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The “we need to make sacrifices” gets “activists” dicks hard way more than it should.

Battery and solar panel prices are falling to the point where folks can be self sufficient in energy, including vehicle charging. A world where the average American comes home and plugs in his F150 Lightning and reads about some revolution in Saudi Arabia or Iran and thinks, “To think we used to worry about that.” Is a wonderful vision you could sell to voters.

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This is a great point. I’m not much of an Elon Musk fan, but even I have to admit that he did an amazing service to the climate movement by making electric cars sexy. Getting people to think of climate policy changes as “dessert” instead of “eat your vegetables” is going to be enormously helpful for adoption.

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I honestly think that’s why he get some flack. If he built penalty boxes that were worse for the environment that what he builds now he’d get more credit from many “activists” because at least they were penalty boxes.

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There is definitely a subset of environmentalists who use climate as a pretext to push their worldview that the way Americans currently live is excessive and that we need to consume/produce less. Degrowth.

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Agreed. Once I reflexively agreed with environmentalists. Now, it is the opposite. Don't tell me a climate is an existential threat in one breath, and in the next breath be against transmission lines, nuclear power, and wind farms.

One of the largest, quickest, and cheapest reductions in CO2 was from replacing coal plants with gas plants. But I've never heard a climate activist applaud that, or call for more of it.

I spent years recycling plastic. If my consumption of plastic has contributed to ocean pollution it is only because I recycled it, my plastic was then shipped to Asia where, after non-premium plastic was discarded and ended up in rivers and oceans.

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They are pernicious to the extreme - the sooner they are entirely marginalized from the center left coalition, the better.

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That’s some of it. But he also gets a lot of flack from people who care about transit because he’s even worse than the usual American elites at not understanding what transit is or how it works, and that capacity and frequency are much more important than mode.

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Amazing how many people think they are smarter than Musk. Humility is not a strong point of the American left. Or Musk.

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“Smarter” isn't the relevant point. It’s just that it’s clear that on transit issues, he hasn’t thought through the basic points about geometry and desire that matter.

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it’s way flatter / lamer than that. He gets flack because he’s now the “richest man in the world” and thus worthy of being the enemy on that fact alone. Also, once Trump was banned from Twitter, the pundits and political hobbyist need some no filter loud mouth to fret over….and they zeroed in on Musk…who had been saying the same series of things for a decade (mostly ignored) until the media / activist could monetize it for Resistance content…

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You see the same thing with covid policies. Sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice, never doing what works without disproportionate cost. A policy of ‘vax and relax’ is too painless. Better to ‘vax and do crazy rituals with masks and close government offices forevermore’.

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From my perspective vax and relax didn’t get the traction it deserved due to a desire to protect those who rejected vaccines. I welcome some much needed herd thinning. But others felt differently.

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" I welcome some much needed herd thinning. " I dislike this sentiment even though I am a strong advocate of "vax, relax and society needs to go back to 2019."

My attitude towards the unvaccinated is similar to smokers, I'm not one, or people with sweet tooths, which I am one.

Society should try to discougrage the harm and also invest in treatments. But we can't keep society in crisis mode due to a subset of irresponsible people.

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In fairness, smoking is somewhat different in that you really aren't allowed to smoke indoors in most places now. Seems vaguely equivalent to not being able to be unvaccinated in a restaurant (though not quite as vaccinated people obvious face reduced risk, whereas non-smokers still get second-hand smoke). Though I do somewhat reject the premise that the people that didn't like Jax and relax type stuff were doing it to protect the unvaccinated. I'm at a university with over 95% vaccination risks, and a bunch of people were totally freaked about removing the requirement that people wear masks in the residence halls (basically just the hallways and elevators). A lot of people just have really distorted views about their own personal risk.

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"I welcome some much needed herd thinning."

Dude, that's callous as hell, and I say that as someone who often agrees with your comments. Anti-vaxers exasperate me to no end, but these are our fellow human beings you're talking about!

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Covid is airborne, so cleaning and social distancing are pointless and wasteful.

A smart policy would be to have a minimum ventilation/air filtering standard for opening and then a higher standard that would allow a building to go mask-free, and only have mask regulations for indoor spaces, outdoor masking would never be required.

Also, when you do require a mask, require an N95 mask; cloth and surgical masks are completely pointless.

If you run a bar or restaurant, so you want indoor drinking/eating, then you need to reach the higher ventilation standard, as people can't eat or drink with their masks on.

You could have varying standards depending on regional vax rates - if enough people are vaxed, then maybe you lower the standards - that would implement vax and relax.

You'd probably also want to do something on some combination of infection and hospitalisation rates so if there is a variant that escapes the vaccine enough to risk filling the hospitals, you do a bit of flattening the curve.

All this assumes you just don't care about long covid risk for people who can be vaccinated and that you're prepared to operate a society where people who are immunosuppressed are effectively confined to a semi-permanent lockdown. I don't see how you get out of that, though - if every country had adopted China-style Covid Zero, we might have eradicated the damned thing, but I think that was demonstrably never an option.

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And activists always ask for "sacrifices" that they are personally comfortable with and are a typical way of their lives. But it's not so when it comes for "sacrifices" that they aren't aligned as such with.

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Yup, to use an obvious example. I live in SF. I know a lot of people who care about the climate.

I hear all the time we need to ban SUVs or limit meat. I hear very little about making flying expensive. All of these things involve carbon emissions.

