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How do we remove fear from the environmental debate?

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by tigerade, Aug 28, 2014.

  1. tigerade

    tigerade Member

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    #1 tigerade, Aug 28, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2014
    Fairly often, I take a peek on the other side of the fence and read articles that are on the opposing side of the environmental debate. The problem with that is that more often than not, it results with me bursting out with laughter. Take this gem from Fox News:

    If only EPA stood for | Fox News

    Huh? HUH? That is really some fuzzy math work there. I would really be interested to know how they came up with those numbers.

    But wait there's more:

    Is The EPA Preparing For A Massive Private Land Grab? | The Daily Caller



    Control, control, control. How does one jump from the conclusion that mapping waterways and wetlands will inherently bring a massive seizure of private property? Couldn't a dedicated team of students have done the same thing using easily available tools such as Google Maps? And what is wrong with a map, isn't more knowledge a good thing? Couldn't the maps be used for a beneficial purpose such as flood and drought prevention and not inherently a sinister purpose?

    And this one from Forbes:
    The EPA's Costly 'Clean Power Plan' Power Grab - Forbes

    Geez, such hyperbolic and dramatic language, one might wonder if it's a movie script. The Clean Power Plan does indeed mandate states to reduce emissions, but it lets them create their own strategies for doing so and gives a significant amount of leeway. The feds only step in if the states fail to come up with a coherent plan to reduce emissions. And I find it ironic that these people are so worried about a "centralization" of energy. Energy is already centralized in this country. Almost all vehicles you buy run on gasoline. Here in Georgia, you almost have a choice of only Georgia Power or not having electricity at all. The electricity I get comes from big, centralized power plants that I don't have any control over. Isn't this the nightmare scenario? A future with more renewables would be less centralized, not more. That's why we call it the "distributed" grid. Electric cars would give us a choice vs. the oil barrons.

    I really don't claim to understand the other side, nor propose a solution on what it might take to bring them to reason. I would really love to put a stop to the 24/7 onslaught of FUD and misinformation, and base our environmental policies solely on reason and science. However, that is clearly not going to happen, and I think you can tell you why: The other side is deeply fearful. Fearful of "control". The popular meme seems to be that if we let "environmentalists have their way", we will be in living in mud huts and riding on a donkey to work, assuming we still have a job that all the "job-killing regulation" has killed. We see electric cars being the future, they see a 1984 style dystopia. We see renewables creating greater human health and prosperty, they see it creating enormous human poverty and need. We see solar and battery electric creating greater energy independence, they see the red flag of Marxism.

    Perhaps I'm being a bit silly and satirical, but I don't think I'm far off. I don't really see any hope of compromise or pragmatic solutions as long as the status-quo stays in place. Until we can some how turn off the fear of "control" in the environmental debate, I think we will continue to see a nonstop ferocious fight against reducing carbon emissions and a transition to renewable energy. So what will it take to turn off the fear and embrace reason and science? To paraphrase Sam Harris, what reasoned argument can you use against someone who doesn't use reason? What evidence can you provide to someone who doesn't care about evidence? What science is convincing to someone who's worldview is not based on science? I don't think I know, but I honestly feel like giving up sometimes. Perhaps there are social psychologists on here that might have an idea. And that's what this thread is for, to solicit ideas. If anyone has a good one, let me know.
     
  2. Raffy.Roma

    Raffy.Roma Active Member

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    #2 Raffy.Roma, Aug 28, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2014
    IMO real problem with the debate on environmental issues is that the debate always focuses on prejudiced positions coming from the political ideas of the persons involved in the debate. It's very difficult to get a debate based on scientific arguments because there is not the will from people involved in the debate to get the kernel of the discussion.
    So IMO it's not a problem of removing fear from the environmental debate (no fear believe me only interests of political kind) but it's a problem of lack of will to really solve the environmental issues (also because very often the people involved in the environmental debate don't even think that we have environmental issues of any kind!) with science-based arguments.
     
  3. physicsfita

    physicsfita Member

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    If it's past the point of reason, as these wackos are, I find that it helps to roll your eyes and/or noticeably try to repress your laughter when your friends start repeating this stuff. Social disapproval is a strong force, and, with time, you may that your friends may start to think these things through more carefully because they respect you, and know you think differently.

    if people are still reasonable, engage with them! Try to drill down to what's really bothering them -- you may find that their concerns are just couched in different language, but are really the same, or at least bridgeable. It's not easy, but hang in there!
     
  4. renim

    renim Member

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    Its a political control issue, take water for example, people harvest their own water (ie rain water tanks) hate the idea that someone else could tax that. and roofs have a historical basis for taxation. (for example my ancestral church in Scotland removed its roof to avoid paying an English tax on roofs!)

    In another state in my country, a state government was expecting certain revenue from irrigation water charges, the farmer switched some crops to timber (which doesn't need irrigation). The government put a tax on commercially growing trees to cover the missing expense, and justified the expense on environmental grounds (water conservation, but with 100%BSS)

    Solutions that move the initiative/authority to the voter/individual are not perceived as a threat. (ie solar panels on a house)
    Solutions that move the initiative/authority to a taxation authority are seen as a threat (ie gross feed-in tariffs for solar panels on a house)
    the actual physical thing could be the identical (ie roof top solar) but the way the government deems control (ie tax) makes the difference.
     
  5. flashflood

    flashflood Member

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    Great topic! You're right that fear is a major factor here, but it's not all irrational fear. The EPA wetland map, for example, could indeed be innocuous -- but are you familiar with Sackett vs. EPA? This is not a right-wing conspiracy theory. Read the case history, and consider that our government actually did these things to an ordinary family. Thankfully, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in the Sacketts' favor, so justice did prevail. But if not for a lot of help -- not everyone makes it to the Supreme Court -- the EPA would have crushed them.

