In April, the Heartland Institute posted a billboard in Chicago comparing those who believe in climate change to convicted Unabomber terrorist, Ted Kaczyinski. This month, climate proponents posted billboards mocking the Heartland Institute and attacking its corporate funders.
This is what passes for public debate over climate change today; two sides sniping at each other in a contest of "mutually assured rhetorical destruction."
In the hopes of creating a social consensus on climate change, extensive money and resources are being spent to convey the message that the science is settled. And yet, the message is not taking. In fact, the words "climate change" themselves are increasingly and semantically clouding the national debate on the country's energy and environmental policies and standing in the way of adopting a variety of technological and policy solutions.
In a battle of extreme rhetorical attacks, one side sees the planet hanging in the balance and the other sees the world economy and individual liberty under grave threat. This partisan divide makes further pursuit of communication strategies to win over the opposition a distraction at best, and doomed to failure at worst.
It's time to call a truce in this rhetorical war, and instead look to the sidelines, where less-political business initiatives are cumulating significant impact every day in mitigating human-caused climate change, while reducing consumer costs.
A cornucopia of business driven solutions and products are on the market now, and many more could flourish in the context of a more coherent national energy and environmental strategy. Sadly, such a strategy is being held hostage to the toxic politics of climate change. We need to put aside debates about the role of government and markets by dropping these charged words when we discuss solutions to the nation's energy and environmental challenges.
In fact, a social consensus on climate change may be unnecessary to mitigate it.
Next page: Why we don't need climate change consensus