. The most important number you’ll ever hear. The most important number you’ll ever say. These three words: Three – five – oh. (Three – five – oh) (Three – five – oh).

Treehugger have a good write-up here.

COP15: Weekend on the streets in Copenhagen and beyond.

Certainly the theme for Saturday in Copenhagen, if not Sunday as well, was mobilization. 100,000 marching from the city centre to the Bella Centre, location of the climate change conference, was impressive. More impressive was the diversity of the crowd. Both the international mix and range of organizations represented was phenomenal and in our experience unprecedented (we deal with this particular issue elsewhere).

While it led the mainstream news, to concentrate on the Copenhagen march is to miss the point of what is occuring around the world. According to the wonderful people at 350.org, over 3,000 actions took place globally. Take a couple of minutes to check out some of the media on their site. It’s easy for passionate NGO types to overplay these kinds of actions; 50,000 people marched in London last week for The Wave, In isolation that represents a medium sized UK demo. But add that to what’s going on in 100 or so countries within the past seven days though and a scale emerges. A scale that because of its distribution is easy to miss and easier still to ignore.

We saw Dieter Helm this November in London claim, perhaps correctly, that climate change had yet to produce a real political movement, that traditional politicians had yet to be given a mandate by their constituents. Reasons for this are legion, and it’s more than we have time for tonight to go into. However, around COP15 a light is being lit, and that light is illuminating individuals, communities and even whole nations (Tuvalu, the Maldives et al), who previous to now have not had a mainstream media cycle to jump onto. So a question for us in the NGO and media world is this: how do we turn this spotlight into that mandate Helm referred to? What do we do, and what to we tell Tuvalu to do between now the end of COP15 and Bonn, the next time we can reasonably expect international climate change negotiations to figure on front pages.

Another question then emerges. Yes we can keep shining the light, but sooner, not later, we have to throw the torch to our policy makers and let them run with the lamp. I’m recalling here a recent late night dicussion wiht @jamieandrews and @danielvockins. On whom, we asked ourselves, do we concentrate our efforts. Who are the tradionally invisible policy advisors to government and opposition we need to get to. And crucially, what do we give them for the win. For the language we need to communicate with is that of winning and losing in policy and media cycles. That’s what’s going to get the attention of the latter day Alastair Campbell’s, particularly in the UK and particularly five months from an election.

Back to COP15. 350.org and their like have done a huge job connecting the disparate dots all around the world. Using Copenhagen as the center of a web which brings in strands from all over. We all need to keep joining these. This isn’t about Copenhagen. It’s about giving all those who took part in actions over the past 48 hours the ability to mandate their leaders.

BTW, Keepfakingit will be moving on to the numbers beat Monday as the negotiations start to intensify.

[I’ll link this up later, too much to do now]

COP15: Mary Robinson and NGO convergence

Keepfakingit has been in Copenhagen roughly 36 hours now. It’s the weekend and certainly today, Sunday, there seems to be an intake of breath and an easing off of negotiations ahead of the oncoming storm of the final few days. Will we get a deal? Probably. Will we get a deal that puts us on that gold paved pavement towards a low carbon future? Your guess at this stage is as good as ours. Whether we do or not though there are some seismic shifts taking place in the way civil society’s representatives are tackling climate change.

This is exemplified perfectly by the choice of Mary Robinson as one of the lead speakers at the vigil outside the Bella Centre Saturday. Robinson as former Uachtaráin na h’Éireann (president of Ireland), represents, to some small degree, the world of politics. Robinson as former UN High Commissioner for Refugees represents a UN insider who knows how the system works and climbed to a top level post. And here’s the interesting part. Robinson as Honourary President of Oxfam represents not only a huge NGO, but a social development NGO that now recognizes climate change as the biggest issue facing it and its ilk today.

In Mary Robinson we have someone who spans three hugely important stakeholder groups at COP15. Politics, civil society and those mysterious people in the middle who are trying to tie it all together and broker a deal. The convergence of these groupings is more than timely, it is vital. That the likes of Oxfam, ActionAid and others are now focusing their collective attention on climate change in such a manner represents a big boost to that process.

However, this isn’t enough. Without meaning to be cynical, Oxfam have not eradicated developing world hunger. So as well as smarter NGOs working in unison we need more cross-over figures like Robinson. Imagine the like of Tony Blair or Gordon Brown leaving Downing street and shunning the JP Morgan directorship for an international role running , who surely has lots of time on his hands that he isn’t

And speaking of former politicians who have seen the (green) light, here’s a poem from Al Gore. Good man yourself Al.

