Not All Will Like These Luntz Words

At the Indiana Chamber’s "An Evening With Frank Luntz" on February 16, maybe we will hear the pollster/communicator talk about climate change. According to CQ Politics, Luntz did just that recently.

Not that we weren’t already in for an interesting evening (following the annual Legislative Reception), but this could add a little intrigue.

Luntz’ forte is formulating terminology that can redefine political policy debates. During the Bush administration, he wrote a memo suggesting that Republicans could dampen public concern about global warming by stating — over and over — that the environmentalists’ proposals were loaded with "scientific uncertainty" and would impose an "unfair economic burden" on the nation. By embracing the Luntz approach, climate change skeptics successfully sowed seeds of doubt on climate change and delayed federal action.

But that was then. Now Luntz is applying his "language guidance" talents to help the greens sell their proposals to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Based on polling conducted at the end of 2009, Luntz said that the vast majority of Americans believe that global warming is real and that mankind is contributing to the problem.

According to Luntz, Americans tend to dismiss the scare tactics that environmentalists and global warming skeptics use to shape public opinion. "If you really want to scare Americans, it’s not about glaciers that are melting or the struggle of the polar bear," he said. "What scares Americans is the idea that this great technological industry will be developed in China or India rather than here in America."

Luntz’ report was released at a time when the environmental community is waking up to the reality that the ambitious, economywide climate change bills passed last year by the House and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are dead.

As the environmentalists and pro-legislation businesses decide their next steps, they’re likely to keep Luntz’ advice in mind. "The American people don’t accept the status quo," he said. "The American people not only think that we can do better as a country, they want us to do better as a country. And they don’t care whether it’s Republicans or Democrats who are offering it — they expect more."

“Global Warming” Bill Could be Cooled in Senate

Recently, we broke down the U.S. House vote approving climate change legislation that might be better referred to as a national energy tax. That was step one in a process that the Obama administration is trying to put on the fast track.

Early indications are that the Senate will have a more difficult time than the House in passing HR 2454. California’s Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, is expected to begin hearings on Tuesday. Her goal is to mark up legislation modeled on the House bill (capping greenhouse gas emissions and mandating increased energy from renewable sources) before the August recess.

Other Senate committees — Agriculture, Finance and Foreign Relations — are expected to weigh in with mid-September deadlines.

As was the case in the House, moderates and senators from coal-producing states will be the key votes. The focus is expected to be on about 15 Democrats, including Indiana’s Evan Bayh, who fall into one of those categories.

The U.S. Chamber offers this concise primer on the terms and issues involved in the global warming debate. The battle will continue.