Monday, July 03, 2006

Beating Global Warming: Focus On Changing Minds First

Al Gore's new movie, An Inconvenient Truth, has sparked a lot of activity in the VC community. My friend Don Yates notes that his daughter and son-in-law even bought out the entire theater and held a free showing for her friends and contacts.

The problem is that the debate over global warming (or, as Seth Godin recommends calling it, climate cancer) continues to be a near stalemate, which means that little is likely to happen.

Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures had a discussion with his dad about what he could do (such as buying carbon credits), which left him feeling pessimistic about the likelihood of change.

I won't get into the science of global warming. Global warming activists are right that our climate is getting warmer, and that carbon dioxide levels are higher than ever before. But global warming skeptics are also right that correlation is not causation.

What I will say is this: If you believe that global warming is a threat to mankind, the most important thing you can do is not to go out and buy carbon credits or to trade in your SUV for a Prius. The most important thing you can do is to find a way to change as many minds as possible.

If a majority of voters thought that global warming was an important issue and demanded action, democratic governments would have to do something about it, regardless of how much money the oil companies donated or how many commercials they ran.

If showing people "An Inconvenient Truth" is a good way change their minds, why not do what Paul Holland and Linda Yates did, but on a grand scale?

All you'd have to do is buy two hours of primetime airtime on all four major television networks, and do a simulcast of the movie, along with pleas for action from people all across the political spectrum (so that it didn't seem like yet another nag-a-thon from the pinko-commie/Hollywood axis of bleeding hearts and smug celebrities).

Too expensive you say? Given that the total advertising costs for the Superbowl, America's biggest television event, run in the $100-200 million range, the cost would be enormous, but well within the reach of a George Soros or John Doerr.

And once you announced the plan, it would take on a life of its own, with the attendant media coverage of this surprise tactic bringing even more attention to the issues.

If this actually happens, remember, you heard it here first!


Foobarista said...

I'm not a scientist, but I'm hugely sceptical of anything that is so fanatically pushed by "nice people". My approach to global warming for now is the same as the way I usually vote in CA initiatives: vote against Hollywood and you'll save your wallet.

Global warming feels like the same sort of thing: the taxes and power grab by smugocrats is a real thing that will hurt today. The other problem is that even the most fanatic Gorist doesn't claim that the tax increases and massive world treaty/bureaucracy infrastructure they're promoting will actually do anything.

It just "might" help, but it "isn't enough". Europe's failure to hit its Kyoto targets doesn't inspire confidence in the Big Tax and Big Bureaucracy "managed" approach to CO2 emissions reduction.

Chris said...

It never ceases to amaze me that people like George Clooney believe that a smug, self-satisfied attitude will convince people to come to his side.

My favorite statement on this subject is the movie "Team America" which roasts celebrities like few films have done before or since.

But just because you find the promoters of a cause repugnant doesn't mean that the cause isn't important.

I agree that there should be a better way to deal with this problem than heavy-handed regulation. Market-focused reforms like tradeable permits, for example, do a better job of allocating resources than simple regulation.

I think we owe it to ourselves to look past the Al Gores of the world and ask, "Could these nimrods be right? And if so, what should we do about it?"

Foobarista said...

The problem is that global warming seems to have become one of the pieces of intellectual jewelry that the Beautiful People must wear to show that they "care" about lesser mortals and "the Earth". It fits nicely along with cute African AIDS-babies, Darfur, and other causes du jour. (I won't discuss the eco-communists, anti-globos, and UNocrats looking for the next big thing in transnational statism after losing the Oil-for-Food gig, other than to point out that they're out there in force too.)

That aside, GW has a complex decisions matrix, which most discussions have avoided, having been either GW="evil American SUVs driven by red state rednecks" or GW="it ain't happening".

The way I see it, the components look something like the following:

1 GW isn't happening - it's just a blip in the data or bad data.
2 GW is happening, and its causes are primarily non-human, ie solar variance.
3 GW is happening, and its causes are a mix of human and nonhuman factors.
4 GW is happening, its causes are chiefly human, and there ain't jack that can be done.
5 GW is happening, its causes are chiefly human, and only shutting down the Chinese and Indian economies will reduce it in anything beyond the short term.
6 GW is happening, and some sort of Kyoto-style policy that chiefly involves the developed world will actually work.
7. GW is happening, but one or more miracle tech breakthroughs will happen sometime in the next couple of decades which will radically reduce human CO2 emissions.

Personally, I still think the jury is still out on 1, but will accept a "No" for it for now. The reality, IMO, is somewhere between 2 and 5, meaning - to me - that we'd best plan on mitigation and "two-fers" (ie, things that reduce CO2 emissions _and_ do something else, like reduce fossil-fuel use without hurting the poor) and hope for 7.

I actually think 7 may well happen - you wouldn't know it from Gore's rhetoric, but US per capita CO2 emissions have actually dropped during Bush's presidency, due to higher energy prices and improved supply-chain management.

(an interesting report)

Chris said...

Totally agree with your last comment, foo. It's always dismaying how issues such as global warming, which have a continuum of potential interpretations, are inevitably hijacked by those with the most extreme views.

At some point, I plan to post about the foolishness of trying to persuade using extreme arguments, as opposed to seeking common ground.

Of course, if the goal is not to persuade, but to raise campaign dollars, perhaps the fringe elements are crazy like the proverbial fox.

Alas, I think that is giving them too much credit.

When I was a student at Stanford, I worked on our hybrid-electric vehicle project. One of my jobs was to reach out to environmental groups like the Sierra Club. I'll never forget the response of the executive I talked with:

"We're not interested in compromise, even if it would be better for the environment."


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