Certainly public land managers need to be climate aware; and that also means being climate-debate aware. Here is a recent report- “Climate Shift A Clear Vision for the Next Decade of Public Debate.” Many of the findings may be of interest to NCFP readers.
This is from the summary..
Just as public opinion needs to be considered in the context of the economy and the message strategy of prominent political figures, belief in the reality and risks of climate change are also linked to the proposed policy solutions. Polling experts assert it is wrong to assume that questions asking about the causes and impacts of climate change are in fact measuring knowledge. Instead, answers to these questions are much more likely to be indirect opinions about cap and trade policy and an international agreement, explaining why even highly educated Republicans appear in polling to doubt human caused climate change. Academic studies reach a similar conclusion. In these studies, perceptions of scientific consensus vary by an individual’s underlying ideological values and in relation to the inferred course of policy action.
Research is less clear about the wider impact on public opinion of conservative outlets such as Fox News or for Climategate. These studies show that conservative-leaning individuals who already hold stronger doubts about climate change are more likely to view Fox News, and this viewing reinforces these doubts. Research shows that the same factors related to selective attention and interpretation apply to understanding the impact of Climategate on public opinion.
Just as ideology shapes the public’s judgments about climate change, ideology also guides the political interpretations of scientists and environmentalists. To understand this process, I analyzed a recent survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). To be clear, the survey of AAAS members is by no means representative of scientists who are actively engaged in climate change research. On the reality and causes of climate change, there is no debate among specialists. Respondents to the AAAS survey are instead representative of the organization’s interdisciplinary and professional composition, with 44 percent of members working in the biological, medical or agricultural sciences
As the data show, AAAS members are strongly ideological, partisan and like-minded in outlook. With “moderate” and “independent” the mid-points in a continuum of political identity, more than a majority of AAAS members declare themselves to the left of these outlooks. To add context to this finding, I compared the political composition of AAAS members with 10 other politically-active groups and commonly-referenced media audiences. AAAS members are as ideologically like-minded as evangelical church members and substantially more partisan. Only black church members exhibit a stronger partisan lean than AAAS members and only Fox News viewers, Mormon Church members and Tea Party members exhibit a stronger ideological lean.
Among AAAS members, given that very few specialize in earth science, perceptions of climate change also vary considerably by ideology, just as they do among the public. Less than a majority of conservative AAAS members think the Earth is warming and that humans are a cause, compared with more than 80 percent of moderates and more than 95 percent of liberals. There are even stronger differences in the perceived seriousness of the issue.
Ideology also strongly influences the political events that AAAS members follow and their interpretation. Among strong liberals, 74 percent reported hearing a lot about claims the Bush administration had interfered with the work of government scientists, compared with 27 percent of conservative AAAS members. In comparison, just 10 percent of the public had heard a lot about the debate. Ideology additionally shaped how the claims were interpreted. On this matter, of those hearing about the debate, 57 percent of conservative AAAS members said the claims were true, compared with 87 percent of moderates and 97 percent of liberals.
To the extent that AAAS membership is consistent with the political identity of the environmental movement and scientific community at large, the findings suggest several important themes to consider. First, given their political identity and outlook, it is likely very difficult for many scientists and environmentalists to understand why so many Americans have reservations about complex policies such as cap and trade that impose costs on consumers without offering clearly defined benefits.
Second, as a natural human tendency, the political preferences of scientists and environmentalists likely lead them to seek out congenial sources in the media and to overlook the polarizing qualities of admired leaders such as Gore. These same factors also likely shape a view of the world that is inherently hostile even when objective indicators of financial resources, media coverage and public opinion suggest otherwise.
As a result, in discussion of communication initiatives and political strategy, scientists and environmentalists tend to overlook how economic trends and their own actions might diminish public concern, and instead focus on presumed flaws in media coverage or the activities of conservatives. Moreover, as organizations such as the AAAS train and encourage their members to engage in public outreach, most participants are likely to view politics very differently from the audiences with which they are trying to engage, a challenge that merits greater focus as part of these trainings.
