In the same way that the Great Depression paved the way for the New Deal, the climate crisis could usher in a Green New Deal, a vision of a cleaner, more equitable, and more prosperous world. This “turning point” idea figured prominently in Biden’s speech, which pitted light against dark, hope against chaos. “America’s history tells us that it has been in our darkest moments that we’ve made our greatest progress. That we’ve found the light,” he said. “And in this dark moment, I believe we are poised to make great progress again.” Politicians, business executives, and activists alike use the “opportunity” framing to inspire hope when the cause seems lost. Biden’s focus on job creation ties into a long history of trying to connect climate change to issues that might resonate more with non-environmentalists, including national security, religion, and public health. It’s all part of Biden’s “build back better” agenda, which seeks to create a bajillion jobs while cleaning up the grid. After all, moderate Democratic voters tend to be more concerned about the economy, health care, and COVID-19. But you could dismiss the idea of climate change being an “opportunity” as naive or insensitive; people are dying! Isn’t acting on it a necessity? Just as businesses make money by manufacturing weapons during wartime, they can also take advantage of the “opportunity” of environmental chaos. In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein coined the phrase “disaster capitalism” to illustrate how corporations can turn problems into profits. Companies are already buying up water rights as freshwater supplies dwindle and navigating through increasingly ice-free Arctic waters to ship fossil fuels around the world. Climate activists have been trying to “reframe” climate change for ages, hoping to induce passion among an apathetic public. Yet the research on what framing really garners public support has been inconclusive. One paper surveyed the literature in 2016 and concluded that there was no “robust empirical evidence” that alternative framings, including the one about economic opportunity, would increase support for climate policies any more than the conventional frame that we need to reduce the risks associated with a warming planet. What does work, according to longtime Republican communications wizard Frank Luntz, is repeating a message over and over until it sticks. Highlighting the positive side of climate action doesn’t necessarily mean mentioning the word “opportunity” at all. Luntz has suggested talking about climate change as a “no-regrets strategy.” Policies to curb pollution, after all, would lead to cleaner air and water, less dependence on foreign oil, and better national security. “And that’s if the scientists are wrong,” Luntz told the congressional Climate Crisis Committee last summer. “If the scientists are right, we get all of those things and begin to solve what could be the most catastrophic environmental problem that any of us have ever faced … That’s why it’s the right thing to do.”
<div class="continues show-for-small-only"> <small>Article continues below</small> </div> <aside class="series-aside right"> <div class="series-aside__header"> More in <a class="" href="https://grist.org/series/2020-vision/?utm_source=syndication&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=grist" >this series</a> </div> <div class="series-aside__item"> <a class="series-aside__link" href="https://grist.org/politics/the-dnc-virtual-roll-call-was-a-rallying-cry-for-climate-action/?utm_source=syndication&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=grist" > The DNC virtual roll call was also a cry for climate action </a> </div> <div class="series-aside__item"> <a class="series-aside__link" href="https://grist.org/politics/kamala-harris-is-bidens-vp-pick-what-does-that-mean-for-the-climate/?utm_source=syndication&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=grist" > Kamala Harris is Biden’s VP pick. What does that mean for the climate? </a> </div> <div class="series-aside__item"> <a class="series-aside__link" href="https://grist.org/politics/whats-standing-in-the-way-of-all-those-climate-plans-the-election-and-the-filibuster/?utm_source=syndication&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=grist" > What stands in the way of all those climate plans? The election — and the filibuster. </a> </div> </aside>
This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Why does Joe Biden call climate change an ‘enormous opportunity’? on Aug 24, 2020.