Thursday, August 26, 2021

Meeting Structure and Rhetoric on Climate may have Invited Doubt and Delay

The City and project team have published materials from the "Economic Forum for Climate Action Plan hosted by Chamber of Commerce / SEDCOR."

It's great they reached out and initiated a conversation.

Slides 5 and 6 are pretty clear

The introductory presentation mostly looks good. They included a clear statement of sources of emissions and costs of inaction.

But then they appear to have lost focus, and asked about feelings rather than about substantive and effective actions. Rather than building support for action, the "narrative arc" in the structure of the meeting appears to have built to doubt and delay.

People like gas from fracking and other sources

After the initial presentation they presented a set of seven possible actions and asked for feedback, and then polled them. But the polling was all about feelings, whether respondents "loved" or "hated" the action.

Why the heck would you ask about feelings in this way? If we "loved" giving up our fossil fuels, we would have already done so! The reason this whole thing is difficult - that whole "inconvenient truth" etc. - is because we don't "love" giving up our fossil fuels. Very few "love" the real actions necessary to give up fossil fuels. On the contrary, collectively we demonstrate in so many ways we "hate" doing so.

So asking people if they love or hate a proposed policy (which is likely to present some form of difficulty) is not going to generate useful information about accomplishing the goal.

The polling should have been more along the lines of, "do you think this would be effective in meeting our goal?" and "if you do not think it would be effective, what do you propose we do instead?"

We should not give people the opportunity just to say "no"; they should have to offer alternatives that would be as effective or even more effective. What should we do instead?

The goal in polling should be to elicit new and improved ideas and approaches, not to build sentiment in opposition. The polling here almost functions like a push poll. Asking people if they love or hate a proposal is a way to generate opposition and undermine the project. By design or by accident it's a kind of "merchants of doubt" approach, in fact.

The focus on feeling also slips in because we aren't yet using any metrics. If the team said, "this approach reduces x carbon pollution, and this approach reduces 10x pollution," you'd need a pretty strong reason to prefer the first over the second. The absence of metrics allows the focus on feeling.

Several climate delay discourses

After this presentation, we have to ask, is the Chamber and SEDCOR more likely to be centers of support for a Climate Action Plan or centers of opposition and delay? Several of the discourses of delay are visible in comments, especially in comments on electrifying new houses and ending new gas hookups. The presentation and meeting may just have solidified and intensified opposition rather than building support.

The City and project team took a good idea and appear to have gone sideways, even backwards, with it.


Jim Scheppke said...

Great critique of the meeting which I watched. You are right on. This is just indicative of the fact that the Chamber of Commerce under the leadership of the late Mike McLaren (along with the Realtors and the homebuilders) essentially ran city government under two different mayors from 2003 to 2017. Many of the City staff were hired back then and are still fearful of getting on the wrong side of the Chamber, Realtors and homebuilders. This gives them more power than they deserve under our new supposedly progressive City Council. It will take some courage from the Council majority to approve a viable Climate Action Plan in the face of almost certain opposition from the Old Guard.

davidl said...

Very effective critique of problems with this presentation and approach. Thank you