Why are we in Copenhagen?

COP15The 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) kicks off in Denmark’s capital city tomorrow. And I won’t be there. Until Friday. Here’s some background as to why keepingitfake.com will be in town, and what we’ll be doing when we’re there. And before you ask, yes, we’re going by train.

There will be 15,000 delegates at the ‘Glastonbury of Climate Change’¹ with a straightforward mission: save the world from ourselves. Well that’s the idea. No doubt there will be plenty of coal lobbyists, developed world special interest groups and lots of other nefarious characters there trying to spoil everyone’s fun. But let’s pay attention to the good stuff.

First off the KFI itinerary. We get into town late on Friday and we’ll be staying across the water in Malmö*. Mornings we’re going to be pounding Copenhagen pavement with @danielvockins filming segments for The Stupid Show, a daily internet TV show brought to you the Age of Stupid team. More details on that later in the week. Providing we manage to stay out of harm’s way there’s a tonne of things to be doing in the afternoon. We’re still trying to sort accreditation for the Bella Centre where the actual negotiations are taking place. TckTckTck are running a bloggers/media centre nearby in any event so that’s going to be HQ for the week.We’ve also promised a colleague a short video for kids. That scares us more than the toughest Danish police tactics (YouTube).

KlimaForum is the global civil society fringe event running in parallel to the main event. It will seek to influence proceedings across town. Whether it does or not it has some big hitters in attendance and be a focal point for non-delegates in town for the 12 days. Timetable here.

It’s impossible to say at this stage what the day-to-day mix is going to be at the Bella Centre. We know the world leaders fly into town on the 18th but what, if anything, they’ll have to talk about remains unclear. Provisional negotiating are supposed to be finished by the 15th but we’re a long way from getting a short form document ready for high level debate so that’s unlikely.

Future:Media:Change lists four media hubs on which you can follow all the action. As if Keepfakingit.com won’t be able to keep up.

Special shoutout to oneclimate.net. The full social/multi media experience.

Here’s some background on the science which should in theory be supporting the whole thing. If it wasn’t for clowns like this.

Lots of talk about numbers. Remember folks, some of these countries will try to confuse the issue by comparing carbon apples with carbon intensity oranges. So if you want to see how 17% reductions against 2005 levels compares with 20% on 1990 check out this great tool from Sandbag. And if you don’t know your IEA from Perfluorocarbons check this out.

Nick Stern, when asked last week by Dr. Mary Dengler what the two greatest barriers to a real deal at COP15 were, replied succinctly; trust and finances (video here). Let’s see how that pans out. He’s probably right.

With that in mind Nelson Mandela and his crew of oldies but goldies, the Elders, have sent letters to 192 heads of state laying down some serious smack. The Elders team includes Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, Gro Brundtland, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson [big KFI shoutout and RESPECT to Mrs. R!!!]. Here’s the press release.

Lots of art and culture going on over the 12 days. Rethink Climate is doing a great job of pulling a lot of it together, short review with with photos hereArts4COP15, put together by the RSA’s Arts and Ecology team, is also doing a great job. As mentioned right here a couple of weeks ago, Ghost Forest will be in town. With any luck keepfakingit will get in front of all of this stuff and blog it up.

The scale of Twitter activity coming from the Bella Centre and environs is going to be truly epic. Here’s some a nice handy list I’ve put together. If you want to be added to this list gimme a shout.

Okay, that’s the brief overview. We’ll be back during the week with more detail on the negotiations themselves.

* Big shout out to Billy and Cecilia who are opening their home to KFI for the duration. Thanks!

¹ Anonymous RHUL Lecturer

Helm: Stern warning, choppy climate change waters ahead.

Wow. Just out of a Prof Dieter Helm lecture at LSE. “Climate Change Policy, and why has so little been achieved”. To paraphrase Ted Theodore Logan, Dude laid down the smacketh in a most bodacious way. I didn’t see Nick Stern in the audience. He must have had advance warning of what was coming. Helm started with a growing tribute to his Lordship, how could he not, he was on enemy territory after all. But after calling him the most important economist in the UK right now, alongside Mervyn King, he proceeded to calmly, and very eloquently dismember Nick’s very own Stern Report.
This was no Hallowe’en slasher. Helm is more expert a surgeon. He took aim only at crucial organs and arteries. He chose his spots and cut with the finest of Japanese steel.

