Climate Change Video Series - The Big Picture
Lee — Hi, I’m Lee Terry, from The Middle Ground. TMG is the online people’s think tank that promotes moderate, practical and nonpartisan solutions to economic, social and political problems.
Cynthia — And I’m Cynthia Smith from The Middle Ground. You can learn more about TMG at themiddleground.org. But the general idea of The Middle Ground is that we propose constructive, nonpartisan ideas and encourage your viewers to improve them or make their own better suggestions.
Lee — This is the first installment of our new series on climate change. In this series, we will explore a wide range of potentially effective and practical responses to a problem that has gotten much too big to ignore.
Cynthia — We won’t spend much time talking about the massive government spending plans out there because, frankly, they’re not going to be even close to enough. Instead, we’ll focus on ideas with the real potential to actually change the behavior of hundreds of millions of people in a way that might save us from this mess.
Lee — We’re also not going to waste your time or our energy blaming industries or countries that may have caused the problem. We’re just going to look at ideas to fix the problem, or at least meaningfully slow it down, before it gets completely unmanageable.
Cynthia — In fact, we will be looking for ways to avoid hurting anyone, financially or otherwise, whether blameworthy or not, in order to increase the likelihood of getting something done.
Lee — Yeah, finger pointing and blame gaming is why nothing ever gets done. If we can make positive changes without vengeful concentrations of economic pain on anyone, no matter how bad some may believe them to be, we will have a real chance of actually saving our world.
Cynthia — Spoiler alert. If you are a climate change denier, someone who believes that the carbon producing activities of the 7.8 billion people on this planet are not the biggest contributors to climate change, then this series isn’t for you.
Lee — But if you believe that 7.8 billion human beings are a big part of the problem and you’re interested in the practical and creative application of science and politics to address it then you are in the right place. As Mark Twain (supposedly) said, “Everybody talks about the weather but nobody ever does anything about it.” TMG thinks it’s time to change that.
Cynthia — I’m not sure we have much of a choice, honestly.
Lee — Here at The Middle Ground, we don’t accept all the doom and gloom about slowing and ultimately reversing climate change.
Cynthia — We don’t agree that “It’s too late to fix it” or “We need to learn to live with it.” That’s just not the case.
Lee — Of course, we have procrastinated much too long on this but that’s how most of us roll. Despite working at home for most of the last two years, I still haven’t cleaned out the garage, the basement or the tool shed.
Cynthia — Nice to hear you are staying focused. In fact, we do have the scientific knowledge and the resources to slow and eventually reverse climate change by attacking the problem from both sides: reducing GHGs, that’s shorthand for greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing carbon recapture.
Lee — We can’t rely on all the nonbinding promises of immediate and preposterously unlikely reductions in the world’s use of fossil fuels, whether they come out of high minded governmental summits or self-serving TV commercials. Fortunately, while we do need to reduce our GHG emissions, that isn’t the only way to attack the problem.
Cynthia — That’s because we humans have done just as much damage to our “carbon sink” as we have done to the atmosphere. If we clean up both messes—output and input—at the same time, it could make the task manageable.
Lee — I like the term “carbon sink” because it makes so much sense. We keep generating carbon like we generate dirty dishes and at the same time, we are making the sink smaller and smaller. It’s easy to understand why things are such a mess.
Cynthia — Your little sink overflowing with dirty dishes is a disturbing image. All it needs is you in a filthy bathrobe.
Lee — Sweet. Here is some good news. Despite being less than 5% of the world’s population, the USA’s concentration of wealth and economic power gives us the ability to lead the entire world out of our climate change death spiral.
Cynthia — Yes, that’s a big concern. There are no borders in the atmosphere. The mess made in India or Russia or Australia all goes into the same sky, sooner or later.
Lee — Correct. But American tax policy, export-import policy and domestic regulation can all create overwhelming incentives for individuals and private industry, at home and abroad, to do the right things, like
Cynthia — increasing renewable energy production
Lee — increasing regenerative farming
Cynthia — increasing the recapture of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and other GHGs produced by agriculture, meat production and petroleum extraction
Lee — changing the trend from deforestation to reforestation all over the world
Cynthia — Increasing the use of heat reducing and recapture methodologies, like tree canopies for cities and highways, porous, heat absorbing paving materials, and radiative cooling and
Lee — Last but not least, decreasing the consumption of fossil fuels by all means available, like making renewable energy cheaper and improving energy efficiency everywhere, including electrical devices, combustion engines and everything in between.
