Moral Majority: Team Obama Finally Embraces The Winning Argument For Climate Action

“… remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote” — Obama 6/25/13

“We have a moral obligation to act” — #1 message in post-speech talking points from team Obama

“Republican leaders have a clear strategy for combating President Barack Obama’s climate agenda: Don’t talk about the science” — Politico 6/27/13

“Once third-rail issues transform into moral imperatives, impossibilities sometimes surrender to new realities — Salon 2/13/13

Wednesday, the Supreme Court sided with marriage equality. The Court struck down the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act and re-opened the door for gay marriage in California.

I’m sure you all know the argument that won in the Supreme Court, the argument that has led toward a sharp swing of public support for LGBT rights in the past decade, the one repeated endlessly by advocates for change: Legalizing gay marriage would be a big job creator. Yes, in the face of strong religious and conservative objections, the public and the Court were persuaded by the growing call for a jobs plan from florists, caterers, photographers, wedding planners, DJs, celebrity bookers, gown and tuxedo stores, marriage counselors and even divorce attorneys.

Oh wait, that wasn’t the winning argument. As Salon explained in a late 2011 article, “Gay rights’ surprise weapon: Morality,” what “moved gay marriage into the mainstream in 2011” was “morality.”

They did it – and this is the lesson that the gay revolution holds for any progressive movement – not by asking for “tolerance.” They didn’t ask people to accept gay marriage by holding their moral noses. Rather, they set out to change change people’s minds about what is moral.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in the decision striking down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), said DOMA “violates basic due process and equal protection,” that it represents a “deprivation of the liberty” people are guaranteed by the Constitution, and that it “humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same sex couples.” Strangely enough, I couldn’t find the word “job” anywhere in the ruling.

I mention all this because, for virtually the entire first term, the White House made the jobs and economic arguments preeminent in the climate debate while downplaying the science. Worse, back in March 2009, team Obama actually told the leading environmental groups that everyone pushing the climate bill should downplay the threat posed by climate change — the core of any moral argument for action.

Last year, the UK Guardian published “Revealed: the day Obama chose a strategy of silence on climate change” on the origins of the fatefully dreadful decision to try to sell the climate bill without talking about the climate.

Betsy Taylor, president of Breakthrough Strategies and Solutions, was at the meeting:

“What was communicated in the presentation was: ‘This is what you talk about, and don’t talk about climate change’.” Taylor said. “I took away an absolutely clear understanding that we should focus on clean energy jobs and the potential of a clean energy economy rather than the threat of climate change.”

The message stuck. Subsequent campaigns from the Obama administration and some environmental groups relegated climate change to a second-tier concern.

And so the Democratic establishment and most major environmental groups went along with a messaging strategy that tied both arms behind their backs, a point the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein made in his article, “Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?

To be clear, I am not opposed to the clean energy jobs message at all. Indeed, Climate Progress has probably published more articles on that message then any other publication in the world. But the problem with making it the exclusive or even primary argument is that it opens up the obvious response, well, if it’s jobs that you seek, then 1) we can give you some tax credits and 2) our (dirty) industries can also provide jobs, so let’s keep supporting them.

Worse, by focusing exclusively on the economic argument, you actually undercut your moral position. You allow the fossil-fuel funded disinformation campaign to (falsely) argue that clean energy is just another special interest.

Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Ranking Minority Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, made this point in his opening statement for an oversight hearing on “Solyndra and The DOE Loan Guarantee Program.” In rebutting the standard GOP attack on the argument that Solyndra “shows the folly of federal investments in solar and other clean energy technologies” and that “the government should not pick ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in the energy marketplace,” Waxman explained:

This sounds superficially appealing, but there is a fundamental flaw in their logic. The majority of Republicans on this Committee deny that climate change is real. If you are a science denier, there is no reason for government to invest in clean energy.

That final sentence cuts through the fog of this debate like the Fresnel lens of a lighthouse lamp. For science deniers, clean energy is just another special interest, hardly different from, say, natural gas or, for them, even oil and coal.

ACC temps
The essential rationale for government action, as progressives and climate hawks know, is a moral one based on the science: We must start rapidly getting off of fossil fuels ASAP to preserve a livable climate — to maintain a carrying capacity anywhere near the projected mid-century population of this planet — by limiting warming to under 4°F. Indeed, we know that even if we miss that target, the shift is inevitable by midcentury, else we face warming far beyond 7°F globally — beyond 10°F over most of U.S.! — with multiple, simultaneous catastrophic consequences that are almost beyond imagining.