For the second time in a week I listed as a speaker told his audience that we are now in the post-science phase of dealing with climate change. The science they have argued is good. Beyond repute in fact. Helm made the point that practically every university on the planet is currently contributing to climate change discourse, and there is remarkable consensus. We’ve passed 350ppm CO2 and are approaching 400 and 500. We all know what comes next. His point here was that the ‘we’ includes our politicians. A politician who now rejects the science of climate change finds himself on the lunatic fringe.

“So why the fuck has there been NO major policy advances in the past 20 years” Helm didn’t say. But that’s what he meant. If we can answer that question maybe we can start to chart a policy course through Copenhagen and beyond.

This begs the question from the Oxford prof, “what bits of economics are painful to policy process”. He spent the rest of the lecture laying some of these out.


Now for a word from standard economic orthodoxy.

GDP, given a growth rate of 3% per annum, will be 4x today’s GDP by 2100.
=> We’ll all be 4x “wealthier”
=> 2100 consumption will be 4x today’s consumption
Coal as a % of our energy source goes something like
25% today
28%
30% 2100

Ee-KKKKKK-er!!!!!!

And now back to our scheduled programming.

Paraphrasing Prof Helm:
PEAK HYDRO CARBONS IS A BULLSHIT PROPOSITION
We’re not running out of coal. Gas is ok. Oil will continue to be found, as the Arctic melts this gets even easier. Certainly we’re good for at least a century.

Ok, let’s fly through some more points.

Economists mix up manmade vs. natural capital.
There’s a one:one replacement value put on them
Sure there might be no more swallows flying north for the summer, but hey, I’ve got my iPod.

There’s a political truism. Tell your electorate a policy can be achieved cheaply. Fail. When the electorate realise the ruse you’re in trouble Mr. Politician. This is about to happen. Example: the argument that mitigation can be achieved for ~1% GDP.

The utility of tomorrow.
Is the utility of a person in 2100 equal to that of a person living today?
Sure about that?
How about people in 3100?

Fuck that. How about people today?
Does, for a politician/economist, a person in their own constituency have the same utility as some dude hanging in Jo’berg?

Stern argues yes to the above and uses those assumptions in his Economic Review. Bad Economist says Helm. You’re changing the game. While nobody would argue with the virtue of the model, around here, “shit ain’t like that. It’s all fucked up” (Ice-T). Modern society simply does not value us as equal. So why should modern economics.

Onwards. All our leaders are quoting the 1% GDP cost of climate change mitigation. Guys. GET REAL. It cannot be done for that low low price. Pay peanuts, get monkeys. Get me?

[Sidenote here for the RHUL massive: Sustainable development is still playing this GDP/Policy game. It’s not the rules of the game that need to change. It’s the game itself.]

Helm at this juncture takes us on a history lesson, and in the process flattens the Kyoto framework. Framework?!?, what he meant to say was house of cards. An EU joint in the biggest of ways. The whole deal was setup to make the EU look good, and the “cuts” already achieved by Euroland are a mere sleight of hand. This analysis merely backs up postings made right here on Keepfakingit.com earlier this month.

Helm doesn’t leave it at that though. He contends that by signing up to Kyoto, the EU may have made matters worse than doing anything at all! The logic being that by offshoring CO2 to the dev world via dubious CDM deals, more hot air has actually been created than would have been in existence if, for example, all our coal was still made in Wales. As opposed to making it in China, where coal fired electricity is of a higher CO2 intensity, and it then has to be shipped all the way back to Llandudno for that great new PPP housing deal. To make a point here, and he was up front in saying he has no numbers to back it up, Helm puts it out there that G.W. Bush may have done more good than harm by keeping the US of A out of Kyoto. Big statement.

So where is Helm going with this? Well he’s about to flatten the EU ETS calling it a lobbyists dream and rent capture and rent seeking of the highest, or is that lowest order. The volatile prices produced are good for the traders (here that Clark?) but bad for long term investors as there is no long view on carbon price produced. The simple fact is the incentive to cheat here is Massive.

After offloading on his audience about ETS, 2020-20-20 is never going to get the time of day. And it doesn’t. Easy target for an economics prof though so no points there.

So finally to where we all want to get to. Copenhagen. Zero optimism here. Bottom line forecast:
US do nothing on 1990 levels
EU keep on keeping on. That is dress up dubious cuts as real progress.
India gets 4x emissions permissions.
China sets its stall out for 40% US, 40% EU and 1% GDP acquisition from each of the EU and the US. Think they’re going to get it? No. But that’s not really the point.

