Comparing Climate Proposals: A Case Study in Cognitive Policy

Editor's Note: The PDF linked to in this post is well worth a read, and worth circulating. Going beyond a mere business/economic oriented look at carbon trading, the document gives a good overview of the presently proposed Lieberman-Warner bill, and compares it with a potentially improved alternative -- Peter Barnes' "Cap and Dividend" approach.

by Joe Brewer, regular Celsias contributor and Rockridge Institute staff member, Berkeley, CA, U.S.A.

The climate crisis is among the greatest challenges we face. Getting the right policy is critical, requiring expertise in many areas – including public policy, science, economics, planning and development, and more. One area of expertise that has gone unnoticed so far is the application of cognitive science to the political process. Our hope is that our analysis will begin to fill that void.

There are two aspects of policy: cognitive policy and material policy. Material policy consists of the nuts and bolts, what is done in the world to fulfill policy goals. Cognitive policy is about the values and ideas that both motivate the policy goals and that have to be uppermost in the minds of the public and the media in order for the policy to seem so much a matter of common sense that it will be readily accepted. (Read this intro to cognitive policy to get a better feel for what we mean by all of this.)

At the Rockridge Institute we have spent the last several months exploring the cognitive policy behind various proposals for dealing with climate change: the key frames, values, and modes of thought shaping the discourse around climate policy. Our latest report, Comparing Climate Proposals: A Case Study in Cognitive Policy (also available in PDF), explores the key differences between the Lieberman-Warner "Climate Security" bill currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress and a proposal by Peter Barnes called Cap and Dividend.

We feel that many of the most important issues surrounding climate policy have yet to be fully discussed. Over the next few weeks, we will write a series of articles to explore the major concerns surrounding markets, governance, policy solutions, and the climate crisis. Keep a watch for them here on Celsias.

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  • Posted on March 26, 2008. Listed in:

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