Is a Pragmatic Approach Better to Address Climate Change?

Climate Change

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When it comes to climate change, some researchers have found the susceptibility to ‘agenda hitching’: this means broadening the discussion from being environmentally conscious to other issues like consuming less meat and driving fewer cars. Mark Jaccard argues that this agenda-hitching makes the real tangible solutions less attainable. In Jaccard’s latest work, The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success, the author shows readers how to recognize the absolutely essential actions (e.g., decarbonizing electricity and transportation) and avoid the agenda-hitching mentioned above.

Who are Climate-Concerned Citizens?

For Jaccard, Climate-Concerned Citizens are those that attempt to convince everyone to be as concerned as they are on climate issues. As a result of rising emissions, climate-concerned citizens may advocate for extreme measures to be taken, for example transitioning overnight to renewable energy despite the high cost. Other advocacy may be as extreme to include ‘the end of capitalism’ as some have suggested, describing the current economic organization as running counter to being concerned for climate issues.

The challenge with Climate-Concerned Citizens is the actual recommendations governments can undertake seek to undermine economic development and progress of bringing entire communities out of low levels of poverty. As a result of either the lack of recommendations, or those that run counter to capitalism, Climate Concerned Citizens may not able to fully detail tangible action plans governments should undertake.

Instead, Jaccard argues that Climate-Concerned Citizens should identify Climate-Sincere Politicians. These lawmakers are those that understand the tangible actions that can be undertaken immediately.

What is a Climate Sincere Politician?

In order for politicians to survive their terms in office, they must consider attractive policies that bring economic development and job creation to their constituencies. Instead of removing all cars from the road, perhaps increasing subsidies to auto manufacturers that increase the use of renewable energy to fuel vehicles could be a better approach.

Such ‘Climate-Sincere Politicians’ understand the importance of jobs and economic development and are committed to transitioning these to more sustainable methods. For Jaccard, the public needs to be able to distinguish between sincerity and insincerity on climate issues. Insincere Politicians may not see the need to switch to sustainable methods, nor may see the purpose in doing so. Insincere politicians may spur ‘agenda-hitching’ to occur as a result.

Should Climate Policies Remain Flexible?

Establishing flexible climate policies are absolutely essential. Instead of having strict policy ideas like a Carbon Tax, politicians should embrace other forms of regulations that can further along a reduction in emissions. Jaccard looked at the Government of Alberta under the NDP, a left-leaning party. The NDP put forward a climate plan, which included a Carbon Tax alongside a host of regulations. Jaccard’s research found that the Carbon Tax accounted for approximately a 5 percent reduction in total emissions, while the remaining 95 percent came from regulations.

Regulatory policies may also need to be reflective of human behaviour and allowing citizens to make more optimal choices for themselves. For example, banning gasoline vehicles by a specific date may not allow both manufacturers and consumers time to acquiesce to new technologies of using renewable energy or electricity for personal vehicle transportation.