Cynthia — Look, we know that combustion engines aren’t just going away overnight, and they really don’t have to. We just need to cut back on our addiction. And the concept of taking carbon out of the earth to fuel engines needs to be phased out ASAP.
Lee — Bottom line, we need to implement an assortment of new technologies to help us conserve more energy and recapture more carbon, like utilizing CO2 and other GHGs to create fuel instead of digging it out of the ground. We want to absorb CO2 when we create energy, not create it.
Cynthia — Plants do it, why don’t we do it?
Lee — I think there’s a song that goes something like that.
Cynthia — Anyway, that’s quite a list.
Lee — In the following episodes of this series, we’ll try to explore each of these ideas in greater depth.
Cynthia — And then, because we are “the people’s think tank”, we’ll dig even deeper with follow up episodes using ideas and insights provided by our audience of TMG Tubers.
Lee — That’s you guys out there. Those in depth episodes will benefit from the knowledge, experience, imagination and expertise of our TMG viewers and listeners. Ultimately, we plan to choose the best nonpartisan ideas for fighting climate change that come out of this series and promote them to government, to industry and to the public.
Cynthia — We don’t want to hear from pointy headed political “experts” from Fox News or MSNBC here. We’re looking for good hearted and well meaning human beings who want to help the world, not partisan loudmouths looking for attention.
Lee — Speaking of partisan loudmouths, what about celebrities?
Cynthia — Very funny. Actually, celebrities and influencers are welcome if they truly support the bipartisan common sense we are trying to encourage here.
Lee — Publicity is good. We’ll even let them plug their next movie or project, right?
Cynthia — Whatever. We believe the TMG community can help us refine and crystallize specific proposals for legislation, for industry action and for scientific research that will help the world reach its goal of stopping and ultimately reversing climate change.
Lee — We need some or all of the best ideas to go viral.
Cynthia — You can share your favorite ideas, or post a link to the video, by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or just an old fashioned email.
Lee — OK, back to the substance. Believe it or not, we’re not talking about investing trillions of dollars of government money to implement these ideas. In almost every case, we’re just talking about changing the rules of commerce to create economic incentives to protect the planet instead of destroying it.
Cynthia — We want to harness the power of the market to change the behavior of millions if not billions of individuals and businesses.
Lee –In many cases these new incentives could result in less, not more government spending. Almost every idea we will discuss is designed to be self-funding. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?
Cynthia — Not really. You can’t get teenagers to clean their room by yelling at the poor kid. It just doesn’t work. But if you connect that little job to his cell phone or her car privileges, that always seems to produce results, doesn’t it?
Lee — Incentives are a good way to motivate people. Are you saying that politicians and the media are just yelling at us like angry parents at their slobby teenagers?
Cynthia — I think that’s a fair comparison. Look, TMG wants to change the rules of the game so it’s more expensive for anyone on earth to produce CO2 and other GHGs but it’s profitable to build carbon sinks that absorb that stuff
Lee — Kind of like kindergarten, everybody’s responsible for cleaning up their own mess.
Cynthia — And you get a sticker on your forehead for cleaning up other kids’ messes.
Lee — Is that how you got those stickers? I always wondered. Naturally, I never got one.
Cynthia — I wish I found that hard to believe. Of course, American politicians nowadays can’t muster the resolve to mandate, or at least incentivize, anything to fight climate change.
Lee –It’s much easier to get reelected by doing nothing.
Cynthia — Like Meryl Streep in that movie about the asteroid, Don’t Look Up!. That great line, “We’re just going to sit on it.” It’s funny and scary at the same time.
Lee — So, recognizing the power of governmental inertia, we will be analyzing each “climate saving” idea from three separate angles.
Cynthia — First angle, we’ll consider the merits of the idea and the real impact it will have if implemented, judged on a cost-benefit analysis.
Lee — Second angle, we will consider the best methodologies for implementing the idea.
