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One cannot be handcuffed by data on a fundamental moral issue of this kind? [Stoat]

Wednesday, November 2, 2016 15:57
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Um, well, yes. What is this stuff? Pointed out to me first by Russell – see-also his Troglodyte narrative. This is about something sent to, or from, John Podesta which has surfaced via the increasingly-suspect Wikileaks. Which is to say MEMORANDUM JANUARY 28, 2014. CLIMATE: A UNIFYINF THEORY TO THE CASE.

An unified theory of climate? Excellent… we’ve all been looking for that.

After reading some dodgy websites I think it was sent by Chris Lehane (“a Democratic strategist and Steyer confidant”; or, if you’re RS, one of “K-Street’s famed Masters of Disaster”. I don’t even know what K-Street is) to “longtime Clinton advisor” JP. Do let me know if I’ve got this confused. So, it would appear to be some kind of advisory document of unclear status. Oh, perhaps the email to which the doc was attached makes things clearer. But WTF, I’ll read the doc anyway. One thing worth noting is the statement we have limited visibility on how the Administration is considering climate in the context of the next three years which suggests it was written by outsiders and/or wannabees; not by anyone well connected to the administration.

the goal is to unify policy, politics, and communications to help the Administration best execute an informed plan over a multi-year time period

That’s clear enough,or appears clear: this is a political and policy document. But it is aimed “to help… an informed plan”, and you would hope that would involve rather more than politics: you’d hope it would involve the long-term good of the nation, or even the planet. The doc, written in 2014, talks about a three-year plan to 2016, aimed at the run-up the the Pres elections now peaking in a paroxysm of… I don’t know what. The aim is to “demonstrate that climate is a winning political issue by 2016” which is a bit icky and political for my tastes, but only in order to “thereby mov[e] the body politic to a place where game-changing climate policy is possible” which is a noble ideal indeed.

The next talking point is Make the case that climate must be approached as a challenge of historical social change where progress will depend in part on successfully casting the issue in moral terms of who is right and who is wrong and here you’ll see it coming into the area that I’m interested in, which rather overlaps We Don’t Need a ‘War’ on Climate Change, We Need a Revolution? which is the same kind of thinking, and which I didn’t like: Gw is to become not an issue of scientific right or wrong, but moral right or wrong. This moves it from safe and secure ground – scientifically we know that the IPCC, for example, is right whereas the denialist wackos are wrong – to rather more difficult moral ground. I don’t think you can finesse that by saying “but it is wrong to lie, so the denialists are morally wrong too” because while that is true, it isn’t the interesting argument. There are a disturbingly large number of Republic pols who are prepared to talk nonsense about the science of GW but – and you may call be a naive young innocent here if you like – I think that this is less that they actually believe what they’re saying and more that its a shorthand for “we’re not going to do anything about GW” which returns us to “what are we going to do?” which is then the moral question.

The theme continues. This political social movement must be founded on moral principles with stark definitions of who is right and who is wrong and again, being divisive is perhaps good for pols who want their constituencies but I’m dubious it is a good way of “moving forward” as they say on GW. By pursuing this as a political social movement, President Obama and his Administration will best be able to assure that his legacy includes his unprecedented leadership on climate that initiated the shifting of the country’s political tectonic plates to enable transformative climate change policy, before it was too late. Well, that didn’t work and the constant thinking of “we must do something within X short-term horizon” isn’t good either. This activity in the context of the 2016 presidential cycle will have the consequence of forcing the Republicans, due to pressures within their primaries, to adopt an even more extreme, and therefore politically non-viable general election position. Um, joy. Again, as politics this may be fine but deliberately forcing a block of people off into an extreme position is not good from a viewpoint of solving the problem. it is an interesting insight into how non-bipartisan politics comes about, I suppose. But perhaps hardly novel.

But it is not all bad. while climate is an enterprise threat to humanity, it is not yet understood as such by the public to a point where it is demanding action. Consequently, if we do not now pursue an approach to accelerate the public’s demand for change, by the time the public does demand change because the climate impacts have become so extreme, it will be too late is quite defensible, and noting the opposition includes some of the most powerful, well-resourced, and deeply-entrenched interests seems reasonable. but then the strategy must… be based on… an exercise in political social change. By its very definition, social change means that any approach must at its essence be designed to leverage the inherent moral nature of the issue. And with that, he’s lost me. Why “By its very definition”? So if we were to suppose that we need “social change” – and you could probably argue that agreeing a carbon tax, and its consequences, would need social change, why must that be thought of as moral, rather than simply economic? The two are not orthogonal, of course, but why think of it as in-essence moral?

From ending slavery to women’s suffrage to worker rights to Civil Rights to anti-smoking to gay marriage — the issue was truly joined and decisively won when it became defined not merely as a worthy policy but a moral issue of right and wrong. Um, again. This makes it ever more starkly clear: the issue is to be moral right and wrong, and anyone who doesn’t agree with your policies is a Bad Person and can therefore be ignored. Then comes the offending and slightly ambiguous one cannot be handcuffed by data on a fundamental moral issue of this kind which I really cannot like; but it is all of a piece with the rest.

There’s a section called “the Big Idea”, which I think is supposed to be the bit that convinces you this is all Moral, rather than the rest which simply asserts it is so, but it is rather thin:

* Anti-Basic Science – OK, this is an issue of right and wrong, granted. But I’ve covered that above.
* Intergenerational Equity – this is a moral issue (by definition, since it has the world “equity” in it) and it is relevant. I’d still be happier with a carbon tax than a moral crusade though.
* Fair Shake/Risky Business; and All In This Together – not quite sure what they are getting at there. Possibly linked to the unequal burden / benefit problem; needs to be clarified.
* Justice – errrm yes a moral issue again by definition. But it rapidly goes off the rails: This idea encompasses several sub-ideas and provides a straightforward moral framework of right and wrong. It starts by making a basic distinction between those who profit (fossil fuel companies) and those at risk (the rest of us). Because that is wrong in so many ways. We all gain to some extent by burning fossil fuels: that is, after all, why we do it. And fossil fuel companies are owned by people. People via their pension funds, for example.

That’s enough of this stuff, isn’t it? far more than enough I think.


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  • desertspeaks

    global warming was such a massive fail that they had to change the meme to climate change “because who can argue that the climate changes?”
    I have asked many of these climate changers to explain precisely how a carbon tax would fix anything, presuming anything is wrong/broken in the first place.. all i ever get in response is an initial deafening silence followed by nonsensical psychobabble but never a meaningful factual response!

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