Friday, November 8, 2019

Our dilemma: "Trump", "United States", and "American" are not climate crisis policy brand options and we do need a brand for marketing

This post is about Climate Change, the most important issue facing Californians who believe that the future Earth must support, not wipe out, our descendants.

For Californians, the Climate Change crisis has been the most important issue requiring ongoing significant governmental action since Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005 signed Executive Order S-03-05 requiring a reduction in California greenhouse gas emissions, targeting an 80% reduction compared to 1990 levels by 2050. In 2006 Schwarzenegger signed California's Cap and Trade Bill. And in 2007 the California Air Resources Board passed strict greenhouse gas emission standards.

But that history of governmental priority is Californian, not American. And at the level of the United States government, President Trump is undoing all previous efforts. Meanwhile Democratic Presidential candidates are debating healthcare policy.

Oh sure, the funding and organization of our healthcare system needs a lot of work. Nearly 90 years ago, thinkers in FDR's Administration were discussing the options, but Congress moves slowly no matter how important the issue is.

In the case of health care, in lieu of Congressional action individuals, businesses and investors, unions, universities, religious groups, local governments, states, and/or tribal councils filled the health care void with programs of their own in the mid-20th Century. And because those groups could not fill the void of medical care for seniors, President Dwight D. Eisenhower held the first White House Conference on Aging in January 1961, in which creating a health care program for social security beneficiaries was proposed. In July 1965, under the leadership of President Lyndon Johnson, Congress enacted Medicare. Since then all these folks have added and modified it all. Thus we have created our current imperfect healthcare system.

Does tweaking our healthcare systesm (or providing free college tuition) rise to the level of the most important issue of our time deserving Presidential candidate focus above Congressional inaction on Climate Change? If you say yes, then you do not know that there is no time left for inaction on Climate Change and do not understand that health care or a college education will not help the thousands who will be killed by Climate Change during the coming decades.

Still there are many "groups" in addition to Californians who are focused on the Climate Change crisis.

The Los Angeles Times article to the right with the subheadline "Without Trump, how close can groups get to meeting goals?" tells us:

    Despite President Trump‘s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, the United States hasn’t completely abandoned the landmark international agreement.
    More than 400 city leaders have joined the Climate Mayors association, and 17 states and territories have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance. Both organizations have vowed to uphold the country’s Paris pledge.
    Many city, county, state and tribal governments have also signed the We’re Still In declaration, which reiterates support for the accord. So have 2,200 businesses and investors, 350 universities and 200 faith groups.
    Together, these players account for almost 60% of the U.S. economy, half the country’s population, and 37% of its greenhouse gas emissions, according to an assessment by America’s Pledge, an initiative focused on sub-national climate actions led by former California Gov. Jerry Brown and ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
    If this collection of governments and organizations were their own country, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter.
    In a 2018 analysis, Frisch and her colleagues found that existing commitments by sub-national actors could achieve two-thirds of the emissions reductions called for in the U.S.’s Paris pledge. Broader participation and additional measures, like rapid retirement of coal-fired power plants, could bring that number close to 90%.
    Under Obama, the U.S. had promised to get emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. The country is already almost halfway there, although emissions rose in 2018 for the first time in three years.
    To tackle the other half, all eyes are now on cities, states and businesses.

We Californians find ourselves in a dilemma. Yes, more than a decade after Schwarzenegger took action, President Obama by executive action ratified the Paris Agreement in September 2016, without the support of the United States Senate - in other words he did not have the full authority of the United States.

Under Article II of the Constitution, the President of the United States must secure the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate before entering into treaties. Nonetheless, Presidents have entered into executive agreements as an alternative to forming treaties for most of the time of the United States legal existence as a Union of states (to understand the "Union" concept see the post here An American 21st Century Kaleidoscope versus a Civil War? Saving the Union is a struggle against pots, bowls,  and mosaics, between individuality, identity, and  assimilation, amid unprecedented wealth disparity).

Depending upon the subject matter, such executive agreements have been treated by the Supreme Court in varying ways. But unlike a Senate-approved treaty, by implication the act of entering into an executive agreement by one President almost conclusively gives a future President the right to withdraw from the agreement.

Obama ratified the Paris Agreement without the support of the United States Senate in September 2016. But that was less two months before the election of his replacement, after the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, stated his opposition to the Agreement.

Contrary to what many might think, after his election and assumption of office as President, Trump did not choose to ignore the terms of the Agreement. Instead he chose to abide by the four-year exit process detailed in the Agreement.  In accordance with Article 28 of the Agreement, on November 4, 2019, the administration gave a formal notice of intention to withdraw. The effective withdrawal date by the United States will be November 4, 2020, one day after the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Thus Trump has made the Climate Change crisis a clear issue for the election and he thinks the American voters will prefer his choice.