The only solution’s another revolution
I’m not sure how much of the above makes sense out of context but my notes look good to me. In summary, here’s what went down:

If Helm were at the helm…

  • COAL is the BIG ISSUE – Need to start cutting it NOW.
  • Energy demand is going up with GDP. This has to stop.
  • We need Nukes and we need CCS and we need them now.
  • Sorry guys, 1% GDP is not going to take our problems all away.
  • Biodiversity is bigger than climate change. We might solve climate change, but by then 50% of all species on the planet will be KIA.
  • Why the fuck are politicians BORROWING money to support unsustainable GDP growth. Stop N.O.W.
  • Carbon taxes, all EU countries will have them within five years.
  • And while they’re at it they’ll be taxing carbon on the borders too. Take that China-import-export market.

Now, if you’re still interested, go read the good professor’s book.

The evolution of the biodiversity fight

Image: some rights reserved by Dom Dada

Nature magazine continued their Darwin season of talks in London tonight with a panel discussion entitled What Price Biodiverstity?.

The top caliber speakers were Professor James Lovelock, independent scientist, author of “Revenge of Gaia”. Michael Meacher, MP (Labour) & former Minister of State for the Environment and Sir Crispin Tickell, Director of the Policy Foresight Programme at the James Martin 21st Century School at Oxford University. Not a joker amongst them. I’d also add the the quality of questioning from the floor was second to none, quite refreshing at these sorts of things where one can usually expect some variety of rogue element to attempt a hijacking of proceedings.

I only found out only this morning about the talk via @zzgavin on Twitter, and have time but for some brief notes here before getting on with the rest of my evening. The entire discussion took place in the context of one larger and one (debatable) less significant event. Climate change and the recession. But doesn’t (shouldn’t?) every conversation right now take place in that light.

So in no particular order:

Tiskell on the state of the biodiversity conversation: Talking about climate change is [relatively] easy, about biodiversity is much harder. We don’t even have the value system to measure it and the common man on the street simply can’t understand it. They won’t understand what we are losing until there is a cataclismic biodiversity event.

There was general agreement that the global conversation on protecting biodiversity was at least five years behind that of climate change. An example of this, in the UK we have the Stern Report on Climate Change and even a Climate Change Office. We have nothing similar to start combating the threat to biodiversity.

Meacher on our current value systems: These current systems have led to a belief that “only nature that can be made profitable should be preserved”. That’s the dangerous result of putting economic value on biodiversity

Lovelock on carbon trading schemes: Totally disastrous. As a result of carbon trading, less efficient coal stations in east Germany are producing MORE co2. These permits have been either given away of sold too cheap. Why didn’t we charge polluters, not give them credits. Carrots instead of sticks.

Tickell on industry: [they] wants to do the right thing and they will if they are given clear limits in which to operate in. Heads of industry aren’t oblivious, they know there are serious problems in the world but they want to know where they stand. [Political] leadership has to show the way here and TRUST that they can do it and we wasn’t this change.

Tickell on biodiversity in agriculture: Agriculture shouldn’t be a market activity. The market is set up to measure short term gain. It does that but does not record the long term damage industrial agriculture in particular does to land resource. Agreculture should be a community activity, enriching all around it.

Meacher on the subject of biodiversity value: even if we can come up with a bio-diversity index instead of GDP to give us a quantitive measurement of human activity, how do we make this measurement operative. How do we make companies change their business plans to fit this. How do we tie it into government budgets.

He mentioned in fact a sustainability index he had presided over in the Department of the Environment that never got anywhere because nobody had any . Meacher verged between accute peceimism and optimism at times, which struck me as sounding odd coming from a career politician. He was convincing when explaining his belief that we are now on the brink of a new world economic, environmental and cultural order.

Lovelock being the oldest and at times sounding the wisest got to round off the evening. He did so clearly, directly and without hesitation when asked if it were possible for a biodiverse Earth to survive.

Time, he said, is the biggest barrier to halting biodiversity decline and climate change. We are so far down the path that the goals of 2040 and 2050 that our institutions have set will be far too little too late.

Communication on Climate Change

I could have put this into the last post but I felt it was worth giving it some breathing space. Bud Ward, the well known climate change communicator, has put together a short book on closing the gap between science and media.