The reason activists target SUVs or meat consumption is alot of liberals live in cities and are vegetarians or rarely eat meat. It really isn't a sacrifice for them. But liberals love to travel.

Making flying expensive really would require changing our lifestyles so it gets tabled.

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Disclaimer: I'm a liberal, I don't drive an SUV or eat meat, and I love to fly to visit my family. So, I'm clearly at risk for motivated reasoning here. /disclaimer

I think a good reason to focus on meat eating and SUVs rather than flying is that, if you look at U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in aggregate, a much larger percentage comes from meat eating and driving rather than flying. Sure, any single airplane flight is hideous in terms of CO2 emissions, compared with almost any other activity an individual can do. But in the aggregate, the number of miles driven in cars/SUVs in the U.S. over the course of a year outnumbers the miles flown in airplanes.

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I could steelman your argument by observing that the other two wedges have a solution that is very easy (there's a plentiful amount of non-animal food) and reasonable (very easy if it's just swapping out an SUV for a more fuel efficient motor vehicle, a bit more challenging but not always daunting if swapping in walking/biking/mass transit)--while there is no seriously adequate replacement for flying at the speed that airliners are capable of.

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If airline ticket prices became ruinously high, I would grumble but then I would simply not go on an international vacation this year.

If gasoline becomes ruinously expensive, like 99% of the land and buildings in America are unusable.

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This is spot on, and goes hand in hand with the social policy “activists” who actually applaud the rise in crime in white/affluent urban neighborhoods, as that achieves “equity” in urban crime and policing. I would know - I ran in the same circles as them!

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Yes, although don't ignore the power of bad-faith attacks like the one on Buttigieg last week ("Look at Marie Antoinette saying 'Let them buy EVs!'").

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Yeh then I look in the bed of their 3 year old $65k F150 and there isn’t a dent or scratch in it. Hum…what to think?

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No they aren't. Which is why every time someone makes the modest proposal that massed solar arrays be required to provide energy storage to make their power dispatchible to demand they scream that we are trying to kill solar power.

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As someone whose work is trying to implement decarbonization, one of the things we've been grappling with for the past few years is a complete refusal from the advocates to admit that decarbonization is hard, and that it's hard for legitimate reasons. As you say, the "a shadowy cabal of elites is preventing us from carbon-free utopia" view is predicated on the idea that most people actually want to decarbonize but often there is no ability to admit that decarbonization requires "sweeping climate-related change". Part of this is because we've made most of our progress in the electric sector, in a way that's basically invisible to most people (even allowing for slightly higher electric rates, many regions saw lower growth in electric rates over the same time period due to low gas prices).

But honestly a lot of it is magical thinking, just straight up denialism around the practical realities of what we need to do. I would be overjoyed if I never needed to have another conversation trying to explain why only doing a bunch of 5 kW rooftop solar systems is not going to get us to a zero carbon electric fleet, or "replace your heating system" is just not something most homeowners get excited about under any circumstances, or that drop-in electric replacements for the most popular cars in America are just not available right now, or that actually most people buy used cars! And good luck finding a used EV! I have yet to hear any of the advocates lay out a path for decarbonization that's realistic for suburban Ohio for example. It's incredibly frustrating as a practitioner -- we need to be trying to make this as easy as possible for people, but that starts with admitting that it's hard for real reasons.

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I feel like there's something strange about people who talk about politics on the internet that we're actually excited by change/novelty in ways that most people find vaguely terrifying.

Some part of me like hears we need to totally rethink what suburbia looks like and I'm like yes finally. And it takes an enormous step outside my own perspective to realize most people for reasons unclear to me like what we have now but just want 5-10% more or less of hobby horse thing.

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Both "progressive" and "conservative" have been poisoned in this sense.

Outside of the political arena, "progressive" might be interpreted as "let's take what we've got and refine it, tweak it, make progress on it". And "conservative" might mean "I like what we've got, so let's be circumspect about making wide, sweeping changes to it". These are fairly grounded concepts that are not diametrically opposed.

Within the political sphere, those words have galactically different meanings. "Progressive" seems to mean "let's burn this whole fucker to the ground and try again" and "conservative" seems to mean "let's roll the clock back to about 1530".

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Yup and one thing a subset of progressives/conservatives get wrong is describing society as a hellhole.

Most people think, even if you disagree, that things are basically okay. Very few point are willing to risk major changes.

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I’m excited by the changes I want and terrified of the changes others might inflict on me

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Your first paragraph is spot on. Libertarians, Socialists, Fascists, Communists, Social Reactionaries and others with coherent ideologies misunderstand the public.

Most of the public thinks society works fine, wants the govt., to preserve the status quo and only want the government to do stuff during a clear crisis (9/11, Immediate Financial Crash).

Other than that politicians who just cut ribbons are doing what the public wants.

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Mar 16, 2022·edited Mar 16, 2022

And they’re right about that. If it wasn’t working fine, we’d all be dead.

What I think people don’t do is apply the lessons from their own life. Nearly everyone is a participant in this overall fineness but they don’t see that it requires constant changes to keep it going, just like the part they personally work on.

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I mean, yes and no. Plenty of people think something is wrong with our society, but they disagree completely about the causes and solutions. I think both a fan of Freddie deBoer and a Madison Cawthorn voter would claim that our society is broken, they just would never agree on what should be done about it.