That’s why, this blog and others have urged for years that the message be flipped around. Now, Obama is finally starting to get it right. That became clear in his second inaugural address, when the president framed climate action and inaction in moral terms, as a betrayal of future generations.

And in his big Wednesday speech, the President went full climate hawk, with an extensive discussion of climate science, extreme weather impacts, the absurdity of denial, and the moral urgency of action.

The centrality of the moral argument was underscored when Politico published team Obama’s talking points:

TALKING POINTS — STAY AWAY FROM ECONOMIC ARGUMENT: A set of talking points issued by a coalition of Obama supporters recommends downplaying some of the economic and jobs benefits of a climate action plan he rolled out yesterday and instead focus on the harm that Americans are suffering. The “message guidance” to a network of Obama advocates contained a table listing “Dos and Don’ts” that suggested campaigners should not “lead with straight economic arguments” or to “try to suggest net job increases.” Darren Goode again:

Yes, the messaging has flipped entirely:

The talking points themselves are straight out of the climate hawk playbook:

A simple 3-part message formulation should be used for maximum effect with general audiences.
1. We have a moral obligation to act.
2. Communities all over America are already being harmed.
3. The president’s climate plan is full of common sense solutions including first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants.
Short interview-ready formulation:
1. We have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that’s not polluted and damaged by carbon pollution….

The talking points note that this messaging is backed by extensive polling (as CP has pointed out for years):

“We have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that’s not polluted and damaged” – 93% agree, including 67% who strongly agree (Benenson Strategy Group for the League of Conservation Voters, 2/12/13)

“We have an obligation to future generations to do something about the issue of climate change. We need to make sure that this is not a problem that we simply pass on to future generations to deal with because it will just keep getting more expensive and painful if we put it off. – 65% say fairly important/very important reason government should act (Hart Research Associates for CAC, 1/29/13)

But the point Salon made earlier this year in an article on LGBT rights, gun control, and immigration is that progressives don’t need polling to know that the moral argument is the winning one: “Once third-rail issues transform into moral imperatives, impossibilities sometimes surrender to new realities.”

I’m delighted that team Obama finally has embraced the winning message. As I’ve noted before, some groups never stopped talking about the threat posed by global warming. I think it’s safe to say the Center for American Progress Action Fund where I work never did. Indeed, I argued against downplaying climate change as far back as May 3, 2009.

Bill McKibben, fortunately, also thought it was a bad idea at the time and still does. As he told the Guardian:

“I thought it was a mistake and I told them,” said Bill McKibben, who heads the group, who was one of the few people at the meeting to voice his misgivings. “All I said was sooner or later you are going to have to talk about this in terms of climate change. Because if you want people to make the big changes that are required by the science then you are going to have to explain to people why that is necessary, and why it’s such a huge problem,” he said.

Indeed, the biggest recent political success of the environmental movement, halting the approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, was done by talking explicitly about global warming.

Last this year I asked McKibben to comment on his winning Keystone strategy, and he wrote me:

Talking about climate was precisely what rallied most of the people who came out to oppose the Keystone Pipeline. The largest civil disobedience action in 30 years on any issue saw people from all 50 states taking part, not jsut or even mainly the 6 along the pipeline route. When we circled the White House five deep with people, the most common banner was simply a quote from Obama: In my administration the rise of the oceans will begin to slow.

People sense in their bones … that the climate is starting to shift–this issue is moving quickly from the theoretical to the deeply real.

The majority of Americans understand the moral imperative of climate action. Finally, it seems, the president does too.

46 Responses to Moral Majority: Team Obama Finally Embraces The Winning Argument For Climate Action

  1. Typo alert: unless you’ve got a time machine that you haven’t told us about, I doubt that the Politico article came out on 6/27/60.

  2. Mark E says:

    Excellent analysis, Joe!

    I would add, that all potential 2014 campaign workers demand their favorite candidate embrace these very talking points!

    Or don’t work for them.

  3. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Moral? Or just staying a few words ahead of reality. I suspect the effects on the US have come faster and more intensely than anticipated, ME

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    “… a prerequisite for your vote …”

    This point by the President is a most important point for us to pay attention to, understand, and put into real action.

    We all know what “pre” means, and we all know what a requirement is. For something to be a “prerequisite” for a person’s vote, it must be something — a requirement — that a candidate must satisfy before you give him/her your vote.

