Climate Change Debate: Science–or Leadership?
The Economist has a good summary of American opinions relating to climate change.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats tend to believe there’s an issue; Republicans are largely divided; Tea-Party identifiers tend to reject it.
The Economist’s report, conforming to much punditry, surmises there’s a link between the sources of information and the ultimate views.
There may well be.
Is Authority the Real Issue?
There may also be another issue, so large that it’s as easy to overlook as it is hard to measure with confidence: people’s multifarious reactions to authority in 2011.
In this time of historic leadership failures–on Wall Street, Main Street, in politics, the professions, not-for-profits, the military, even the clergy–people can be expected to be skeptical of authority. Surely this is even more likely to be found among self-identifiers in a political movement that is rising up against failures of the political-financial establishment.
If that’s the case, it may have implications for effective communications on this topic.
The Holy Grail of 21st Century Leadership: Transparency
If this diagnosis is correct, the best response is likely not a further reliance on authority. Lawyers and politicians in bespoke suits, scientists in their white coveralls, generals in their uniforms, even collared clergy may not break through.
What is needed is to reconstitute authority; to earn it.
A key is transparency. The books should be thrown open. Scenarios should be shared. Proposed responses should be made available.
Thomas Jefferson’s Credo
These kinds of leadership questions are not new. They arise in a new guise every now and again.
Thomas Jefferson’s credo remains apt:
I know of no safe repository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.
Today, in a world informed by the Information Revolution, the realm of discretion is greater. Education cannot simply be broadcasting from “on high.” Rather it is a back-and-forth, where everyone can learn from the other–and all acknowledge that, with appropriate humility and courage.
Unanimity is not a worthwhile goal–and experience suggests that unanimity, or the semblance of it, can be dangerously misguided, if only for the absence of necessary questioning.
Earning the trust of people is a worthwhile goal–one worthy of our dedicated attention. For those of us convinced that the realm of energy-environmental matters is of signal significance in this era, it is–arguably–paramount.
Climate Change Debate | Science or Leadership?