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You also need to do the activist-approved kind of decarbonization. If you are working to improve the efficiency and reduce the emissions of internal combustion engines, or working on cellulose-based ethanol, or whatever, you are a secret fifth column and obviously the enemy of the "correct" kind of progress.

It's perfectly-distilled us-vs-them reductionist nonsense for the Twitter age.

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Ooh, and carbon capture (except for planting trees) is also bad because it doesn’t solve the “real” problem. And fossil fuel companies have invested in it so it has fossil fuel corporate cooties.

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Do you have thoughts on how to try to change this in a popularist fashion?

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1) I do think if we're going to take this seriously, we need to pay people to do the stuff we want them to do. If we can figure out how to do that without making energy more expensive then that's great.

2) Honestly, for a lot of this kind of thing we should just stop talking about emissions impacts as the main driver. EVs are great for lots of reasons, like they're a lot quieter for example! Also they're cool and fun to drive. I didn't have air conditioning or any real ability to install ducts and now I have heat pumps so I'll have air conditioning too! So given that a lot of what we have to do is sell things, we should try to actually sell them using effective sales techniques instead of acting like people are rubes for not leaping at the chance to spend $15k to replace a perfectly functional furnace and then pay more every month for heating.

3) I think the advocates have become very suspicious of technology-based arguments because they see "the tech needs to get better" as a feint to avoid action today. But in general I think people like new shiny technology and we should put more emphasis on the fact that today's EVs and heat pumps are just getting out of the early adopter readiness phase. DOE had an initiative years back called SunShot that (in combination with offshoring) was incredibly effective at reducing the price of solar panels. It would be good optically and substantively to put emphasis on blowing out the tech environment for decarbonization from "it's okay but more expensive and definitely has performance issues" to "this is the WAY better option from a cost and features standpoint". And it's okay to admit we're not there yet! But we can definitely get there!

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Thanks, very interesting! I think this gets to the heart of what I consider to be wrong with a lot of left-advocacy.

Years ago, I briefly worked for a food policy nonprofit. Their message was extremely sanctimonious: don't eat junk food, dumbasses, it's fattening and bad for you! At one meeting, I (not staying in my lane, which was regulation) suggested that it might be helpful to note that healthy food can taste really good and make you feel good. It's not as if people think that junk food is healthy! My suggestion was not appreciated.

The evidence that telling people that they are dumb/selfish/evil is not actually a good way to bring about change is overwhelming, yet it's ignored by so many. I have been so frustrated by environmental advocacy for decades, and it only seems to get worse. I wish there were a group devoted to doing the things you describe here.

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I think #2 is really key. In progressive circles, there's a lot of social currency in describing things in broad sweeping terms like "transformative" or "reimagined". But the best way to appeal to a big population is in low-key practical terms.

Honestly, I think one of the big things we could do to get more purchase is hire some ad agencies that with a different marketing perspective.

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"we need to pay people to do the stuff we want them to do" ... carbon fee and dividend

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Yes. Instead of imposing an (explicit or implicit) tax on fossil fuels, impose a negative tax on zero-carbon energy.

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Yes.

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Used Nissan Leafs used to be thick on the ground, the range just sucked.

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Yeah but this goes to my point -- the Leaf is just not a great car. Which is okay! Like in retrospect the Razr was not a great phone. Most people want a car that's less rinkydink than the Leaf and that's a legitimate thing for them to want. We should be optimistic about how much better our decarbonization tools can get.

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The new Leaf is a good car for a two-car household. Which most Americans live in.

It's nowhere near as *weird* as the old one, the battery chemistry is much improved, it has ample room for a household of four, and it will cover everything a typical family does except for a road trip.

Excepting three work trips in my ICE, I have bought 3 10-gal tanks of gas since October 2021, because the EV can take 95% of our mileage, including all of my wife's vast work-related driving.

As a standalone vehicle for someone who drives far to see family or travel, not so much, but even there the technology is rapidly changing. Any of Lucid's line-up are a complete ICEV replacement, and that technology will end up being standard in mid-range cars in 3-4 years.

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Mar 16, 2022·edited Mar 16, 2022

Yes, I 100% agree with this take. But we're living today, not 3-4 years from today. If we wanted to push on it with significant federal support, we could maybe accelerate that a year - 18 months. And the advocates need to recognize the realities of the vehicle market including:

1) a significant majority of vehicle owners bought used which puts another 2-3 year lag at least on market diffusion

2) it is a legitimately a pain in the ass to figure out charging if you don't have your own offstreet parking spot (not saying it's not possible in some places -- but most people will find it to be unappealing)

3) there is a learning curve to transition to EVs! It's not exactly the same driver experience

4) ETA, perhaps most obvious: consumers generally don't buy based on fuel economy or total lifetime cost of ownership as primary concern, versus other features and price. Even though EVs should have lower maintenance costs, they're such a new market entrant that it's hard for them generally to have a "this thing is a dream for reliability and low repair costs" reputation.

All of the above is okay but again we need to be aware of the facts and work with them instead of ignoring them.

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Uncle Sam gives you $7500, and some states kick in additional money to get you to buy an EV that you can use on anything other than a Tesla or GM. It was a big deciding factor in purchasing a Ford March E in Jan. It's my only car and it is GREAT.