Here’s the table of contents:

1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Revisiting ‘A Discernible Human Influence,’ Benjamin D. Santer

2. BACKGROUND AND NATURE OF THE WORKSHOPS
Science to Media: Catch-Up to, But Don’t Get Ahead of, the Science, Anthony Broccoli

3. SCIENCE FOR JOURNALISTS
Scientific Education of Climate Science Writers through Pedagogical Use of Artful Sound Bites, Jerry Mahlman

4. JOURNALISM FOR SCIENTISTS
‘Mediarology’ – The Role of Climate Scientists in Debunking Climate Change Myths, Stephen H. Schneider
Hot Words, Andrew C. Revkin

5. WHAT JOURNALISTS CAN DO
The Local Story on Climate Change is a Critical One, Bruce Lieberman
Why We Don’t Get It, Peter Dykstra
Climate Scientists and Climate ‘Skeptics': Deciding Whom to Trust, Richard C. J. Somerville

6. WHAT SCIENTISTS CAN DO
Airing Someone’s Video? Probably Airing Their Soundbites, Too? Not So Fast, Jeff Burnside
Science in a Postoperative Newsroom, Jeffery DelViscio

7. WHAT INSTITUTIONS CAN DO
What are Children Being Taught in School about Anthropogenic Climate Change? Kim Kastens and Margaret Turrin
Credentialing for Reporters Covering Complex Issues? Jim Detjen
Shared Values of Science and Journalism: Opportunities for Improvement, Anthony D. Socci

8. NEWS EXECUTIVES MEET WITH SCIENTISTS

CJR.org does a better job of reviewing this pamphlet than I ever will so check it the review and then go download the entire pamphlet from the Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting.

The Media’s Climate Change Evolution

from the NY Times
from the NY Times

Two related pieces in the Columbia Journalism Review over the past week on energy, climate change and the press’s role in covering the issue. And in my mind it is one issue, not two. This is a great example of what makes CJR such a great resource.
They have the ability to step back and look at the media landscape as it pertains many subjects in politics and finance asking the questions of journalists and bloggers that we don’t ask ourselves enough.

Curtis Brainard pulls apart pieces from the Pew Research Center, the NY Times, the LA Times and PBS. His thesis, that it may now makes sense for journalists to pull back from making planet saving proclamations in support of climate change action and instead frame the discourse around helping keep the pennies in the pocket of Joe the Plumber and other downstream media consumers.
Brainard pulls through some useful looking data from Revkin in the NY Times illustrating this. The fact of the matter is that people have bigger financial worries all of a sudden. In Brainard’s words:

A poll released last week by the Pew Research Center found that addressing the nation’s energy problems ranks sixth among a list of twenty voter concerns, with sixty percent of those polled agreeing that it should be a “top priority” for government. On the other hand, concern for protecting the environment and dealing with global warming has declined precipitously in the last few years, with those issues ranking seventeenth and dead last, respectively. The takeaway message for journalists is that those “stewardship” frames will not be sufficient in terms of galvanizing support for clean energy. In the pursuit of public engagement, the press would be better advised to link sustainability issues to economic growth and “green” jobs.

There’s plenty of other good shout-outs in the piece but here’s the real take-away:

The economics of sustainability is clearly a frame that is of particular interest to readers and audiences these days. Nova spends relatively little time discussing the impacts of global warming, which are presented only as contextual background. Though there remain many points of climate science that the media can and should explore, this seems a positive development because it implies that the press has accepted the basic threat of warming and is now prepared to address the cost and feasibility of various solutions

So far so good (perhaps). Brainard returns to a similar theme a few days later on CJR.org. Now here’s the really interesting part from my perspective.

One of the things that history will remember about the coverage of climate change is that, not unlike the Iraq War, the press itself became an important part of the story, largely due to faulty reporting at its outset….But, as CJR contributing editor Cristine Russell pointed out in a recent feature story, the fine points of science and technology must now be communicated to the political and business reporters who have been assigned to the coverage of climate solutions.

There’s no arguing that our business reporters need to know these points inside out. In fact, more importantly, the men and women inside the Treasury making the decisions these reporters report on need to know the facts. But all that doesn’t hide a big question that arises from the above thesis. Should be we be allowing the business pages abstract the world’s climate change problems into a more palatable, or certainly more applicable, problem for our media consumers. In other words should we concentrate on a set of self-centered reasons and try change human behaviour by appealing to people’s financial interests?

Many would argue that the end justifies the means, and in the case of climate change the situation is so dire and so urgent that we can dismiss only a very few options. But the media  has a role to tell it like it is. To inform us that our actions and in action are having a direct and catastrophic impact on the world. If an Obama stimulus promotes green jobs and clean tech all the better, but let’s keep the climate change horse running in front of the economic cart.