Cynthia — That usually means selecting between four things:
Lee — Mandates
Cynthia — In other words, You MUST do this
Lee — Prohibitions
Cynthia — Or, You MUST NOT do this
Lee — Regulation (supposedly to encourage standardization and efficiency)
Cynthia — In other words, If you do it, you can only do it THIS WAY
Lee — or, our favorite here at TMG, Incentives, like tax policy and import-export policy
Cynthia –If you do it this way, you will have more money
Lee –Properly tuned incentives would mean that, if you act in ways that benefit the climate, you make more money.
Cynthia — And if you don’t help the climate, you could go broke.
Lee — Back to our analogy about parents and teenagers. Driving the car safely is a Mandate, Never hitting your little sister is a Prohibition, Scrubbing the eggs off the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher is Regulation. And we’ve already covered Incentives with the cell phone and car privileges.
Cynthia — I think any of the four can be the best way to manage some things, depending on the situation.
Lee — Agreed, but remember, since we’re trying to actually get something done, a TMG idea needs to appeal to everyone on a nonpartisan basis. That usually means Incentives are the best alternative.
Cynthia — There are a lot of “Don’t Tell Me What To Do” folks out there.
Lee — For sure. In some other countries, Mandates might work a lot better.
Cynthia — China certainly comes to mind.
Lee — There’s a book about all the surveillance the Chinese do with your cell phone over there. It’s called We Have Been Harmonized. Sounds like a 21 st century version of the Gestapo.
Cynthia — Anyway, if the Chinese government wants their people to do something, they do it, or else.
Lee — Americans are certainly different, Russians not so much. But remember, we still need to cover all three angles.
Cynthia –The first angle was the merit and cost benefit analysis of the idea, i.e., does it work and is it practical?
Lee — The second angle is methodology—mandate, prohibition, regulation or incentives.
Cynthia — And now for the third and probably most important angle for analyzing “climate correction” ideas—political pragmatism. In other words, can we really get governments or businesses to do this?
Lee — And if that’s not realistic today, how can we make it realistic, quickly?
Cynthia — Well, Meryl Streep showed us, politicians would rather do nothing, because that’s usually the best way to get reelected.
Lee — I remember. “Let’s sit on it.” So to get an important change to save the planet adopted, it must be very, very popular. With everybody, Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
Cynthia — That’s where The Middle Ground comes in. We’re nonpartisans.
Lee — We don’t believe that the people and businesses who produce greenhouse gases and destroy carbon sinks are bad. They’re just responding to the incentives provided by today’s rules of commerce.
Cynthia — That’s why we want to change those rules in a way that doesn’t takes sides.
Lee — Or place blame
Cynthia — The hardest part for some people to understand is that, if you want changes made, you cannot put the biggest economic hit on those you don’t like or even those who contributed more to the problem and made a lot of money doing so.
Lee — This is an emergency, and that means we cannot quarrel amongst ourselves or try to take revenge on our opponents. To be politically successful, we need to minimize the economic injury on all sides.
Cynthia — We need to seek economic neutrality despite economic change. That’s going to be very difficult for a lot of people to accept.
Lee — But we really need everyone to agree on really important changes like this. We can’t waste decades arguing about it like we’ve been doing. So concentrating the pain on “the guilty” doesn’t work. We would just be guaranteeing resistance and more inaction. The changes we support must be “win win” solutions for everyone.
Cynthia — Besides, let’s be honest for a second. We are all guilty as hell.
Cynthia — Almost every American, and almost everyone in the developed world, is part of the problem.
Lee — Yeah, we all have huge “carbon footprints” that contribute to climate change. Blaming oil companies, car companies, airlines, electric utilities and other big businesses who satisfy our demand for carbon energy is a tremendous waste of time, besides missing the point.
Cynthia — We’re the ones driving the cars. We’re the ones using the electricity and natural gas to power our furnaces, hot water heaters and stoves.
Lee — These “evil” companies are just giving us what we want. We demand it, they supply it.
Cynthia — So watch this space for the next episode of our series on climate change. We’ll be talking about regenerative farming, which could make the biggest difference of all in the fight against climate change.
Lee — Really? The biggest? Anyway, as always, we welcome your feedback, on video as a TMG Tuber, as a TMG Screenwriter or just comments on our website, themiddleground.org.
Lee & Cynthia — We are all The Middle Ground