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I'd love one as a second car, if we needed one! There's a very real element of waste in hauling around the weight of a 400mi battery pack every day if you use the last 300mi of the pack twice per year.

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Yeah, I'm guilty of this line of thought myself. I hate driving and walk everywhere - I live 2.5 miles from my office, it's cheaper than a gym, and no gear required! - but even in NYC this is considered kind of exotic. When I was in Michigan, people would "go for a walk" (in workout gear) but drive a half-mile to the post office or deli (and leave their car running while shopping).

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Idling cars in supermarket parking lots? There’s an opportunity here for climate-concerned carjackers…

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"drive a half-mile to the post office or deli"

I'll never forget the time when, shortly after moving to Houston, I asked someone for walking directions (this was before Googlemaps) and she replied, "Oh, you don't want to *walk* there! It'd take, like, 10 minutes!" She made it sound like I wanted to walk barefoot from Houston to the Eastern Seaboard. Too many Americans are painfully car-dependent.

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When I first started seeing it, I would point it out to the drivers, since I assumed it was absent-mindedness. But no, people apparently don't want to go to the trouble of turning the key again, or suffering the temp decrease/increase that would occur during the few minutes away.

People also seemed to really enjoy sitting in their idling cars while scrolling on their phones.

I don't get it...

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The other four have easy answers, or at least easy good guesses, but here's a fun trivia question: what's the biggest city on Lake Huron?

I've always found the profound lack of development to be odd.

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I think it's a western MI thing! I had never seen it before either.

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This is a good piece and it reflects the kind of political analysis that Matt is especially good at. So many people seem to forget that if they embrace democracy, as they say they do, then they have to secure the consent of the governed on major policies. Gaining that consent is the equivalent of slow boring of hard boards.

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Not to go on a tangent, but... it's always bothered me that the main argument Democratic and left-leaning lawyers give against the nondelegation doctrine, and requiring Congress to actually vote on binding administrative regulations (which are statutes in everything but name), boils down to, Well if Congress had to vote to approve proposed regulations before they take effect, I wouldn't be able to get my preferred policies enacted into law. It's an antidemocratic argument, that favors one-person rule by a President over rule by a legislature. Most of what's in the CFR is there for good reason, supported, even demanded, by many powerful and influential constituencies, so it's a little presumptuous to insist on shortcircuiting the constitutional, democratic process, based on an untested assumption that a Congress that persisted in rejecting it would be able to maintain popular support indefinitely.

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Like in all honesty are there any examples of countries in the world where the legislature really takes up the nitty gritty of small bore regulation?

I'll be honest I haven't really thought about this issue that much but it seems it's only supported by people who want a vastly less regulated world. Like It doesn't seem practical for a Congress which can barely keep the lights a lot of the time to have to be debating the minutiae of OHSA safety regulations or what kinds of rules ISPs can apply to their bandwidth or how many parts per million of a harmful substance is acceptable.

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In most countries that are well-functioning democracies, the leaders of the legislature are the de facto leaders of the executive branch/administrative agencies. That's likely closer to what would happen here too, if Congress was not able to cede so much power to the President.

It's not as if Congress would need to get into the details any more than they do now - administrative agencies do all that detail work and prepare drafts for approval by Congress. But if it's a legally binding law of general applicability (ie, legislation), members of Congress would have to go on record supporting or opposing it.

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The main difference is that by definition you don't need bipartisan agreement to pass any laws in parliamentary democracies, whereas here you do need it to pass the vast majority of laws. That's works ok for broad-scope policy, but not for the nitty-gritty details of regulations, which is why we've come up with Chevron as a kludge. Combine nondelegation with our Madisonian form of government with all its veto points and you'll have a system where virtually all regulation will be frustrated by small organized special interests. This is precisely why the people who want this are people who are ideologically opposed to regulation in principle.

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I think you're correct, but I'm also not so sure that this doesn't put the cart before the horse as it were. Perhaps the Congress can afford to have so many veto points because 90% of federal legislating is done by regulatory agencies creating rules. If that wasn't the case, I think you would see Congress have to take a much more proactive approach on issues and/or devolve a lot of these issues back down to the states where legislatures there would need to handle them.

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The thing is that you need broad, if not necessarily bipartisan, agreement across the political spectrum to change the rules of Congress too. But what if a large minority of our politicians would find the dysfunctional situation you're describing to be desirable?

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But nowhere in what you said is there an actual legal argument for waiving the

constitutional requirement that Congress vote on laws and allowing the President to issue laws by decree (and binding regulations of general applicability are laws, the distinction between a "regulation" and a "statute" is purely semantic). It's entirely a results-based argument based on lack of confidence that a democratically elected Congress would be willing to approve the type of laws you want.

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Unpopular opinion, leaving highly complex regulatory topics to nonpartisan subject matter experts by default is good, leaving them to elected politicians is generally bad

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I'm not sure what you're proposing, but if it's taking away the power of independent agencies and executive agencies to write rules of binding effect without Congressional approval, I think you're looking to gum up the works with more veto points for outliers like Matt Gaetz than are good for our society. I'm a retired securities and banking lawyer; the New Deal laws that still govern our financial sector have generally served the country well as have the rules implementing them from the SEC and banking agencies, the failures of the 2008 financial crisis aside. The Administrative Procedures Act is a check on administrative over-reach as is Congressional oversight over high level appointments, as we've seen this week with Sarah Raskins. The notice and comment process under the APA is a lot more democratic in a small 'd' way than anything that happens in Congress, and Congress can after all overturn anything any agency does that gets sufficiently up their nose.

