It’s not about the climate, stupid

Environmentalists may take Luntz as a dubious source. About a decade ago he turned greenies red with a memo that urged the Bush administration to stress the “lack of scientific certainty” to defend its stance against seeking a carbon cap. 

Luntz has since said that he believes humans are causing climate change, and Luntz’s survey showed most other Americans do too, by wide margins. So proponents should concentrate their message on other areas, like how energy policy can be used to create jobs in the United States and reduce oil dependency.

Some of the survey won’t come as a great shock to backers of climate legislation. Supporters already have had a pile of polling data that shows the best way to sell cap-and-trade bill is to talk about its supposed economic benefits in order to attract centrists. President Barack Obama doesn’t mention climate legislation without talking about green jobs.

But the messaging still needs tweaking, Luntz said.

Environmentalists now come across as too preachy and businesses backing climate action are too statistic-minded, forgetting to animate their messaging with some “humanity,” Luntz said. And the administration should talk about American jobs, not green ones.

The advice may come too late for the climate bill this year. The conventional wisdom holds that Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts is a death knell, not only because he said he opposed the cap and trade bill but also because his win will scare centrists off of big legislation.

But Luntz said that that was the wrong message from Tuesday’s election or the wins Democrats have posted in the last few years. The real message is that Americans are tired of the status quo.

Climate legislation sold as offering a “cleaner, healthier and safer” future could win the support of voters, Luntz said.

Joining Luntz at the news conference was Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, which advised Luntz on the new survey. David Crane, the CEO of NRG Energy, also participated. NRG was one of 80 companies that signed an advertisement in the Thursday edition of the Wall Street Journal that called on Congress to pass a climate bill.

The survey was commissioned by News Corp.