Category Archives: Indirect lobbying

Best Practices for a Social Network-based Carbon Tax Campaign

Author: T. Todd Elvins
7 October 2014
Copyright (c) 2014 T Todd Elvins

We’ve already analyzed the 2014 ice bucket phenomena so let’s step into the way back machine and dissect three 2013 nonprofit campaigns that went viral in social media and consider the campaign characteristics that appealed to viewers’ psychies.

In 2013, the three campaigns below generated massive awareness and often donations for the non-profits.  While the vast majority of online campaigns generate a donation trickle, these campaigns magically sparked viewers to take action and/or donate, and forward the campaign media to their friends and family.  Certainly no campaign for a carbon tax, or probably for global warming in general, has generated this amount of attention in social media.

  1. Water is Life  repurposed the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems.  In a video, third world people complain about their (non-existent) first world problems.  It takes the word ‘irony’ to a whole new level. The result is simultaneously poignant and uplifting.  Six million views on youtube.
  2. UNICEF polio vaccine  directly and boldly called out their social media followers. “Hey, a ‘like’  on facebook does not help us to vaccinate children.  So donate.”  For four euros, we can vaccinate 12 children, and maybe save their lives.  In several videos and images.
  3. American Red Cross took part in National Preparedness Month, jumping in on the hashtag #NPM13. The Red Cross helps with disaster relief and emergencies, so it was a good match and raised awareness with thousands of people in social media.  In one funny graphic, there are twelve items, each marked as either useful, or not useful in an emergency.  Got nunchuks?

Let’s enumerate the main characteristics of the three campaigns.

Water is Life

Unicef Polio Vaccine

Red Cross
Emergency preparedness







Empathetic/ sympathetic/






Thought provoking








Cost effective




Depicts human victims




Leverages another campaign



These three successful campaigns have many attributes in common.  Melding the commonalities, a successful carbon tax campaign should:  (1) feature victims that are people (not plants or ice caps or polar bears), (2) be funny and/or ironic, (3) be thought-provoking, and (4) be sensible and cost-effective.

1. Victims are people – Best choice is likely the next generation – today’s kids who will be parents grandparents, and voters when climate disruptions become catastrophic. The campaign pictures and/or videos should present a future with more frequent disasters, more severe weather, and offers less access to water, food, transportation, shelter, and clothing.

2. Funny and/or ironic – The victims and future in 1 above, must be presented in a humorous and/or ironic setting, scenario, or script.   The tag line might be, “a pollution tax paid to our children”.  What would a kid do with a stack of $5000 checks?  Go to college?  Buy an EV?  There was a funny tweet recently, “Experts say, ‘ebola is under control”.  “Public reaction: panic”.  “Experts say, ‘global warming will be catastrophic”, “Public reaction: ‘pass me some more coal'”.  This type of exchange expresses the right kind of humor and irony.

3. Thought provoking – The resulting image or video should include an analogy, metaphor, allegory, or paradox. 

4. Sensible and cost effective – The solution presented should be easy to grasp, be immediately logical and satisfying, and be obviously affordable. “Economists agree that a carbon fee with 100% refund is the cheapest, simplest, fastest, and by far, most effective way to reduce green house gas emissions. Tell your members of Congress”.



Sans Carbon Tax – Years of Living Dangerously

01 October 2014
Author: T. Todd Elvins
copyright (c) 2014 T. Todd Elvins

SHOWTIME and ‘The Years Project’ have created nine one-hour  TV episodes of a climate- and science-related documentary series called, “Years of Living Dangerously” (‘Years’). Here’s my synopsis of a typical episode:

  • Hollywood luminaries and other influencers: travel to places impacted by severe weather due to global warming, visit scientists studying the environment, and talk to locals suffering from climate-related problems
  • The climate situation is getting worse faster than expected
  • TV viewers are mobilized to do something

But what are viewers supposed to do?  The ‘Years’ call-to-action is not in the episode, its on the show’s web site, under the Years of Living Dangerously - Robert Reich Videoheading, “What can we do“.  The web page says that renewable energy is good, efficiency & recycling are important, and reducing our carbon footprint is virtuous.  However, the big bold top-of-the-heap solution to global warming is to put a price on carbon.  This solutions’ simplicity, effectiveness, and importance are explained in a whiteboard presentation by US Labor Secretary Robert Reich and in an interview with President Obama about pricing carbon.