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I was making a results-based argument because I was replying to your results-based argument. We can have a legal argument too if you want, but there are about a million law journal articles on both sides of Chevron so I don't know how worthwhile it is for us try to add to that literature here in this comment section.

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I'm a bit fuzzy on how that would work in a Presidential system where the executive and legislature are separate. I mean it's a lot of tumult to go through if the goal is just to set up Title 1 administrative agencies that more or less get rubber stamped by Congress anyway but legislators get to have a show vote like the debt ceiling.

Also we should not have so many opportunities for legislators to get to have grandstanding opportunities.

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The authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions is not “small bore regulation.”

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The UK system is Statutory Instruments, which are normally done through the negative procedure - present the SI to Parliament and they pass 40 days later unless rejected by Parliament. That means you only get a vote if those objecting are able to force a vote - given the procedures of the Commons, this is very difficult to do against the will of the Government; actually losing such a vote is almost unheard-of (last happened in 1979). The Lords is somewhat freer on these and has a vote every few years.

There is separately an affirmative procedure (which procedure is used depends on which was specified by the primary legislation that granted the delegated powers), and that does require a vote.

For really minor matters, the SI only has to be laid before Parliament, which means that Parliament has to be informed that it exists, but has no power to vote on it.

Note that technically the power to initiate an SI is not delegated to an administrative agency or even to a Cabinet Secretary, but to an "Order in Council", which means that administrative procedures can be bypassed or revised without needing Parliamentary approval. This is mostly used to restructure government without needing a massive chunk of legislation - delegated powers are generally granted either to the responsible Secretary or to an Order in Council, which allows for the Cabinet departments to be restructured without needing primary legislation.

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They say that because a good way to make an argument is to point out something concrete enabled by the abstraction.

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Way too much of climate activist's messaging can be summed up by "make huge sacrifices today or you will have potentially bigger sacrifices in the future" which is pretty unsurprisingly not a winning political message.

That's before you get into the real weirdos that want to create zero growth societies and think it's going to be good. In a grad school environmental policy class, I was the only person who advocated that a hypothetical energy source that was literally free, limitless, and without any direct negative environmental effects would be good. The remainder of the class was too hung up on the potential rebound effect of increased consumption being worse...

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Some people are only happy if people are unhappy.

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And activists in particular, almost by definition, think you *should* be unhappy unless and until society is changed to their preferred positions.

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This describes pretty much every MSNBC viewer I know

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They also don't actually want make make any policy gains, because policy gains necessarily require compromises.

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What's interesting is that you can squint and see how the Green New Deal, which can be characterized as "Spend a lot of money now to make a better today and a better tomorrow" came about from efforts to navigate that challenge of "Make huge sacrifices today or make bigger sacrifices tomorrow" being a hard sell.

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That’s kind of amazing but not shocking. At least in my experience, a lot of people who think of themselves as environmentalists also share a dislike of consumerism. Somehow that means that green policies must also be anti-consumerist.

It’s almost as if the Calvinist personality is very much alive in many activists

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Much of this piece seems to boil down to something I think is true: mistake theory is correct, but most people are conflict theorists

https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/01/24/conflict-vs-mistake/

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The wise person understands both are at play at all times.

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What a great concept. I think I am a conflict theorist. I tend to think that for the majority of issues there is an argument for both sides (while also acknowledging that bad actors exist).

I can literally argue both sides of just about any controversial issue. There are very few issues where I can just say unequivocally, one side is "mistaken"

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Well even mistake theorists don't know for sure which side is "mistaken" - that's the point of debate.

I feel like conflict theorists are perhaps better at informing priors or "err on the side of". That is, if mistake theorists aren't sure whether raising the minimum wage will help or hurt (it's inside the error bars) then perhaps one can turn to conflict theory to help pick a side.

Sort of "rational" vs. "emotional" decision-making. As I recall from some neuroscience stuff, if you lose your ability to make emotional decisions, you get stuck in a rational paralysis where you can't decide between options. But of course acting purely from emotion is also a disastrous course.

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The way that Matt describes how the left sees this issue is also an example on how I feel the left myopically sees many to most issues. To generalize Matt's description:

A. There is a Very Important Problem that has widespread support among the most powerless as being such a problem, that also agrees on the solution in the exact way that the left sees it.

B. But there is some small but very powerful entity (multinational corporations and super rich people are often common targets as foes) that is causing needless misery to the powerless that they claim to be acting on their behalf.

C. That powerful entity is capable of corrupting politicians, regardless of what party they belong to, as well as mainstream media, and thus you can't trust anyone but themselves, the grassroots activists that call for their radical solution as the only way to solve the Very Important Problem.

They can get scrambled and enter angry denial real quickly if it turns out the Very Important Problem isn't seen as such by the powerless masses they claim to be speaking on behalf of, or when the barriers to addressing said problem aren't neatly the preferred powerful foes that would fit well as stock movie villains, or particularly when their preferred solution is simply unpopular.

I don't have much time today to list out too many examples of it, but quickly, since this is Slow Boring, certainly housing issues fit this structure--to them, it's obviously evil developers corrupting politicians that stand in the way of the only viable solution of public housing and rent control, and you're a shill if you disagree with that.

