Selling Climate Change

Ah, Frank Luntz, the evil genius of conservative wordsmithing. But wait! The one-time Republican wunderkind is no longer just a Republican, no longer all that young, sports a full beard to mask his youthful appearance, and even moved to California for a while. I think he’s back in Virginia these days, but apparently we green-ified him while he was here, because he recently teamed up with the Environmental Defense Fund to figure out the best way of selling the public on action to combat global warming. Kate Sheppard reports his advice: the public already believes in global warming, so just shut up about it:

So what should environmentalists say instead? Luntz suggests less talk of dying polar bears and more emphasis on how legislation will create jobs, make the planet healthier and decrease US dependence on foreign oil. Advocates should emphasize words like “cleaner,” “healthier,” and “safer”;  scrap “green jobs” in favor of “American jobs,” and ditch terms like “sustainability” and “carbon neutral” altogether. “It doesn’t matter if there is or isn’t climate change,” he said. “It’s still in America’s best interest to develop new sources of energy that are clean, reliable, efficient and safe.”

Brad Plumer has more:

“You’re fighting the wrong battle,” he told the assembled group of advocates. People want to hear about “energy dependence on the Middle East” and “creating jobs that can’t be shipped overseas” rather than “melting glaciers or polar bears.”….Luntz insists that Americans would support a cap on carbon emissions — 80 percent of Dems, but also 43 percent of Republicans he surveyed are either definitely or pretty sure climate change is a problem that’s caused in part by humans. But he doesn’t believe cap-and-trade can pass as long as “it’s called ‘cap-and-trade,’ and all the messaging that’s been used against it. The title has become so demonized that they’ve got to come up with a new name.”

Well, that’s not bad advice, though honestly, any new name would get demonized pretty quickly too. And of course liberals are hobbled by overscrupulous wonks — like me! — who really hate blathering on about “energy independence on the Middle East” since we know perfectly well that (a) nothing we do is going to change that and (b) it’s not the real issue anyway. Besides, it also plays into the hands of the coal industry, which might be bound and determined to destroy the planet but will do so with a product that’s as American as apple pie.

So this needs some thought. Should we accept a little bit of benign fudging and the possibility of emboldening the coal industry in return for better messaging? Or stick to our guns and give no quarter to King Coal? Hmmm.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.