09/07/2012 05:30 pm ET Updated Nov 07, 2012

"Responsibility. Patriotic Pride. Accountability": Three Pillars for Honest Engagement on Climate Disruption

Climate Solutions for a Stronger America is a communications "guide for engaging and winning on climate change & clean energy" intended for politicians and others regularly engaged in debate.  This guide, driven by the work of Betsy Taylor, lays out an effective communications path for politicians who want -- amid all the other issues of the day -- to include climate change issues within their discussions but might find it challenging amid the cacophony of deception coming from the RWSM and other fossil-foolish outlets.

Based on recent (and targeted) polling, Climate Solutions lays down a three pillar argument stream resting on core American values.  As put in the document,

Voters are seeing the effects of climate disruption in their daily lives, are concerned about the impacts, and are hungry for leadership and solutions. A large body of recent research shows a solid majority of voters respond favorably to confident, pro-clean energy, climate leadership messages grounded in three core American values

The values:
  • Responsibility:  We have a responsibility -- to ourselves, each other, our children -- to act to reduce climate disruption impacts.
  • Patriotic Pride: "America can rise to the challenge."  How dare anyone say Americans can't achieve a cleaner energy future.
  • Accountability: "The billionaire Koch Brothers and Big Oil... rig the system" and it is time to put an end to it.
These value streams link together to create a powerful narrative structure which hits classic literary and political rhetoric advice:
  • A quest for a clean energy future and confronting climate change. This quest will enable creation of new industries and jobs via practical and cost-effective solutions.
  • A menacing threat that threatens America and all Americans from mounting climate disruption as exemplified with wildfires, droughts alternated with floods, record temperatures. "It doesn't have to be this way."
  • A clear set of villains exists as "Big Oil, the Billionaire Koch Brothers, and fossil fuel Super-PACs are rigging the system and blocking clean energy solutions. They are trying to buy the election and keep fossil fuel interests in control."
  • True heroes exist as well, as people "are standing up for clean energy" and are "trying to do your part... And all of us are fighting back against the billionaire Koch Brothers who have a stranglehold on our political system and energy future. These climate heroes and many others get up every day and work hard, play fair and invest in America's future."
And, at the core of the guide and fundamental to this narrative: "There is no need to do anything but speak the truth."

The guide has many useful elements to it, from providing a set of words and phrases to use, to debunking elements of core dirty-energy talking points, to information derived from the focused polling supporting the project.

Starting from the last, polling, this summer seems to have been an 'aha' moment for much of the American public who, despite most political leaders' aversion to directly engaging on climate issues, recognize that climate disruption is real and creates real risks.  Are we at a tipping point? The polling has over 2/3rds of Americans recognizing the problem and supportive of action -- this is the sort of mass recognition that enable real (even sudden) change.

Consider that and move to the 'villains' -- will science-denier talking points fall flat as they contrast ever more starkly with people's experiences and 'what they see with their own eyes.'

As for the delayer and anti-future talking points, here is an example:

Attack: Solyndra is what happens when politicians give out tax money to cronies. Let's get the facts straight: The loan program that funded Solyndra was set up by the Bush Administration, and it has a 95% success rate. But Solyndra went bankrupt, because it was beaten out by competitors in China and Germany, where they are out-investing us in clean energy. If we give up every time there's a failure, our competitors will leave us in the dust. We have to push forward with confidence.

Rather than run from Solyndra, speak honestly and directly about the situation. (Note: This is an excellent report but the "attack" response section seems to run at odds with The Debunking Handbook by providing too much visibility to the "attacks" even while the substance of responses is excellent. This is a quibble about what is a seriously valuable 20-page document.)

As for talking points, here is one example:

Let's talk about the tobacco industry. John Boehner once served as one of their chief lobbyists. Now he is Speaker of the House and he is doing the same kind of work for Big Oil, only this time he is supposed to be an elected official working for the people -- not for special interests. This is the problem with our democracy today. Special interests are buying up politicians.

Hmmm... so many elements wrapped up in this one talking point weaving together a senior GOP leader with the much-loved tobacco industry; making the link from tobacco industry disinformation to fossil-foolish-fueled disinformation on climate change science; to linking Boehner to the much-loved Big Oil; to the question of campaign financing; to...

Simply put, every single 'reality-based' politician and political campaign should take a look at and heed this report.  This is winning political material which, oh by the way, could help the nation forward to address climate disruption's existential threat to U.S. (and all of us) while opening the door to the gains to be had from seriously embracing a clean-energy future.