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"People against the powerful" just has a lot of emotional resonance to folks on the left, so everyone tries to shoehorn every issue into that framework. Sort of like how we're now seeing people try to shoehorn their personal preference for monogamy into a framework of sexual "radicalism."

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“…multinational corporations and super rich people are often common targets as foes…”

And the Jews. Don’t forget the Jews. It’s all about the benjamins, baby!

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I am a mildly right-of-center politically homeless type, worried about climate change, supportive of carbon reduction strategies, and extremely frustrated by the politics of it. In that regard, I always wonder why climate activists haven't studied Wayne Wheeler of the Anti-Saloon League. He persuaded hard-drinking politicians all around the country to *ban* alcohol in numbers sufficient to pass a constitutional amendment. How? Well, he used all his money and influence to support politicians who voted "dry," whether he agreed with them on any other topic, or not. He focused on his one issue. If climate activist rich people supported Republicans who vote for carbon reduction or clean energy regardless of their position on logically unrelated questions like abortion, guns, or marginal tax rates, they would have made a lot more progress now. Imagine if the climate billionaires had put their money into Republican primaries, funding the GOP clean energy people over the alternatives, instead of shaming moderate Democrats. We might be in a very different situation now.

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Mar 16, 2022·edited Mar 16, 2022

I think are voters too well sorted and well-informed, and institutions too effective at disciplining members, for this strategy to work. The days of making a different speech depending which audience you faced are gone, at least publicly. There were multiple races in 2020 where Democrats had more money than they were able to spend and still got crushed. Amy McGrath spent $50m in Kentucky, a small, poor state and lost by 20 points.

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Well, my point was a narrow one - there are districts in which the only election that matters is the GOP primary. If I were a billionaire funding election interventions, supporting "climate reasonables" in those primaries strikes me as a good idea.

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This sounds good, but I just need to see one example of a viable GOP primary candidate who is also "climate reasonable" in 2018, 2020 or the upcoming 2022 cycle, who could have actually won the primary if they had millions in additional support from a climate activist rich person. Were/are there *any* that fit this description? Or would these types of candidates need to be recruited from scratch by said rich activist person (in which case, how viable would they actually be in a GOP primary... seems like they'd be pretty easily tarred as an imposter)?

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There might not be one, but partly because the climate activists allowed the issue to become one of political tribalism. That needs to be reversed as a table stakes matter before anything durable happens in US policy. No time to start like the present. My guess is that in all the GOP candidates out there -- state legislators, house races, etc. -- there are some who would be very supportive of zero carbon power projects, etc.

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I think that's broadly true, but I don't think you can reasonably argue that it *helps* the environmental movement for Sunset to have a public position on Palestine or whatever.

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“He focused on his one issue”

The problem with the Sunrise Movement is their one issue is not climate change.

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Their issue is they're a socialist, degrowth organization masquerading as a climate org.

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When Bloomberg entered the 2020 democratic primary I understood that he was kind of annoying and couldn't win the nomination, but I did wonder if he had been elected president would he have focused all his energy on climate and spent big to try and elect climate friendly people in both parties because he has unlimited money to do so. I was not able to persuade anyone of this case, and I am not sure how effective he would have been in this foreign policy crisis, but I trust that he would have tried mightily to use it to get a climate package.

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"They got Sarah Bloom Raskin to write an op-ed suggesting that the fossil fuel industry should be cut off from the Fed’s emergency lending programs". If "they" can take away the agency of a learned and politically savvy woman such as Raskin to get her to pen such an op-ed, perhaps she is not the kind of independent-minded thinker who belongs on the Federal Reserve. I'm glad Joe Manchin saw that too.

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Among the dumbest phrases ever uttered by any human being are the words "solving climate change is just a matter of political will". This is an opinion popular among climate activists, not a few climate scientists and, regrettably, most economists including Nobel Prize winners. The level of ignorance, specifically technological ignorance, is astounding.

Now I am a Materials Science engineer and it is my business to understand what things are made of and why and to what uses any given material might be used. And this is why Raskin was an idiot: a huge percentage of every barrel of oil extracted from the ground is not burned at all. About forty percent (and rising) are used to make the petrochemicals that are the foundation building blocks of nearly everything you can touch. You cannot even make an EV without oil. If, 30 years from now, the same evil oil corporations are not producing them it will be because civilization has ended.

One day in the distant future we may have energy in such surplus that it is possible to create such chemicals without using fossil oil as the base but is it not now. And it is unlikely to be any time soon.

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At a point where I think Matt's animus towards Sunrise is about political temperament more than anything else. Still think the canonical piece on the climate policy space in the Democratic Party immediately pre-Sunrise is this overview from Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic from 2017: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/11/there-is-no-democratic-plan-to-fight-climate-change/543981/. It's from November; Sunrise had only been founded that April and hadn't come to prominence yet.

Climate wasn't a top-tier issue, no efforts were being made to set up a climate agenda for the next Democratic administration, and there was little consensus on what the party's overall approach should be in the first place. Meanwhile, activists were focused almost exclusively on blocking oil pipelines and had abandoned engagement with actual legislation. Meyer:

"On the other hand, the Democratic Party does not have a plan to address climate change. This is true at almost every level of the policy-making process: It does not have a consensus bill on the issue waiting in the wings; it does not have a shared vision for what that bill could look like; and it does not have a guiding slogan—like “Medicare for all”—to express how it wants to stop global warming.