But, as indicated in the LA Times article quoted above, efforts from within the territorial boundaries of the United States taken by individuals, businesses and investors, universities, religious groups, local governments, states, and tribal councils is on its way to achieving most of the goal established for the Union in the Paris Agreement.

It seems remarkably similar to how health care had to be handled after The Great Depression.

Thus what may be achieved will not be the result of "Trump" policy nor of the laws and regulations of the Union known as the United States. Nor will it be "American" because there is no unified concept labeled "American" - as was explained in the post referenced above:

As noted at the beginning, the American political scene is as divided today as it was in 1860, just before the Civil War.

  • We can divide people into tribes, ethnicities, and races. So we do.
  • We can group people into cultures and religions. So we do.
  • We can divide people into geographic groups such as Mississippians and Californians. So we do.
  • We can consider any person "not of our group" as "the other." So we do. 
  • And when we fail as individuals to achieve happiness, we can blame "the other." And so we do.
For many in the Silent Generation who fought for tolerance and justice, who believe in the "individuality" and "achievement" myths, it is curious how we got to this point.

The reality, the complexity, of fighting Climate Change is reflected in the graphic to the left indicating the state economies involved, but not really reflecting the difficulties. In truth the "other" on the chart represents 160± countries. The European Economic Area (EEA) includes 30 sovereign nations. The United States involves 50 states. In terms of the 50 states, do not assume a commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement arising from the will of the people.

This needs to be placed in the perspective of probabilities which were presented in the 2015 Science article Can Paris pledges avert severe climate change? which offered the following table...

 ...and noted:

    ...None of our scenarios eliminates the possibility that temperature change could exceed 2°C. In the Paris-Continued ambition scenario, the probability of limiting warming to 2°C increases to 8% as opposed to virtually no chance in the two Reference scenarios. If ambition is scaled up after 2030—as in the Paris–Increased ambition scenario—the probability of limiting warming to 2°C increases to about 30%. If we assume even greater post-2030 emissions reductions, the probability of limiting warming to less than 2°C could be 50% or more.
    ...Although the two Paris scenarios provide meaningful benefits relative to the two Reference scenarios, if emissions are not brought swiftly to zero beyond 2100, the chances of extreme temperature change after 2100 could be much higher....

What everyone needs to understand is the complexity of the Paris Agreement. As explained in Wikipedia: "A pair of studies in Nature have said that, as of 2017, none of the major industrialized nations were implementing the policies they had envisioned and have not met their pledged emission reduction targets, and even if they had, the sum of all member pledges (as of 2016) would not keep global temperature rise 'well below 2 °C'."  The same Wikipedia article reflects on the lack of an enforcement mechanism noting that "James Hansen, a former NASA scientist and a climate change expert, voiced anger that most of the agreement consists of "promises" or aims and not firm commitments."

As noted here previously:

    Unfortunately in 2018 in both the U.S. and China formal findings have been made that we have "locked in warming" of 4°± Celsius most likely within 60 years.
   Under the direction of the Trump Administration the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with the cooperation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Year 2021–2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks proposing reduced average fuel economy standards for those vehicles.
   The DEIS has determined that the draft official policy of the United States government will be acceptance of a near worst case scenario, a 4.387°C (7.876°F) global temperature rise since 1880 by 2100. That is because any lesser scenario would require deep cuts in carbon emissions to avoid this drastic warming. A lesser scenario “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels...which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”
   In China, home to the world's second largest (and sooner or later, largest) economy, the same conclusion was reached.
   In May a collaborative research team from China published a new analysis that shows the Earth's climate would increase by 4 °C, compared to pre-industrial levels, most likely by 2084. They found that most of the models projected an increase of 4°C as early as 2064 and as late as 2095, with 2084 appearing as the median year.
   "Our ultimate goal is to provide a comprehensive picture of the mean and extreme climate changes associated with higher levels of global warming based on state-of-the art climate models, which is of high interest to the decision-makers and the public," said Dabang Jiang, a senior researcher at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
   Perhaps some would want to dismiss both governments as being too pessimistic. But the reality is much worse, so much worse.
   For Climate Change will not stop "as early as 2064 and as late as 2095." 

And yet, the best chance we have through governments on an international basis is the Paris Agreement

On June 1, 2017, President Trump following up on his campaign pledge to withdraw from the Agreement stated that "The Paris accord will undermine [the U.S.] economy," and "puts (the U.S.) at a permanent disadvantage." Whatever else you may choose to believe about Climate Change and about Trump, those statements are accurate, not only for the U.S. but for the European Union nations.