    Can we actually do that, people; can we actually adopt that paradigm, make it clear to would-be candidates that we have adopted it, get clear on those requirements (set a high bar), and not vote for someone unless she/he satisfies it? Can we manage to find the wisdom and cooperation and courage to not nominate someone unless she/he satisfies it?

    Compare this idea that the President (and I) recommends — “a prerequisite for your vote” — with this other phrase that he sometimes uses — “make me do it”.

    Do you see the radical difference, the almost-completely-different paradigm?

    In one case, you vet a would-be candidate, a would-be leader, to make sure that she/he satisfies your requirements BEFORE you nominate him/her as your party’s presidential candidate and then ultimately vote for him/her for president. The burden falls on the would-be nominee and candidate to convince you that she is up to the challenge of (in this case) addressing climate change with true commitment, verve, wisdom, courage, and leadership — as a condition for your support, as a precondition for your vote. This is very different from having the candidate tell you to “make me do it” after you’ve elected him. Get it?

    Philosophers often use the term ‘antecedent’ — a thing or event that logically precedes another. In terms of both a time-sequence and a logical-sequence, we should insist that would-be candidates satisfy the prerequisites for our votes, BEFORE we vote for them, and doing so should help avoid the need to “make me do it” after they are elected.

    (This is not to say that no activism will be necessary after a great leader is elected; instead, it is to say that the focus and energy of activism can be on other people, and on bottlenecks that we and the elected leader face, not time and energy spent mainly focused on the elected leader himself to get him to do what he promised to do in the first place.)

    It should be obvious that it is self-defeating and a huge sink of time/energy to elect someone who you then have to spend most of your time trying to convince to do something. Why not elect someone in the first place who has convinced YOU (in the first place, before you vote for him/her) that he will do it of his own volition?

    The President has made the case for me — the case that we should make sure to vet would-be nominees for the Democratic presidential nomination and let them know that they must have a clear, convincing, credible, courageous, and sufficient-to-the-task position with respect to climate change as a prerequisite for our support, for our votes, for the nomination, and ultimately for our support and votes in the general election. I repeat, a PRErequisite for our votes.

    Not only does the President’s comment make the case, but Joe apparently agrees with the President’s comment. Bravo.

    Hillary Clinton is already running. Will CP and CAP lead the charge (perhaps along with Bill McKibben and, Michael Brune and the Sierra Club, and etc. etc.) to ask her about, find out, and test Hillary’s position on climate change, vet her with respect to climate change, and make the message clear (to her and to all would-be nominees) that a credible, strong, convincing, and compelling stance regarding climate change — and a demonstrated willingness to lead — will all be prerequisites for our votes this time around?

    It’s a clear question. How ’bout it?



  5. Pennsylvania Bob says:

    Absolutely. Every candidate at every level must be pressed, and pressed hard, on climate. Let them hear you. From School Board, to City Council, to state reps, to US Congress. Ask them in forums, in letters to the editor, on talk shows. This is something we all can and must do. And withhold your vote from any who would deny or delay full action on climate.

  6. Mark E says:

    No political issue matters if we fail on global warming…..

    So tell your DEM candidate that if they won’t talk global warming along with their other top issues, you plan to go work for the Green Party. If that means the ticket is split and a GOPper wins, so what?

    No DEM issue matters if we fail on climate. So do-nothing DEMS are DEAD WEIGHT. We don’t need ’em, and you shouldn’t work for ’em.

  7. Mark E says:

    Jeff, you did persuade me to care. In my opinion, you will be more likely to persuade others if you keep it to 2 paragraphs,and save the broadsides for a guest column.

  8. Lore says:

    As I recall, former VP Al Gore made these same points back during his lectures in 2004. The first and foremost being, we have a moral obligation to act. What has really changed, if anything for the better, in the way of actions over nearly ten years since then?

    Unlike civil and social rights, the morality of climate change seems to get lost in our political and common will to act. Possibly because it’s interpreted as an affront to our core human instinct of growth at any cost? The discussion should be then how do we surmount this truth and become fundamentally better human beings then any that have ever walked the planet?

  9. Colorado Bob says:

    Joe –
    An amazing article from the Calgary Herald –

    Melting sea ice, wobbly jet stream seen as culprits in Alberta floods

    It’s not much, but the temperature gradient between the Arctic and equator has weakened. The jet stream is about 14 per cent slower in the fall now than in the 1990s, according to a recent study by Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University in New Jersey.