Many people in the party know that they want to do something about climate change, but there’s no agreement about what that something may be.

This is not for lack of trying. Democrats have struggled to formulate a post-Obama climate policy because substantive political obstacles stand in their way. They have not yet identified a mechanism that will make a dent in Earth’s costly, irreversible warming while uniting the many factions of their coalition. These problems could keep the party scrambling to face the climate crisis for years to come."

Sunrise and the Green New Deal changed the game. The Green New Deal was never going to pass, but it's inarguable that Sunrise pushed climate closer to the top of the Democratic docket and drew out more expansive committments by 1) refocusing climate activists on actual legislation, 2) creating a lodestar set of proposals the party lacked post Waxman-Markey, and 3) annoying Democratic elites. As Matt says, there's no deep enthusiasm among voters for big moves here, so what else would have caused the shift in the party's willingness to prioritize climate? Did everyone just happen to start poring over IPCC reports all at once?

Their approach has its limits, but Sunrise has clearly had a positive material impact. The other side of this argument genuinely baffles me. Are they going to move Joe Manchin further with antagonism? No: less because there's something uniquely defective about their strategy than because Manchin's already gone as far as he's willing to go. But would Manchin have insisted on a Democratic president salvaging climate spending and discarding most of the rest of his legislative agenda if Sunrise never existed and we hadn't gone through the last five years of climate discourse? Probably not!

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“Climate wasn't a top-tier issue…”

I was just perusing the Sunrise website. Judging by that climate change isn’t a top-tier issue for them either.

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Should have spent that time trying to refute what I said, imo.

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That’s what I did.

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Biden's initial infrastructure proposal included around $400 billion in spending on in-home care -- about 3.5 times the amount directly allocated to fixing roads and bridges. Would it have been fair to conclude from this that the Biden administration didn't actually care about fixing roads and bridges?

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Tell me: Of the campaigns listed on the Sunrise website, which one is primarily about mitigating climate change?

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Mar 16, 2022·edited Mar 16, 2022

There's more to climate policy than mitigation. And when they *were* actually focused on decarbonization and getting people to commit to hard targets, they were criticized by Matt's camp for shrill alarmism. If Matt's right that we're already on a middle-of-the road path emissions-wise, a holistic approach focused on reducing climate impacts on the economy and bolstering the welfare state in anticipation of the changes we've baked in makes all the more sense. Especially given -- again as Matt himself says -- that ordinary voters aren't deeply invested in climate as an issue. A Climate Conservation Corps and green jobs deploying clean energy are better politics than a carbon tax. We spent years talking about the latter and got nowhere.

The critique of Sunrise cannot simultaneously be:

1) Sunrise cares way more about climate than the average voter and should recalibrate to put themselves in touch with reality.

2) Sunrise doesn't care nearly enough about climate and focuses way too much on jobs programs, etc. If they really cared about climate, they would push policies climate wonks are into that voters don't really care about.

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You could credibly argue that Sunrise's anti nuclear stance and advocacy against plant extensions has helped lock in more emissions that any positive they've ever achieved.

In other words, their results are more emissions and not less.

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Mar 16, 2022·edited Mar 16, 2022

I think about two or so nuclear power plants have come on-line in America over the last 30 years. You can blame a group founded in 2017 for nuclear resistance if you'd like, but the reality is that their stance is the product of longstanding obstacles to adoption rather than a novel challenge.

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I'm thinking not about plants not built, but plants going offline - specifically Indian Point in New York. 2000MW pulled offline, 90% of which replaced by three new gas plants, 25% of NYC's power, and pulling NY off track from meeting it's emissions goals.

Not a word from Sunrise and AOC despite being asked to help give some cover to keep the plants operating contra NRDC and Riverkeepers long running effort to shut them down - instead the Chuck Schumer's and Cuomo's of the world, scared of Sunrise (& similar groups) coming at them in the primary, tack left and as part of their "environmental bonafides" decide to support the closures...

Sure it wasn't actively campaigning to close them, but had they decided to support extension, especially given the New York/AOC connection we're probably looking at 2GW of zero carbon electricity through 2045 by now....

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Sunrise got started as a positive movement backing candidates who supported renewable energy and didn't take fossil fuel money. Within a couple of years they're reduced to trolling the Senate's climate MVP. It seems they didn't achieve as much progress as they hoped for and went insane.

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I think this piece is a little overly optimistic about the role of Secret Congress and the climate/energy wins that have been produced recently. More specifically, the role of Lisa Murkowski is a unique Republican politician, one that has a vested interest in reaching out to Democratic voters and finding ways to maintain her brand in the state due to the perceived threat she faces from GOP primary voters. Another Republican politician in her shoes might double down even more on climate denial in an effort to maintain control over a GOP primary. Murkowski has taken a different approach. And was also in a unique situation of chairing ENR at the end of last Congress at a time in which she was term limited in leadership and wanted to create a legacy.

But before the energy bill of 2020, what were the optimistic signs that Congress could act on climate? From the failure of Waxman-Markey in 2009 until 2020, it really did look like Republican elites were going to refuse to do anything on climate. And we know that Sunrise and other decisions on climate politics dates back to 2018 or so. How fast should climate funders pivot based on the green shoots of 2020 and 2021?