Each resident and voter in each of the 50 states wishes to assure robust economic growth in their own state over the next decade for personal benefit. Yet within each state the alteration of the economic courses of hundreds, maybe thousands, of businesses necessary to address Climate Change will disrupt the economy in each state in different ways with different overall impacts. That will be in addition to the economic disruptions created by impacts of Climate Change (the increasing frequency and severity of wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes, blizzards) which also will be different in each state.

What Trump has basically said is that he believes the economic disruption from the Paris Agreement is not something a President should demand of the Union within 50 states. In summary, pulling out all the stops to fight Climate Change most certainly is not part of the Trump "brand."

Further, the need to adopt such a Climate Change regulatory approach in the United States Senate on a timely basis most certainly assures that pulling out all the stops to fight Climate Change is not part of the United States "brand."

And the reality is that pulling out all the stops to fight Climate Change most certainly will not become an American "brand" on any timely basis as there is no chance in the next five years that all 50 state legislatures will commit to such an effort. The majority of voters in at least 20 of those states will oppose it.

So the Trump "brand" and the United States "brand" and the American "brand" do not align with the an effort to address the climate crisis. Nonetheless....

Individuals, businesses and investors, universities, religious groups, local governments, states, and tribal councils continue to make that commitment. There is the United States Climate Alliance (see map) led by Governors. A Climate Mayors organization exists. The We Are Still In organization consists of over 3,500 representatives from all 50 states, spanning large and small businesses, mayors and governors, university presidents, faith leaders, tribal leaders, and cultural institutions. And The America's Pledge initiative launched by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown will continue to aggregate and quantify the actions of states, cities and businesses and other non-national actors in the United States to drive down their greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The combined effort of individuals, businesses and investors, universities, religious groups, local governments, states, and tribal councils needs a "brand." Maybe it should reflect the international nature of the Climate Change crisis. Maybe it should reflect that even the Paris Agreement is not enough. But most definitely that brand should be something most Americans could easily recognize and would cause them to reflect on the fact that...

With all of that said, it must be noted that missing from these groups are the American political parties and labor unions. This raises questions.

In terms of the Climate Change crisis, is there any significant difference between
  • Republicans, who either deny climate change or do not believe federal regulation of private economic activity to reduce emissions is an appropriate role for the United States; and
  • Democrats, who believe that climate change is just another issue of comparable importance to health care, college debt, economic equality, and something called "environmental justice"?
In terms of the Climate Change crisis, is there any significant difference between
  • corporations which acknowledge the crisis only from the view of impact on shareholder profits; and
  • labor unions which acknowledge the crisis only from the view of impact on employment and wages of their members?
The depressing truth about the American brand was noted in a previous post:

By 1989, 30 years ago, then U.S. Senator Al Gore, in frustration published an editorial in The Washington Post, in which he argued:
    Humankind has suddenly entered into a brand new relationship with the planet Earth. The world's forests are being destroyed; an enormous hole is opening in the ozone layer. Living species are dying at an unprecedented rate. Chemical wastes, in growing volumes, are seeping downward to poison groundwater while huge quantities of carbon dioxide, methane and chlorofluo-rocarbons are trapping heat in the atmosphere and raising global temperatures.
    How much information is needed by the human mind to recognize a pattern? How much more is needed by the body politic to justify action in response?
    If an individual or a nation is accustomed to looking at the future one year at a time, and the past in terms of a single lifetime, then many large patterns are concealed. But seen in historical perspective, it is clear that dozens of destructive effects have followed the same pattern of unprecedented acceleration in the latter half of the 20th century. It took 10,000 human lifetimes for the population to reach 2 billion. Now in the course of one lifetime, yours and mine, it is rocketing from 2 billion to 10 billion, and is already halfway there.
    Yet, the pattern of our politics remains remarkably unchanged. That indifference must end. As a nation and a government, we must see that America's future is inextricably tied to the fate of the globe. In effect, the environment is becoming a matter of national security -- an issue that directly and imminently menaces the interests of the state or the welfare of the people.
[Greta] Thunberg's words [also]were rather straightforward:
    You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!
    For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you're doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.
    You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.

It is telling that these words presented 30 years apart have had no proportionate impact on the American psyche.  We need a new brand and a marketing strategy that will take Joe and Jane Sixpack's eyes off their grocery bill long enough to register the thought that they are choosing a tragedy for the children and grandchildren they feed.

The 21st Century Climate Change Black Death is happening now.
                                                                                                          If you're new to this blog here's the link to the listing of the 30+ previous posts in the Blog regarding Climate Change and the Environment.

This post is a part of a series:  climate change black death surrounds us