    Read more:

  10. It’s not only moral, it’s urgent. It’s not only about future generations, it’s about those of us alive today. We’re already seeing the climate destabilize, and the destruction that will bring, and societal stress.

    I am very heartened by Obama’s framing it in these inarguable terms. How to improve our economic competitiveness is endlessly debatable and a driver of marginal action at best.

  11. fj says:

    Yes, accelerating climate change is everything.

    It changes everything.

    Any planning that does include climate change is worthless.

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    Nothing like the worst flood in Canadian History to focus the mind. 8 years after the last 100 year flood.

  13. Colorado Bob says:

    By the way, it was 93F degrees at Dawson, in the Northwest Territories, and 82F at Shingle Point on the Beaufort Sea, 1,000 mikes east it was 82F on the Northwest passage.

    Looks like Canada gets it’s clocked cleaned this summer.

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    This looks like the peat is on fire , I’ve seen this smoke before , for nearly six years. The ground is on fire , as well the trees.

    Went the wind lays down, peat fires keep burning.

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    Burning peat, makes coal and clean fuel.

  16. Sasparilla says:

    Guessing you meant “Any planning that does >not< include climate change is worthless." fj. ;-)

  17. Colorado Bob says:

    There’s a fire in New Mexico tonight that is moving into 100,000 acres burned. And it’s now not on the news either.

  18. Sasparilla says:

    Fantastic analysis Joe. Thank goodness their using the right messaging.

    Now if we can only keep the administration and the President on message here (remember President Obama was saying we had to wait for when the science was in on climate change a month or so ago…).

    Hopefully they stick to it and this becomes the turning point for the U.S. on climate change.

  19. Sasparilla says:

    Wow, those temps along with the prior ones in Alaska are astounding.

  20. Colorado Bob says:

    If the Rutgers theory is right, we’ll see the nastiest high in the books. In Canada this summer.

    My money is with Fran at Rutgers .

  21. Colorado Bob says:

    It will run from Tucson to Hudson Bay.

  22. mulp says:

    Magic bullet time, I guess.

    But Al Gore emphasized the climate change science and the need for action a decade ago…

    Magic bullet!!! Al Gore healed the planet a decade ago!!

    Why the crisis talk??

    Seriously, there is no magic bullet, no silver bullet, no magic negro, no superman to save the day.

    The future is in our hands and either we fix it by doing the hard work of making public policy right by talking to everyone with any power, like the people who can vote today, the kids who will vote in the future, the consumers which includes ourselves, and investors which for at least a few percent includes us.

    No one else is going to save the planet. Definitely no president can, even if he were superman and the green hornet.

  23. Artful Dodger says:

    Personally, I think the time of ‘rope-a-dope’ is over. There have been enough big, public, catastrophic events in a short enough period of time that an average, reasonable citizen can no longer be convinced that climate change is not real, and a real and present danger.

    Now, watch for the President to come out swinging. That means we have work to do. Stand up, speak up, rise up.

    Forward on Climate!

  24. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Speaking morality to the Right is pointless. Their idea of ‘morality’ is, in fact, bigotry. They claim adherence to a ‘moral law’ that somehow incites disdain, even hatred, for those different from them, in gender, sexual orientation, religion, race, class and ideology. And their ‘morality’ is decidedly not universal-it exists only to succour those like the Rightist, those they accept. Others they merely ‘tolerate’, implicitly a contingent state that can be withdrawn at any time. And many more they actively work against through prejudice, injustice and, often enough, repression and violence. A universal morality, such as the desire to prevent the destruction of the planet’s life-support systems for our species, does not register for the Right, who are, at best, indifferent to the fate of others unlike themselves. We ought to win, because we would be better victors, not taking it out on the creatures who drove humanity near to destruction, whereas they have no compunction in acting towards the vanquished without any empathy or pity.

  25. Martin Vermeer says:

    Finally :-)

  26. Superman1 says:

    “no president can, even if he were superman”. I can assure you the President is not Superman. But, if he could adopt the policies of Superman, the first step of which is to end all non-essential uses of fossil fuel IMMEDIATELY, then there is the slight possibility that the day could indeed be saved. And, at this late stage, ‘slight possibility’ is the best we have, if that!

  27. Superman1 says:

    “What has really changed, if anything for the better, in the way of actions over nearly ten years since then?” Nothing, and the reason is quite simple. Very few have any interest in making the harsh sacrifices required if we are to avoid the climate cliff. Glowing Presidential statements notwithstanding!