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I don't know if people should be more optimistic about Secret Congress. But on this issue, it's the best we've got: all other alternatives are worse.

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Why is a different climate bad? Of course any period of change between climates would be bad - people have settled based on old weather patterns, new weather patterns may diverge - but it seems to me rather odd that we just assume that the temperature around 1800 is *the* optimal temperature. Why are the ice ages not the optimal temperature? Why was a warmer globe good then but bad now? Given that we know a higher level of carbon dioxide is better for plant growth, would it be reasonable to think we would be better off with a slightly warmer globe?

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It’s not the temperature increase per se that makes climate change bad, it’s the pace. The disruptions to the ecosystem (and that ecosystem encompasses, for example, where human populations choose to settle) will cause suffering.

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Mar 16, 2022·edited Mar 16, 2022

You make a very interesting point, although I don't know if it's correct or not on net (almost certainly there will be some regions that are climate-change winners though). But adapting to that new world will require a lot of migration from newly unlivable areas to newly temperate ones, which is a long and painful process.

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Agree, we're mainly trying to remove the human-created acceleration. Human migration around climate is normal and the climate will someday warm even without human contribution. But having hundreds or thousands of years to adapt technologically would save a ton of lives and misery even if we fail the political tests wholesale.

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founding

The weather we had in Texas on Valentine’s Day 2021 wasn’t inherently bad weather. It’s exactly the weather that Chicago and Detroit and Minneapolis get for several weeks every year (maybe even months?) - highs in the teens and a little bit of frozen precipitation. But since it happened in a place that wasn’t prepared for it, we had massive power outages across the state, people losing the ability to heat their homes, and then when the thaw came we had city water systems losing pressure for several days and causing boil water advisories, due to all the leaks caused by freezing and loss of pump pressure from the power outages. Which is all just to say, weather that is perfectly fine in one place isn’t fine in places that aren’t ready, and any major change in the climate causes weather to hit places that aren’t ready for it.

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A different climate isn't bad. Climate changing more rapidly than in all of human (maybe even hominid?) history is bad, because wildlife and our built infrastructure need time to adapt to new weather patterns.

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Most beings aren't human though. It's not just about us.

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There are many, many reasons why a different climate would be bad. Here's a big one: Most of the crops that 8 billion human beings rely on for food are highly adapted to the current climate. It's not that all the crop plants will keel over and die at higher temperatures, but they'll become much less productive. Plus, changing rainfall patterns (too much = flooding, too little = drought) will play havoc with agricultural yields.

All told, climate change = drastic drop in food production = famine and suffering. If you don't like widespread famines, you ought to be against climate change.

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https://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2015/05/inside-war-on-coal-000002/

I'd commend this great Grunwald article on the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign to everyone as an example of what a successful environmental organizing campaing looks like - basically using Argle Bargle activism as a tool in the shed combined with elite money that mainly funds utility/regulatory attorneys at the state level and grasstops pressure at the federal level to make significant gains on GHG reduction in the power sector.

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So I find Matt's description of the faulty assumptions of climate activists and donors to be plausible, but I have an alternate explanation (based on Canadian battles over climate policy): they see themselves as a *vanguard* rather than as representatives of a mass movement that already exists. That is, they believe that if they can raise public awareness of the terrible consequences of climate change, the public will support strong climate policy.

Joseph Heath argues that there's a basic fallacy here. Climate change is hard not because of awareness but because of incentives. It's a free-rider problem: when I drive or fly I get the benefit of burning fossil fuels, while the costs of climate disruption are spread over the entire world, they're not borne by me. So even though I know climate change has terrible consequences, I lack the incentive to stop using fossil fuels (e.g. by not flying): it's a huge cost to me while making little difference to the overall problem. http://induecourse.ca/hobbess-difficult-idea/ https://reviewcanada.ca/magazine/2011/12/its-not-easy-being-green/

In short, cooperation is surprisingly difficult. Just knowing that if we all cooperate we can fix some terrible problem is not sufficient to make it happen. You need to look at individual incentives.

I'm not sure how you would convince someone with the "vanguard" perspective that this assumption (about the link between awareness and support) is wrong. Evidence that the public doesn't care that much about climate change (e.g. not being willing to spend $100/year to help fix it) can be dismissed as a sign that public awareness of how bad the problem is needs to be raised further.

(Canada's approach to tackling the incentive problem is admirably direct: apply a steadily rising carbon price on fossil fuels, so that whenever I buy and burn fossil fuels I'm paying for the additional cost of climate disruption, giving me a direct self-interested incentive to cut low-value uses of fossil fuels. The revenue from the federal carbon tax in each province where it applies is divided up equally and returned directly to households in the province; since rich households spend more on fossil fuels, being less sensitive to prices, they pay a larger share and most people come out ahead even if they can't cut back at all. So far the federal carbon tax has survived two federal elections and a legal challenge. Mark Jaccard argues in "The Citizen's Guide to Climate Success" that a more indirect approach would probably be more politically feasible.)

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"Climate change is hard not because of awareness but because of incentives."

+100

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Great post, with which I agree with 100%, as do, it appears, all the commentors, with a narrow band of discussion/disagreement.

And that is what is so unfortunate about this debate. We're each in our corner with nary a Sunrise supporter in sight. Or even if one did join in, I suspect the quality of the back and forth -- from both sides-- would decline rapidly.

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