Flipping the Right Policy Switches on Climate Change Policy the Greyson Way

Flipping the Right Policy Switches on Climate Change Policy
Social policies are, more often than not, framed with the traditionalist rationalization of human intentionality. Be that as it may, policy tenders the protocols that are then acted up-on publically to bring social impact. Of course, a well-intended climate policy must take into account on courses of collective action as well as funding priorities and constraints. While some level of desired social and health satisfaction may be experienced in the short term by shifting policy priorities, it is also probable that no tangible value is achieved toward to the overarching desire to elicit system wide impact. Did you hear that the two largest suppliers of pollutants, China and the United States, ‘pledged’ to actionably reduce limit greenhouse emissions over a media-friendly handshake (http://tinyurl.com/ld7mz8y)? Commentators are calling these ambitious goals for the EU. But Directorate-General for Climate Action (“DG CLIMA”) long recognized that climate policy both within the EU is a large part of the solution. The wisdom of the DG CLIMA offers the requirement that with 2020 policy goals, it is ‘adaptation measures (that) will reduce the European Union’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.’ (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/about-us/mission/index_en.htm). This is an inescapable reason for governing bodies of all levels to open their ears and eyes to this reality that change really means adaptation! And the EU appears to be leading the way, perhaps unnoticed by constituents outside of the EU.
John Sterman, a pioneer in systems thinking, corrected our thinking about effects in a system. We often frame the resulting social effects of a policy as ‘side effects’. This is incorrect thinking. What governing bodies often try to combat are so-called ‘side effects’. There are main intended effects which are the ones that policymakers want to happen. What policymakers often uncover are unintended effects, not side effects, which signal faulty understanding of the climate system.
Climate change and ecological sustainability is hot right now. No pun is intended. Global governance to reverse the historic ‘dangerous anthropogenic (manmade) interference’ makes for good news with often with short media shelf-lives. This is a fancy way of saying that human action is tied to the state of the ecosystem. The language of the Kyoto Protocol provisions is less social media friendly. The long term effects of carbon emissions continue long after the media debate switches to another policy development. Human actions have left an injurious pox on the Earth’s ecosystem. Consumers do have an effect on climate change. But we need data to measure these consumer effects. The IGBP Climate-Change Index ‘highlights the general trend by bringing together key climate-change indicators: atmospheric carbon dioxide, temperature, and sea level and sea ice.’ (http://tinyurl.com/c8bhsbg). James Greyson, founder of the BlindSpot think tank in the UK, wrote that ‘people are not inherently destructive’ (http://tinyurl.com/k6v5ur3).The balance between personal consumption of resources with the need for climate health highlights the very quandary of policy success. It is hard to give up something of worth when the effect of that may seem inconsequential in the big scheme of things. People may just side with the illusion that their personal actions somehow are not connected to the collective ill effects on the Earth’s ecosystem. People will at all costs minimize personal burden and disengage spiritual discomfort while still contributing to Styrofoam to landfills.
Failure is picking up a socially expected square peg after the innovative oval one fails to fit a conventional hole. If you really “need” the oval to work (and the world is not yet with the program), check out the board again. If there is no oval hole, darn it and chuck that board. Find a reamer and create your own or perhaps ask for a refund with no return shipping. Failure is the incessant attempt to satisfy others by hiding that socially acceptable square peg behind your back and asking for a few more days (in dog years) to work it out. Whittling that square peg with that dull pocket knife into a misshapen imposter of an oval peg serves no god. That imposter peg is not flush to the side of the hole. It is surrounded by slight flashes of open space. That open space created around the non-flush peg should extract with a slight tug. Trust me, that tug will be less taxing than the linear process that got that wrong peg there in the first place. Policy has little tolerance for misshapen pegs that bring with them unintended effects. Use a policy that works until it does not or admit that it never worked at all. Then make it work without the errors gumming up the machinery. What works may not be the most apparent or popular choice.
Climate policy holds a special role that should not be understated. A policy has the power to guide and mold the direction of societal movements or evade an unfortunate setback. The policy is rather worthless, even harmful, if it merely placates to critics that policymakers are doing something. James Greyson expertly forewarned that ‘less bad is not good enough’. Every point of attack in a policy does not yield the same bang for the policy’s buck. The best way to assure policy effectiveness is to change mindsets or paradigms around climate change. Climate policy cannot be business as usual. Policy as conceived today is not reversing the ecological losses plaguing the ecosystem. But this is a large load to carry for the vast diversity of workforce that is involved in only one of many spokes in the regulation system.


Now a Research Fellow with the Earth System Governance Project

The Earth System Governance Project is the largest social science research network in the area of governance and global environmental change. I look forward to framing sustainability policy with systems thinking. I am affiliated with the Global Economic System Group. Check out the organization!