  28. fj says:

    correct; apologies

  29. fj says:

    morality, practicality, self-interest . . .

    a while back jeff sachs identified the combination of things that went in macro scale social change

  30. fj says:

    The key thing now is that climate denial is a house of cards on the verge of collapse.

    The fossil fuel industry has is at the crossroad to either remain the fossil fool industry or feel good, do the right thing, and join civilization’s industries that will build our future.

  31. Lou Grinzo says:

    As I’ve said countless times in recent years: The children of the world are all ours, whether they carry our DNA or not.

    Climate change impacts from a business as usual path amount to global, generations-long child abuse through starvation and depriving the victims of decent food, clothing, and shelter. E.g. think about climate refugees and their plight once there are many millions of them and people in rich countries experience donor and compassion fatigue.

    Unless we change course very quickly and drastically, we’re set to learn some very ugly lessons about ourselves in the coming decades. Yes, there will certainly be humanitarian heroes, as there always are in dire circumstances; but who can imagine there being enough of them to offset the coming misery for years and decades and longer?

  32. Robert Watson says:

    Clearly the reason Presidnet Obama frequently stressed the economic benefits of clean energy was because Republicans so often accused him of trying to strangle the economy in his attempts to reduce carbon emissions. The vast majority of Americans already understood the moral implications, though many rejected them as fear-mongering.

  33. Superman1 says: The above is a good summary of where we are relative to slowing climate change, and what we can do. Not easy reading, but presents myriad viewpoints in agreement with your thesis of no ‘magic bullets’.

  34. BillD says:

    My understanding is that climate change will get bad over the coming decades, but will get worse for about 10,000 years. As the poles start to melt more quickly no one really has an idea about how that can be reversed. Especially when viewed at this time scale of 1,000s of years, we really do need to have a moral concern for the fate of life on earth. It’s really difficult to see how our “advanced” civilization will survive. With the popularity of dystopian young adult literature, I have to say that it’s really difficult to guess what combination of food and energy shortages and social and legal breakdown will occur. Although it’s very difficult to be optimistic, delaying the worst for a few generations or decades is a worthy moral goal. And then just maybe, the whole world will recognize the risks and changes needed at some point before it’s too late.

  35. Paul Magnus says:

    I do believe Obama from the start was aware of the morality of the whole thing. Risk appreciation and Messaging just was not there.

    The economic story is an important one – many deniers and avoiders don’t appreciate the critical risk, but are so preoccupied in the economic aspects of their lives that only when this is directly influenced by global warming impacts do they start to get an idea of the risk and magnitude involved.

    Hey even our denier PM has had a rude awakening with the recent Calgary flooding….

    “Prime Minister Stephen Harper says as an Albertan, he never imagined there could be a flood of such magnitude in this part of Canada.”

    And just as in the case of the GOP in the US its affected their convention…

    The flooding forced the Conservatives to cancel a national party convention that’s supposed to take place in Calgary next week.

  36. M Tucker says:

    “We have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that’s not polluted and damaged” – 93% agree, including 67% who strongly agree (Benenson Strategy Group for the League of Conservation Voters, 2/12/13)

    “We have an obligation to future generations to do something about the issue of climate change. We need to make sure that this is not a problem that we simply pass on to future generations to deal with because it will just keep getting more expensive and painful if we put it off.” – 65% say fairly important/very important reason government should act (Hart Research Associates for CAC, 1/29/13)

    So the majority of Americans want action on climate change.

    So, who is the target audience for this new moral approach? If the majority of Americans really do actually what climate legislation and want EPA to regulate existing power plants then they are already convinced. The work is done. The only opponents would be the utilities, the fossil fuel industry, and ALL Republican and some Democrat House and Senate members.

    Hmmm, how well has the very modest proposal for a gun safety bill gone? Do moral arguments impress House and Senate members? Do moral arguments impress industry? NO. They always go with the money and say FU to moral arguments.

    So, even though Joe is right that we need to lead with the moral argument do not expect any kind of easy persuasion. Do not expect industry to be impressed. Do not expect our worthless representatives to be impressed. Expect tremendous opposition to any new EPA regulations. Expect court battles. Expect long delays before anything actually changes with existing power plants. Expect continued opposition to continuing subsidies for clean energy. Keystone has not been halted it has been delayed. Do not claim victory yet.