    Opinion recap: Taking EPA to court : SCOTUSblog

    The problem is not that people's fear is invalid, but that it's selective. We tend to trust the government when one of Us is president, and to distrust it when the Other is president. Personally, I come from the libertarian perspective, which is distrustful of power in general, rather than specific people.

    After 9/11, liberals and libertarians worried -- correctly, as it turned out -- that the 9/11 attacks would be used to justify a vast expansion of the national security state, far beyond what was necessary to solve the problem. Conservatives should have feared this too, but one of their own was in charge, so they went along. Obama, who campaigned so passionately against this apparatus, has expanded it further. That's the nature of any government power: it grows, never shrinks. The liberty you lost in the aftermath of 9/11 isn't coming back.

    With climate change, conservatives and libertarians worry -- correctly, I suspect -- that the issue will be used to justify a vast expansion of tax and regulatory power, far beyond what is necessary to solve the problem.

    Here's an idea for you, which might actually be able to get bipartisan support. Introduce a carbon tax, but require that it be offset by cuts in other taxes -- income, capital gains, corporate, payroll -- so that the whole package is revenue neutral. Better yet, go for a grand bargain that scraps the IRS and our obscene tax code, replacing it with a national sales tax and a carbon tax. Everyone wins here:

    For liberals, getting a meaningful carbon tax that helps to prevent a predicted climate catastrophe is clearly worth the price. In fact, if the cost of not acting on climate change is as high as some claim, then this revenue-neutral proposal is a huge win because of all the money government won't have to spend on climate remediation in the future. It becomes, in effect, revenue positive by reducing future costs.

    For conservatives, getting a flat tax rate that applies to spending, not to earning and investing, is the holy grail. A carbon tax is a small price to pay for such a policy win.

    For libertarians, scrapping the income tax is huge because it results in a real reduction in government power. No more picking winners and losers via the tax code.

    What do you think? Crazy enough it just might work?
     
  6. Robert.Boston

    Robert.Boston Model S VIN P01536

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    The proposals I'm familiar with are indeed revenue neutral: all revenues from the carbon tax would be rebated to natural persons, i.e. people with Social Security numbers. With annual emissions of GHGs at 6,526 million metric tons, that works out to 20.8 tons/person. So, a $25/ton tax would generate about $520 in rebates to each person.

    The trouble isn't that the proposal is bad -- it's that too many people don't have any trust that the dollars would actually flow back to people instead of getting diverted to other uses.
     
  7. caddieo

    caddieo Member

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    Fear will disappear from all negotiations if and when those with agendas - regardless of what they are - stop using fear as a cudgel to advance their cause(s). Unfortunately, I do not see that happening in my lifetime. Cognitive neuroscience acknowledges that fear is a strong emotional and primal instinct that has allowed humanity to survive through the millennia (Amygdala, anyone?). After all, one does not indulge in intellectual rumination when confronted by a rustling brush or a curvy shadow in the grass. Carried into the modern age, when faced with making a decision vital to one's concept of integrity or sense of self, the choice with the heavy emotional overlay will win almost all the time over that based on cold calculating thought. And those with agendas to push regardless of what they are know this and will continue base their tactics using this. So when will this use of fear come to an end? You tell me.
     
  8. flashflood

    flashflood Member

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    @Robert.Boston: A tax plus a rebate isn't revenue neutral. It's more taxes plus more spending -- in effect, a new welfare program (although at least it's funded). A revenue neutral approach means that if you raise one tax by X, you also lower some other tax by X. And of course, you're right about the trust issue. Trust in government is at record lows, and not without reason.

    @caddieo: Totally agree. The genius of our founding was that it openly acknowledged all of these human failings, and attempted to devise a system of government to work with them, rather than wish them away. The US Constitution is all about realism, not idealism.

    So given that the country is divided, that Red and Blue fear each other, that there is almost no trust or goodwill or even feigned civility in our capital anymore, how do we nevertheless solve problems? Mostly, we don't. What I'm proposing above is a compromise that gives everyone something they really value. The essence of fair trade is not that one side gets everything (as in the carbon rebate proposal), but rather that each side gets something it values more in exchange for giving away something it values less. Everyone comes out ahead.
     
  9. Robert.Boston

    Robert.Boston Model S VIN P01536

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    I respectfully disagree. To me, "revenue neutral" means that the government has no additional money in the budget. The carbon rebate would, in effect, be a new negative tax. Why do you call it "welfare"? I've never heard payments from the Alaska Permanent Fund characterized as "welfare," and that's effectively what is proposed here.

    The trouble with reducing some other, existing tax is that the only people who benefit are those who currently pay that tax. The impact of carbon emissions, however, doesn't track with any particular existing tax.
     
  10. flashflood

    flashflood Member

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    What you're describing is budget-neutral, not revenue-neutral. If you add a new tax and a new transfer payment of equal value, it does not alter the budget deficit, but it does increase revenue.

    I call it welfare because it is unearned income taken from someone else. The Alaska Permanent Fund is also unearned income, but it is not taken from anyone. It's in the ground. All Alaskans share in the underground windfall.

    I agree that carbon emissions don't track with any existing tax, but that's not the point of my scheme. I'm just looking for a proposal that everyone can support because everyone gets something they consider extremely important.
     
  11. renim

    renim Member

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    Royalties are distinct from taxes because they represent payment for the permanent depletion of the mineral in the ground.

    Historically royalties benefit society when they primarily benefit the local community from whence the mineral was extracted. (for eg, coal mining communities in western countries)
    Historically royalties destroy society when they primarily benefit the non-local community (ie central government) from whence the mineral was extracted.
    (for example Papua - Irian Jaya)
     

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