Failure of Short Run Strategies in Long Run Arguments

There’s plenty of evidence that politically active people interested in fighting climate change think very differently than scientists who are also interested. I also think they are getting it wrong.

This is in my email from Gore’s “We Campaign”.

Dear Michael,

I asked Troy Galloway — a former steelworker who now builds wind turbine blades — to share his story. Congress needs to support more opportunities like this and revitalize the economy.

– Cathy

———- Forwarded message ———-

From: Troy Galloway
Subject: Worst day of my life

The worst day of my life was when I got that pink slip. I expected to work in the steel mill until the day I retired, and then suddenly my job and my livelihood were gone.

Then in 2006 a wind turbine company opened two plants near my home in Hollsopple, Pennsylvania. Today, I build the blades for wind turbines that are powering parts of America with clean electricity.

A clean energy job saved my family and me, and many more in my community. But with the current economic mess, even some of my smartest and hardest-working friends here are still struggling — as I know millions of Americans are.

That’s why I am asking you for help.

We need millions more green jobs — like the one that saved me — all across the nation. And those jobs will only be available if our leaders in Washington take bold steps.

Please sign the petition to our leaders here:

http://www.RepowerAmerica.org/troyvideo

Here’s what the petition says:

“Congress must support bold national policies this year to transition to a clean energy economy and help solve the climate crisis. We urge you to cap carbon pollution to help create the jobs and businesses that will Repower America.”

I’m hearing some talk on TV about how we can’t afford to deal with the climate crisis and the economic crisis at the same time. Well, my experience shows we can’t afford not to. The green jobs that reduce carbon pollution are this country’s ticket out of a deep economic rut.

I hear that we lost half a million jobs last month. Imagine if those laid-off workers could turn in their pink slips for jobs in wind, solar, clean cars and green technology.

Well, our leaders in Washington have an opportunity to deliver green jobs like these to cities and towns all across America.

Send them a message today:

http://www.RepowerAmerica.org/troyvideo

Sincerely,

Troy

“Well, my experience shows we can’t afford not to.” Um, no it doesn’t. It indicates, perhaps, but it doesn’t prove anything. It’s a datum, not a proof. There is a huge difference. (Then there’s that “well”. Well, that reminds me of Ronald Reagan, and if you’ll recall, that’s where our troubles really started. )

Is this a bad approach? I think so; in fact I think it’s dreadful. Even if it doesn’t strike you as reprehensible to argue in this anecdotal way, consider the strategic implications of this tactic.

It alienates people who think quantitatively in favor of those who don’t. In the short run that may be enough, but this isn’t a short run decision. Engineers and MDs and corporate mangers can be forgiven for having their BS detectors go off, when the arguments they see are the arguments of BS-vendors. And while in the short run such people can be overwhelmed, they have long-run influence in their communities and associations that matter a great deal.

So even leaving aside the ethical problems, I don’t think that this tradeoff is a winner in the long run, and that may have something to do with why, despite having the truth on our side, we are not winning in the long run. We don’t have to win a battle. We have to win every battle. Getting a bill passed is a trivial matter. The public must be won over overwhelmingly.

Anyway, Mr. Gore wrote an excellent book called The Assault on Reason. It’s peculiar, because this campaign has me strongly inclined to recommend to Mr. Gore that he read it.
Mr. Gore, in his disastrous his-to-lose-and-actually-lost Y2K campaign, showed that his capacity to connect with the experts in science and policy was not matched by his capacity to connect with experts in politics. He is listening to the worng people again.

While the left worries about winning battles, the right worries about the war. The field of play in this game is not symmetrical; the tools of reason win in the long run while the tools of polemics work in the short. For advocates of sane policy to exclusively use ancedote in favor of analysis abandons the terrain of advantage and limits the battle to places where the advantage is with the oppposition.

The implicit idea that the purpose of pushing sustainability is to support employment has no fewer than five problems

  1. It is not logically supported in arguments made in its favor. For all its supporters know sustainability costs jobs. Certainly the idea that it is a net economic benefit in conventional terms (neglecting externalities) is unlikely.
  2. It abandons the far more important and susbtantiated argument of externalities.
  3. It totally abandons technically sophisticated opinion leaders like engineers and doctors, who will see through manipulation and be inclined to presume there are no better arguments to offer if nothing more is offered.
  4. It totally abandons addressing the question of sustainability in economics, failing to draw attention to the underlying problem of the growth imperative and how to overcome it.
  5. It continues the assault on reason, weakening collective reasoning.

This approach may just be enough to win a round given the support of the Obana administration. But a round is not enough. The population needs to be won over permanently and decisively. A narrow legislative victory will accomplish very little in the long run; perhaps it will hurt more than it helps.

The author of the above communication has been nominated as an undersecretary of DoE. I have been unable to track down Cathy Zoi’s biography, but it’s hard at first glance to see how that nomination is a good thing, given that what is valuable about DoE is science and technology, and what needs to be excised is the excessive tendency toward posturing and spin.
Maybe this is intended a concession on Obama’s part to Gore’s constituency, but I’m concerned that this doesn’t speak well for either of them.
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Barton vs Gore: Discuss

Apparently, there has been a judgement rendered in the UK regarding the showing of An Inconvenient Truth in UK public schools, and it’s a mixed blessing. A Judge Burton has listed nine points of “guidance” that British teachers must bring to the classroom in order to show the film.

Thanks to James for the tipoff.

Are the nine points fair? That’s a bit much for discussion in a blog format, so I set up a quick wiki for the purposes of conversation. We’ll see if this works out or fizzles, or worse, if it takes off too far and I get swamped by administrivia. Consider it an experiment. Anyway, rather than trying to get to the bottom of all nine points, why not try to see how far you can get with one of them?

It seems likely that if we do a good job of this, the final result could be contributed as a collaborative RealClimate article.

(And remember, as we say in Austin, Barton Springs Eternal.)

Update: The majority appears to believe the judge is called Burton, not Barton, though the latter appears in many places. As far as I know, Burton does not spring eternal.

More Important Update: Excellent discussions at Stoat, Deltoid (thanks, john), and New Scientist

DailyKos pitches in with the progressive Democrat p.o.v.

Live Earth Events

Anyone have a take on this Live Earth thing (besides the ever-reliable Mr Duff who surely doesn’t like the idea at all)? Those not in the favored locations can always watch it at local events on TV.

I figure I’ll go to the local one that seems to have some momentum. I’ll probably make myself unpopular by saying something pronuclear or insufficiently anti-corporate. My stunningly Austin-hip collection of vinyl records from the early 70s will obviously avail me naught. We’ll see.

Anyway fellow Cintral Tixens who might want to see me make a damn fool of myself in a crowd most of whom are about half my age can join the party on Centennial Trail. Live bands, too! I’d be thrilled if an In It reader recognized me.

Cringe factor be damned! Let’s turn out for the planet and see if there’s some way to get some popular momentum behind changing things a little!