“The Environment: A Cleaner, Safer, Healthier America”

2008-04-07

in Politics, Security, The environment

Milan Ilnyckyj on the Alexandra Bridge, Ottawa

A book I am reading at present – Joseph Romm‘s Hell and High Water – drew my attention to an essay on climate change written by Frank Luntz, a political consultant who worked to oppose the regulation of greenhouse gasses.

The leaked memo, entitled “The Environment: A Cleaner, Safer, Healthier America,” provides a glimpse into the strategies of climate delayers that is both informative and chilling:

“The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science…

Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly…

Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.”

The cynicism of it all is astounding. To see something as vital as climate change treated as a superficial, partisan rhetorical battle is extremely dispiriting.

The actual document is also oddly unavailable online. I had to use the Wayback Machine to find a PDF of the original leaked document. I am hosting it on my own server to aid people in locating it in the future. Clearly, I cannot vouch for its veracity personally. That said, articles in The Guardian and on George Monbiot’s site accept the document as genuine.

Report a typo or inaccuracy

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

. April 7, 2008 at 10:26 am

Mr. Cool
Nurturing doubt about climate change is big business

“In a now-infamous 2003 memo, U.S. pollster and consultant Frank Luntz advised Republican politicians to cultivate uncertainty when talking about climate change: “Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate ,” wrote Mr. Luntz (the italics are his own).”

Anon April 7, 2008 at 11:09 am
Emily Horn April 7, 2008 at 11:20 am

Whatever settings you have on your camera for the bridge photos you took that day were excellent. It looks like a super-model bridge. One with a scraggly bearded handsome man on it.

Tristan April 7, 2008 at 11:47 am

I can’t understand why you find this strange – isn’t this just a repetition of what we already know? Again, your faith in democratic politics looks oddly strong here.

Milan April 7, 2008 at 11:50 am

Whatever settings you have on your camera for the bridge photos you took that day were excellent.

It is the light that was excellent. Camera settings can only make sure you do a decent job of capturing it.

I can’t understand why you find this strange – isn’t this just a repetition of what we already know?

The idea that people think the science is turning against them (i.e. know that they are wrong) but are looking for a rhetorical way out of it is strange and despiriting.

Again, your faith in democratic politics looks oddly strong here.

For all the faults inherent, democratic politics is the best option we have.

Milan April 7, 2008 at 11:55 am

Even if this document is not surprising, it provides some useful insight into how political strategy is generated.

. April 7, 2008 at 11:58 am

Climate Models Look Good When Predicting Climate Change

“Coupled models are becoming increasingly reliable tools for understanding climate and climate change, and the best models are now capable of simulating present-day climate with accuracy approaching conventional atmospheric observations,” said Reichler. “We can now place a much higher level of confidence in model-based projections of climate change than in the past.”

. April 7, 2008 at 5:12 pm

Neat but Not Too Neat
DAVID COLMAN

Published: April 28, 2005

A WORLD, or at least a state, apart from the precisely articulated contours of facial hair forms like the goatee, Vandyke, mustache or soul patch, a full beard suggests an aloofness from tonsorial obsessiveness. Nonetheless, almost all of today’s beard wearers succumb to some degree of grooming. Kris Kristofferson of “Convoy” may represent the suavely bearded rebel, but Dan Haggerty of “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” lives a little too close – aesthetically at least – to the Unabomber.

Tristan April 7, 2008 at 6:02 pm

“it provides some useful insight into how political strategy is generated.”

I find this preposterous – how could you have neglected to infer this isn’t exactly what their strategy would have been? It’s just beyond doubt that this is the kind of thing an internal document to say. it’s being leaked is an embarrassment, but it doesn’t give any strategic information.

Milan April 8, 2008 at 11:22 am

Tristan,

If you think Republicans honestly believe that their policies are wrecking the environment and endangering the quality of life of their children and grandchildren, you are more cynical than I am. The problem is that they actually believe environmental risks have been seriously overstated, that government is no good at anything, that environmental laws will cause massive unemployment, etc.

The problem is that ideology (of any kind) can make people misperceive facts – as well as be willing to massage facts in support of ideology.

The document is also notable in terms of ways in which the general message has changed (or remained constant) in the period between 2002 and now.

Milan April 8, 2008 at 11:25 am

Independently of all of that, it is simply useful to have primary sources to back up claims. For instance, the claim that claims people make about ‘the science not being settled’ are frequently disingenuous.

Anon April 8, 2008 at 3:16 pm

Here is a nicer PDF version of that document:

Frank Luntz Memorandum to Bush White House, 2002

. January 19, 2009 at 1:43 pm

6 January 09
Leaked Clean Coal Strategy Memo to Peabody Energy

A 2004 memo from Steve Miller, CEO of a coal industry lobby group to the CEO of Peabody Energy, details the public relations and lobbying strategies being used to deal with issues ranging from climate change to Mercury.

. April 26, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Michele Bachmann: “CO2 Is A Natural Byproduct of Nature!

. November 25, 2009 at 3:42 pm

“In addition to announcing that he had no intention of trying to meet Canada’s Kyoto targets, the Canadian prime minister [Harper] also set about dismantling all the climate change policies that the previous Liberal government had implemented to date… [H]enceforth he would be resisting international pressure and pursuing a ‘made-in-Canada solution.’

Here Harper begins to use language that was actually made in America. The Republican spin doctor Frank Luntz was in Kingston, Ontario, in May 2006, speaking to the Conservative-linked Civitas Society and making time on the side for a personal meeting with Prime Minister Harper. (The prime minister confirmed in the House of Commons a couple of days later that he and Luntz had been acquainted ‘for some years.’)”

Hoggan, James. Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming. (p.182 paperback)

. January 25, 2010 at 11:30 am

The First Rule of Fighting Climate Change: Don’t Talk About Climate Change

— By Kate Sheppard | Fri Jan. 22, 2010 3:00 AM PST

Republican pollster Frank Luntz—the brains behind Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” and the man who coined politically potent phrases like the “death tax”—wants to help environmentalists in their push for legislation to combat climate change. His advice? Stop talking about climate change.

The environmental community is “fighting the wrong battle,” Luntz announced on Thursday at an event to mark the release of a new report by his polling firm, The Word Doctors, outlining strategies to help marshal public support for a climate bill. “The least important component of climate change is climate change.”

Luntz’s report, “The Language of a Clean Energy Economy,” finds that the majority of the public across the political spectrum is convinced that global warming is happening and caused at least in part by humans. But, Luntz says, talking about the problem won’t win support for the legislation that would solve it. Among both Democrats and Republicans polled by his firm, addressing climate change was the least important reason to support a cap-and-trade policy.

. February 8, 2010 at 12:16 pm

“Nobody is better at the use and mastery of this language than Frank Luntz, who helped script the demise of health care and has now told Republicans how to end financial services reform. Luntz has a new memo—”The Language of Financial Reform” (scroll down to see a PDF of the full memo text)—to manage the death-paneling of financial reform. In the memo, Luntz is effectively advising them how to use language of change and reform while stymieing every meaningful structural shift.”

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