  37. SecularAnimist says:

    M Tucker, one factor missing from your analysis is that “industry” is not a monolith.

    As a number of articles on this site have reported, some of the largest, wealthiest and most powerful corporations in the USA are investing heavily in their own renewable energy infrastructure.

    And the renewable energy industry itself is rapidly growing, and as it grows, so grows its political and economic clout.

    So, as for the House and Senate members who have no interest in “moral” arguments, only economic arguments — well, it isn’t going to be just the coal and oil lobbyists presenting their narrow economic arguments to those politicians any more. The wind and solar industry lobbyists will be there too, and they will have their own economic arguments (and their own bags of cash from which to hand out campaign contributions).

  38. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Lou, all the planet’s children do carry ‘our’ DNA, as do chimpanzees, gorillas, all the way down. We are all in this together, every living thing on this planet.

  39. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    However, ‘the economy’ no longer operates to enrich the population, but to benefit an already profoundly over-endowed minority. The majority is slowly or rapidly sinking in to the mire, while the ecological collapse wrought by unjust and inequitable economic growth marches on.

  40. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    But will the disaster make Harper change his denialist tune? Pigs might fly.

  41. J4Zonian says:

    But we do know how to reverse it, Bill: the way the Earth has been doing it off and on for several billion years. We start with some other stuff to make it fast: efficiency, solar, wind, and changed lives to stop emitting ghgs asap, and then return to basics: reforesting the world while transforming agriculture to local organic low-meat permaculture including especially food forests. Allan Yeoman says we can recapture all the carbon spewed by the industrial revolution by increasing organic matter in soil on all the world’s arable land by just 1.8%. That’s well within reach.

  42. Joan Savage says:

    I appreciate the Presidential use of the term carbon pollution. This terminology confronts the false syllogism of some politicians who suppose that if some carbon dioxide is natural, then all carbon dioxide is natural.

    We don’t want carbon materials in the wrong place and wrong amount, as that what makes them carbon pollutants.

    It’s not a new term, though. The EPA has a webpage for carbon pollution standard.

    PS By not restricting carbon pollution to carbon dioxide pollution, this includes many messy carbon compounds, including creosote and soot.

  43. Phil Blackwood says:

    Yes, the President is talking about the moral dimension.

    OFA, not so much. They did change their web site to replace “All of the Above” with the new climate plan.

    But where is the OFA document saying the number 1 talking point is the moral argument?

    Early reports about this referred to an unapproved email sent out to the OFA mailing list.

    Joe, could you check? Here’s a link to an explanation:

  44. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    A very optimistic view, and one that still seems achievable. However, it will not happen under the current global power structure and economic system. The very first prerequisite is that individual wealth and power must be limited and equality of wealth and opportunity made the highest good in any system that replaces neo-liberal capitalism. That will, inevitably, evoke strong resistance from the current global over-class. It will, however, if achieved, liberate so much human potential as to totally transform our civilization, for the better.

  45. fj says:

    This is the most data-centric and technological advanced civilization ever that has been able to act at the scale required to cause this crisis.

    There is a good chance we can fix it but there is no guarantee because of very large scale instabilities that can totally overwhelm us.

    That is why we must not hold back and find the state of the art critical paths to prevail.

    We must truly learn to work with nature to maximum benefit in the most efficient way with minimal negative impact:

    Profound use of natural capital where human capital is the most important component.

  46. J4Zonian says:

    I’m neither optimistic nor pessimistic; none of us knows what’s going to happen. There is no technical reason we can’t solve the problem but our political problems, which are actually entirely psychological problems, may keep us from pursuing the real solutions. In everything we do we follow exactly the wrong path, falling prey to addictions, distractions, projections, and lots of other ions. The psychological problems—which also cause the economic system(s) some people blame for the climate crisis—are by far the most important things to work on but are unlikely to respond fully in time, if we can even get anyone who isn’t already doing that to start. Change comes slowly sometimes; almost overnight other times. Belief in systems can collapse almost instantly at the smallest kick, especially when it’s already rotten, and I don’t know if there’s ever been such a powerful system being held up by such rotten cheese. The Arab Spring showed how personal a spark can set off a revolution, as if we didn’t know that already. Occupy exposed and put words and numbers to the dissatisfaction. Billions outside the US and tens of millions inside are ready for the economic system led by the bullying US to end. No one knows if it’s going to happen in time for us to avoid the worst.