Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Depoliticizing Climate Change

The Breakthrough Blog told me about this post in Framing Science.

Matthew Nisbet, author of Framing Science, is a professor whose research focuses on "the intersections between science, media, and politics." Listen to Nisbet here and, read about the blog here. Definitely worth a few minutes.

The post that Breakthrough mentions is worth a read as well.

Professor Nisbet thinks Al Gore should "stay out of election politics in 2008." Nisbet suggests that Al work, instead, to "raise the profile of climate change in a non-partisan way." Like it or not, climate change is a partisan issue, and Nisbet believes that Al Gore has contributed to that partisanship by failing to distance himself from the Democratic Party.

Apparently I've been living in a cave for the past three years, for I was under the impression that making a hit movie, developing a sense of humor, and winning a Nobel Peace Prize would be enough to earn Al Gore broad based approval ratings in his home country. According to the polls, however, that's simply not the case. Al has been preaching to the choir, not recruiting new harmony. He has strengthened the conviction of those of us already concerned about climate change, and it looks like he has also strengthened the conviction of those that doubt the science.

I'm surprised, but I can't argue with the numbers. Obviously something is wrong with Al's message. If that something is the fact that people continue to see him as a Democratic Party leader, then I'm with Nisbet, and it's time for Al to ditch the Party.

It would be a bold move for Al Gore to go totally apolitical. Whether Republicans acknowledge it or not, however, the less political Al Gore has been a much more inspiring Al Gore. And I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that breaking his remaining political shackles will further fuel his passion and take him to yet another level of effectiveness.

This statement is the product, no doubt, of my suspicions regarding the competence and honesty of governments in general, but I think Al Gore has had a more meaningful impact on the world from the private sector over the past 8 years than he could have had from the White House. Granted, a Gore victory in 2000 would have spared us the current administration, and that would have been nice, but I like what Al has been doing.

Generation Investment Management looks to me to be a world leader in its commitment to non-speculative, long term market investing. And, last I heard, Al is far more than just another celebrity VC Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Part of me would love Al Gore to come out tomorrow and tip the Democratic nomination in Obama's favor. But, now, after reading what Professor Nisbet has to say, I'm thinking hard about partisanship. And that makes me think hard about government mediocrity and the power of the private sector and the importance of investing in the best businesses and the cleanest technologies.

And I'm wondering what's more important: securing an Obama nomination or depoliticizing Al Gore.

Maybe I've drifted too deep into the realm of assumption with this little exercise. Maybe neither the nomination nor the depoliticization are important. Maybe an Al Gore endorsement wouldn't push Obama over the edge. Maybe it's impossible to depoliticize a former Senator, VP, and presidential candidate. Maybe Al's work over the past few years isn't as impressive as it appears. And maybe Republicans simply will never respond to climate change. Ever. No matter what.

Regardless, Nisbet's got me excited about the possibility of a depoliticized climate change conversation, and I think Al ought to listen to the Professor:

Wait until the nomination is settled, and then work during the general election in a bi-partisan way to raise the profile of climate change as a campaign issue that all Americans should be equally concerned about.

If Obama's as smart as he looks, he'll understand.


John G said...

I'm not sure I understand exactly what you and/or Nisbet are suggesting.

Both of you seem to be advocating not endorsing Clinton or Obama, but does working in a bipartisan in the general election imply not endorsing Obama/Clinton or McCain? Would that be possible, or even believable? True, climate change may be this issue that trumps all issues, but would he just ignore the other issues and each candidate's opinions on them?

I'm also skeptical of the assertion that Gore has had more of an impact over the past eight years from the private sector than he would have from the White House. He's done some great things, but especially given the suggestion that his climate change work has been primarily preaching to the choir, I still think I would rather have had him in the White House.

Jake de Grazia said...

I can't speak for Professor Nisbet, obviously, but I think it would be totally awesome if Al Gore quit the Democratic Party and registered as an independent.

He should get completely out of Washington. He should disassociate with government. He should focus on the private and philanthropic sectors.

I think he should vote for the candidate he likes best and be open and honest about which candidate he likes best and why when people ask him. But I don't think he should use the massive soapbox he has earned in a political way. He should approach his climate change work from private sector and philanthropic sector angles. I think it would be ok for him to make policy suggestions. But he should realize that we very well might need to deal with the climate crisis WITHOUT the support of government. That would be a bummer, no doubt, but I think it could be the reality we're facing.

I'm skeptical of all this too. This is far from a fully formed opinion for me. But it's one toward which I'm leaning, and I definitely think it's one worthy of some serious consideration.