These observations will probably raise most heat..
Designs to Win: Engineering Social Change
In Chapter 2, I examine the conventional belief that conservative philanthropists like the Koch brothers are more effective than their centrist counterparts because they funnel their funding into a coordinated set of causes, think tanks and groups aimed at achieving specific policy ends. Yet as I review, far from being passive supporters, over the past decade, foundations supporting action on climate change have strongly shaped—if not defined—the environmental movement’s agenda, engaging in many of the same policy-focused strategies as conservatives.
In 2006, several of the country’s wealthiest foundations hired a consulting firm to comprehensively survey the available scientific literature and to consult more than 150 leading climate change and energy experts. The result of this intensive undertaking was the 2007 report Design to Win: Philanthropy’s Role in the Fight Against Global Warming.
Leading the report was the recommendation that “tempering climate change” required a strong cap and trade policy in the United States and the European Union, and a binding international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions. The report predicted that passage of cap and trade legislation would “prompt a sea change that washes over the entire global economy.” The report included little to no discussion of the role of government in directly sponsoring the creation of new energy technologies. The report is additionally notable for the absence of any meaningful discussion of social, political or cultural dimensions of the challenge.
To understand how this planning document shaped the investment strategies of major foundations, I analyzed available records as of January 2011 for 1,246 climate change and energy-related grants distributed by nine aligned foundations between 2008 and 2010. These aligned foundations are among the wealthiest in the country, include several of the top funders of environment-related programs, and were either sponsors of the Design to Win report or describe themselves as following its recommendations. The foundations analyzed were the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (#1 in environmental funding for 2009), the Sea Change Foundation (#4), the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (#5), the Kresge Foundation (#13), the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (#24), the McKnight Foundation (#39), the Oak Foundation (#41), the Energy Foundation and ClimateWorks.
Approximately $368 million was distributed across the 1,246 individual grants. However, given that not all foundation records are publicly available for this period, the total of $368 million likely underestimates the actual amount distributed between 2008 and 2010. If an average based on a foundation’s previous year giving is used as a stand-in for missing years, these nine foundations would have distributed more than $560 million between 2008 and 2010.
Much like their conservative counterparts, the funding provided by these nine foundations reflects a pattern of support focused on achieving a clear set of policy objectives. Funding included $39 million associated with activities in support of cap and trade policies; $32 million associated with efforts at reaching an international agreement or influencing the policies of a specific country; and $18.7 million associated with efforts at limiting or opposing coal-fired power plants.
Funding patterns also reflect the Design to Win report’s framing of climate change as a physical threat that requires primarily scientific and economic expertise to solve. More than $48 million in grants were associated with policy analysis or economic impact analysis; $17 million with environmental impact analysis; and $13 million given directly to support university-based programs.
In addition, funding was concentrated on just a few national organizations. Though 1,246 grants were allocated, 25 organizations combined to receive $182 million, nearly half the $368 million total distributed. Of the 25 organizations, 14 were leaders in the push for cap and trade legislation. Recipients included the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters and the Alliance for Climate Protection.
As the top recipient of funding, nearly one out of every 10 dollars ($34.6 million) went to the Bipartisan Policy Center, exceeding the $31.3 million distributed by Koch-affiliated foundations to all conservative organizations between 2005 and 2009.
The analysis of the Design to Win alliance shows that contrary to conventional wisdom, these nine foundations have been as strategic in targeting specific policy outcomes as even the Koch brothers, applying more than 10 times the amount of money in pursuit of their goals. Yet focus and strategy are only as effective as the premises upon which they are based. As described in the chapter, the Design to Win report appeared to define climate change in conventional terms, as an environmental problem that required only the mobilization of market incentives and public will. With this definition, comparatively limited funding focused on the role of government in promoting new technology and innovation. Nor was there equivalent investment in important human dimensions of the issue, such as adaptation, health, equity, justice or economic development.
I italicized the last sentence because within our own world of climate and public lands we are certainly free to, and I believe, should frame climate change from a more holistic perspective.