In a sidebar is a textbox labeled, “Tell your elected officials to put a price on carbon, you canTake Action take action on climate change in jut a few clicks“.  Viewers are invited to enter their zip code to identify their elected officials, and then to tweet and/or email the members of Congress, asking for a price on carbon.  I happened upon this mobilization campaign when one of the ‘Years’ producers tweeted that its generating a lot of twitter traffic at Congress.

Let’s apply the CarbonTax Workshop (CTW) metric to ‘Years’ put a price on carbon campaign.

  1. The Years campaign does a good job communicating the need for a price on carbon.  The Reich video explains how a carbon tax works, and that it is a market-based approach.  There is no mention of cap-and-trade.  Score: 10.
  2. The Years campaign makes it simple and painless to lobby Congress using familiar tools like email and twitter.  The campaign tells viewers to ask Congress for a, “Price on Carbon”.  This could be interpreted as cap and trade.  It would be better if viewers were instructed to ask for a revenue-neutral carbon tax, as explained in Reich’s video.  Score 7.
  3. The ‘Years’ tweet/email campaign is easily accessible on the ‘Years’ website, and the Reich video was released on Vimeo on 9/21/14.  As of 10/1/14, the  video has a respectable 4,400 views.  We don’t know how many tweets/emails have been sent. CarbonTax Workshop believes that ‘Years’ should move the “Put a Price on Carbon” section to the center of the home screen above the fold, and advertise the Reich video to push view counts up into the millions.   Score: 7.

Overall, ‘Years’ earns an excellent score of 24 on the CTW metric.  CTW urges ‘Years’ to: (1) devote an entire one-hour episode to the topic of a  revenue neutral carbon tax, (2) use the episode to mobilize viewers to lobby Congress via tweet/email/facebook, and, (3) give hope and a call-to-action to viewers.  The format of the carbon tax episode could be:

  1. Celebrity interviewer talks to university researchers who have polled citizens with the questions, ‘should companies pay a fee to pollute the air’, ‘should the government implement a national climate policy’, ‘should there be a national fee on greenhouse gas emissions’.
  2. Celebrity interviewer talks to corporation CEOs who have lobbied US Congress for a carbon tax, and incorporated a carbon tax into their internal accounting
  3. Celebrity interviewer talks to economists and elected officials in countries where a carbon tax has been in effect for ten years.  Voila. It works.

People versus Carbon Reality

29 September 2014
Author: T. Todd Elvins
copyright (c) 2014 T. Todd Elvins

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s The Climate Reality Project (TCRP) is an umbrella organization with nine major initiatives.  One PeopleVersusCarbonTCRP Initiative, ‘People versus Carbon‘, mobilizes individuals to build inertia for the Environmental Protection Agencys’, and other local, state and federal efforts, to regulate carbon pollution.  “People versus Carbon” asserts that regulation is an important first step towards putting a price on carbon.

TCRP “People vs Carbon” web site is divided into seven sections, five of which are informational and petitions.  The remaining two are videos that analyze and advocate a path to a market-based #PriceOnCarbon.   The one-minute “Cost of Carbon” video discusses the political price of climate denial – voters have the power to elect and re-elect candidates running on a bold climate action platform, and to not vote for climate policy blockers and deniers of science.  The price of climate science denial could and should be expulsion from public office.

The Way Forward” is a six minute video that examines two market-based policies for reducing carbon emissions (solutions to pollution), a carbon tax, and cap-and-trade.  A carbon tax and cap-and-trade seem interchangeable in this video, which we know from Hsu’s seminal book, “A Case for a Carbon Tax“, they are not.  A carbon tax is simpler, cheaper, quicker, and vastly more effective than cap-and-trade.  Attractive to conservatives in Congress, a revenue-neutral carbon tax refunds 100% of proceeds to citizens, so the funds cannot disappear into special interests or a larger government.  As the carbon tax increases stepwise over time, the refunds increase proportionately, so higher taxes do not cause pain and protest.

Let’s apply the CarbonTax Workshop (CTW) metric to TCRP’s “People versus Carbon” initiative

  1. TCRP “The Way Forward” video does a good job communicating the need for a price on carbon.  The video explains how a carbon tax works, and that it is a market-based approach.  The TCRP video mistakenly gives cap-and-trade equal weight. Score: 8.
  2. The TCRP “Cost of Carbon” video does a good job explaining that deniers of science do not belong in elected office.  If you, Mr./Ms. Member of Congress, are not helping to reduce carbon pollution, you are not doing your job, and your cost is that I will vote you out of office.  A carbon tax ultimatum would be even better.  Score: 8.
  3. TCRP videos are freely available on youtube and as of 9/26/14, the two short videos have a respectable 10,000 views each.  CarbonTax Workshop believes that TCRP’s highest priority initiative should be, “People versus Carbon” and a big media marketing campaign to push the two video view counts up into the millions.   Score: 8.

