Storm Blog

Frames, Republicans, vested interests and a carbon tax

In a 2002 memo, USA Republican Frank Luntz proposed to use the term ‘’climate change’’ instead of ‘’global warming’’, in public debate. To make the issue of global warming seem less severe, he came up with a striking example of framing. In the first Storm Magazine of this year, I discussed the importance of words. Continuing the discussion on this subject, it is worth taking a look at the conservative language around global warming. As ever, the United States manages to provide us with interesting examples of political developments.  

Throughout the memo, Luntz suggest Democrats are successful in framing Republicans as the bad guys. The question whether this is true, intentional and/or justified is an interesting one, but a story for another time. Interestingly, the memo itself does an outstanding job at reinforcing the ‘bad guys’ image. In the same memo, Luntz suggested the following:

This implies that knowing about (‘believe that’ suggests other options, which in itself is a misleading frame) the scientific consensus around global warming will cost Republicans voters. The memo also talks about the Republican Party being very pro-environment, which leaves me to question the necessity of this suggestion.

It becomes clear that every word about global warming (or ‘climate change’) should be analysed critically. Although the world now looks different than in 2002, the lessons we can learn from this memo are regrettably relevant today. 

In the 2017 Climate Leadership Council publication ‘’The Conservative Case For Carbon Dividends’’ the following lines can be found:

‘’While the extent to which climate change is due to man-made causes can be questioned, the risks associated with future warming are too big and should be hedged. At least we need an insurance policy’’

Interestingly, the anthropogenic influence on our climate is still disputed. Although this is a surprising statement to include, the report shows that progress has been made. In between traditional conservative statements, a proud aspiration to exceed to Paris Agreement is stated. Even though the increased aspiration is a good sign, it is imperative to look at the authors and sponsors of such a plan.

The report is written by 8 white old men (this is no argument against their goodwill or competence, but an indicator for other problems to be solved), and the founders of the Climate Leadership Council include ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and Total. These companies, with a vested interest in fossil fuel consumption, might be the reason behind the everlasting attempts to create doubt about the ramifications of anthropogenic carbon emissions.  

This somewhat cynical analysis is not intended to discredit the content in the Carbon Dividends plan itself. Although written for the USA, it is interesting for everyone to discuss these proposals. With a critical, scientific approach, and the knowledge provided above, we should take every suggestion about saving this planet seriously.

I strongly encourage everyone to comment below. Criticize or support the Carbon Dividends plan, Republican (or Democratic) framing, or this blog itself!


Stan van den Bosch


The Conservative Case For Carbon Dividends:

2002 Luntz memo:



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