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Social Media Dump Feb 1-15 2022

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Wow, it’s one of those times where I’m doing so many things at the same time that I hardly know where to start.

If you haven’t signed up for Emily Atkin’s substack , you’ve been missing out. In this video clip she talks about how journalists just have to call things stupid sometimes.

More on Chevron/Donziger. According to the Nation,

The documents show that Glavin (the private prosecutor appointed by a hand-selected federal judge) and her assistants met in person with Gibson Dunn’s lawyers at least 32 times. E-mails show numerous additional telephone conferences between the two. In one December 3, 2019, e-mail, Glavin is scheduling a phone call with a lawyer from Gibson Dunn at 10 PM. Charles Nesson, a professor at Harvard Law School who has followed the case for years, and already cites it in his courses, told me, “The biggest evidence of Chevron’s involvement is the size of the legal docket. The docket sets records in legal docketry. Who paid for all of that legal stuff?”

Donziger said, “It seems very clear that Gibson Dunn was either writing her legal papers, or heavily editing them, or writing her drafts, or telling her where parts of the record were. It was a clear, deep collaboration.”

Gibson Dunn insists that it “donated” the hours that it consulted with the Glavin team about prosecuting Donziger criminally. This claim, even if narrowly true, raises plenty of suspicions. Chevron has surely paid Gibson Dunn millions to pursue Donziger. Nesson said, “Chevron and Gibson Dunn have carried out their war against Donziger for years. The idea that Gibson ‘donated’ time is almost laughable.”

Erin Brockovich writes background about the case.

TESTIMONY: In this 5 minute video, Climate expert Michael Mann says that Exxon CEO’s repeatedly have rejected what their own scientists had been telling them privately about the harms of CO2 emissions since the late 1970s. Climatecrocks prepared a video about the extent of Exxon’s knowledge.

Twitter list of truths from social psychology.

Climate change hawk David Roberts examines the available evidence about whether carbon pricing have been popular and whether it has produced good results. For Roberts, the evidence is underwhelming — and citizens in places where carbon pricing was tried (Canada and Switzerland) simply are unaware of the taxes they already pay:

Most people are not aware of exactly how much they pay in gas or carbon taxes a year. Most people do not closely scrutinize their tax returns or health insurance forms. And above all, most people are unaware that they already receive a variety of government benefits, which are often buried in the tax code or otherwise hidden from view. (The best book on this is Suzanne Mettler’s The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy.)

Outside of a focus group, out in the real world, people’s assessments of a carbon refund are less likely to be informed by careful economic cost-benefit analysis than they are to be mediated by identity affiliation. And these days, identity has been subsumed by partisanship.

The comment section to this article are heated and vigorous. One commenter said:

 The major cause of the problem is that people have been conditioned not to trust government. You could explain how carbon rebates will benefit them until you turn blue, and they still wouldn’t believe you. They think crime went up, when it actually went down. They think Obama raised taxes, when he lowered them. It’s almost like there’s a “pessimism bias” that transcends facts and logic.

While more prevalent on the Right, this “government lies” attitude isn’t limited to conservatives. Republicans have spent the last 40+ years destroying trust in our institutions, and honestly I don’t know what you could do to reverse it.

It’s particularly tough when it comes to the climate. “We’re instituting huge new interventions in life-as-usual, so we can make the future *less bad*” is a difficult sale to make. We’re constantly told we need to emphasize how climate action will *improve* our lives, but I don’t see much effort in that direction.

Finally, Charles Komanoff writes a long response on a carbon fee and dividend advocacy blog. First, the Switzerland example is not applicable because the carbon dividend is relatively meager: 95 dollars per year (as opposed to US-based proposals (like CCL) which bring in a dividend which is 15x higher. Second, the political analysis may be a little too gloomy. He concludes:

… the biggest misdirection in the Mildenberger et al. paper and the Roberts post may be their fretting over public opinion in the first place. The public doesn’t have to love carbon fee-and-dividend. It simply needs to embolden political leadership that will enact it (and the raft of complementary policies) into law and ensure that the fee, which shouldn’t be set too high to start, can keep rising over time.

Public opinion increasingly supports climate action, not tepidly but “with alarm,” as the latest Yale – George Mason opinion survey of “Global Warming’s Six Americas” attests (see graphic at right, and more detailed treatment with link here). It’s past time for carbon pricing naysayers to throw off their ideological blinders and get behind policies that can pass and deliver.

The funny thing is that both sides agree on a lot of things about harm and solutions. Roberts simply doesn’t think carbon dividends are politically viable. First, Roberts is someone whose opinion I respect very highly; Roberts has taught me a lot about the issue, and believe me, if carbon pricing had a good track record (or any record at all), Roberts would be the first to advocate it. Perhaps the best climate change plan is the one that’s most likely to pass and continue to bring results over the long term. I have studied some evidence and economic projections, but I don’t have a good enough background in the evidence and political economy. Here’s what I can say based on gut instincts and doing advocacy in my district:

  1. It’s important to get conservatives and liberals supporting the same plan, and conservatives are generally receptive to tax cuts. They typically don’t like conditional tax cuts, but tax cuts are better than no tax cuts at all and individual Republicans are likely to support it (as opposed to Republican organizations).
  2. You need to give upfront and immediate dollar figures. Also, I’m definitely ok with giving people the money in advance rather than waiting for them to file taxes. If you say, “Pass this bill today, and the government will deposit $1500 per person in the bank tomorrow and raise taxes on fossil fuels. If you reduce your emissions for the rest of the year, you get to keep more money than if you don’t.” That’s a value proposition few Republicans can resist.
  3. Whenever I talk to conservatives, I stress the cross border adjustments. That’s a great way to penalize Chinese imports in an WTO-approved way. It’s also a way to avoid European fees.
  4. We need to use better language. I don’t call it carbon tax or carbon rebates or dividends or even carbon pricing. I call it Cashback Carbon Pricing.
  5. The incentive to reduce emissions will help spread word of undesirable consumer behavior. Coal plants and even natural gas plants seem bad now, but if they hurt your pocket book, a political groundswell will emerge against them. Texas still has a lot of natural gas and coal plants (one such mammoth plant is about 20 miles from where I live).
  6. In west Houston where I live, carbon pricing will make a huge difference. Here customers choose their power provider on the free market. They typically renew their energy plans every year. (They often use powertochoose.org to help them). But the price for renewable energy plans for residential customers is the same as the price for dirty fuels. Sometimes in fact the price for renewable plans is cheaper. It would be easy and painless for consumers here to switch quickly. If prices for dirty power plans increased, consumers would switch quickly.
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