Overall, TCRP “People versus Carbon” earns an excellent score of 24 on the CTW metric.  To make the initiative more powerful, TCRP should combine the key messages from the two TCRP videos, “The Way Forward”, and “Cost of Carbon”, into a single video.  The key message of this new video would be, “in your election, or re-election, Mr./Ms. Congressman, my vote is contingent upon you introducing or supporting a carbon tax bill”.

Message Congress from Your Phone

Three Ways to Send a Climate Message to Congress from Your Phone

18 September 2014
Author: T. Todd Elvins
copyright (c) 2014 T. Todd Elvins

“Congress” app for android

1.  Install the free Android Congress app or the iPhone Congress app


2.  Post on their Facebook page.  Go to your House of Representatives Facebook page or your Senators’ Facebook page.


3.  Open a web browser on your phone and follow these instructions to send a message in a webform

  • Click here and enter your zip code to get a list of your congressional representatives
  • Click the ‘name’ of one of your congress persons
  • Click on their “Contact webform” (upper right corner) and compose a message that hits these four points
    Honorable _______

    • I live in your district
    • Companies should not be allowed to pollute the air for free.
    • Global warming is a problem.
    • I strongly encourage you to support a fee on carbon pollution with 100% of proceeds returned to taxpayers.

Citizens Lobby Congress

Founder Marshall Saunders

Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) is laser focused on, and extremely effective in lobbying members of congress, one-on-one, applying pressure for carbon fee and dividend legislation — a revenue-neutral carbon tax.  Most all economists agree that a carbon tax is the cheapest, simplest, and by far most effective policy for reducing carbon emissions.  The new report from Regional Economic Models, Inc (REMI) further support CCL’s position.

Let’s apply the CarbonTax Workshop (CTW) evaluation metric to Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL).

  1. CCL does an excellent job defining, (1) the problem, (2) CCL’s proposed solution Carbon Fee and Dividend, and (3) why CCL’s climate solution is the most effective, simple, realistic, and scalable.  Score: 10.
  2. CCL’s message is focused, direct, and convincing.  The organization membership is doubling in size every year. Score: 10.
  3. CCL’s first priority is direct lobbying and secondarily works to expand membership.  Expanding membership is probably tough since many people are not comfortable writing strongly worded letters to the editor, and speaking to members of Congress and their staffers.  CCL is mentioned frequently in climate-related news, and has started popping up in google ads.  Perhaps there is more that could be done in a membership campaign.  CCL’s membership could potentially benefit from new mobilization approaches developed by CTW.  Score: 9.

Overall CTW score is 29.  CCL is actively seeking new members for direct and indirect lobbying.

Below is background lifted from the CCL website.


Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) is a 7-year old, nonprofit, grassroots volunteer organization focused exclusively on passing a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend (CFD) to address climate change. CCL provides its members with tool kits for direct lobbying of local and national elected representatives and their staffs; conducts monthly actions and conference calls with experts to expand members’ personal political power; trains them in placement of public comments in print media and in building relationships with editorial boards, and organizes at a grass-roots level to build consensus. CCL empowers individuals to find their voice in the climate debate.

Last year, CCL volunteers conducted 710 meetings with federal legislators. The June, 2014 annual meeting in Washington drew over 600 volunteers who met with 508 Congressional offices over a 3-day period, respectfully listening to their concerns and discussing new economic modeling showing a stimulus effect of a national CFD when 100% of the revenue is returned to households. In 2013, volunteers published 1270 Letters to the Editor and numerous op-eds, reaching an estimated 20 million people, with double that rate this year. CCL met with 46 editorial boards in 2013, resulting in 41 favorable editorials. CCL also engages economists, military leaders and both progressive and conservative think tanks, as well as faith community leaders.

CCL is growing rapidly. Support doubled last year to over 6,000 members in 188 chapters (+ 99 more in formation) covering 329 Congressional districts in 48 states and Canada (June, 2014). CCL aims to have members in all 435 Congressional districts by the end of 2014. New groups are starting in 11 other countries.