Tom Steyer: Americans Won't Believe in Climate Change 'If You Talk in Generalities'

By Ali Meyer | November 20, 2014 | 8:54am EST

The Obama Administration on Nov. 17, 2014 released its U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit "to help our communities respond to our changing climate."

( - Tom Steyer, a billionaire climate-change believer who has donated millions of dollars to Democrats, told a liberal gathering in Washington on Wednesday that the only way to make the climate issue resonate with voters is to avoid "generalities" and speak on a "hyper-local basis."

“In talking about climate and energy around the country in 2014, I think we found (what) has been true for the last five years of experience (is) that if you talk in generalities -– if you talk in the point of view of the globe, and if you talk in the point of view of science, you’re in a lot of trouble,” Steyer said.

“Basically, for this issue to resonate with people, you have to speak on a hyper-local basis and you have to speak on a human basis.”

Steyer noted that when EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks about the impact of climate change on health or on the economy, she mentions things like asthma or jobs, "the things that people relate to."

"In terms of health, in Los Angeles, 20 to 25 percent of the kids have asthma. That is a real visceral issue for the people in that area. However that is an issue that is very local and specific, and so it is unrealistic to ask the voters in Florida to lie awake at night worrying about the drought in California; and it’s unrealistic to ask the voters in Iowa to lie awake at night worried about the fact that salt water is running down the streets of Miami Beach,” Steyer said.

“So what we found, in order for this to matter to voters, it had to be a human issue that was working in their communities, and that is a question of, are there jobs being created, can you at least show people specific jobs -- not green jobs in general that are promised in huge size without any specificity, because people aren’t interested in jobs in general. They are interested in specific jobs for specific people -- themselves or people they know."

The Obama White House on Monday issued a "Climate Resilience Toolkit" to "help your community or business get ready."

As Steyer recommended, the toolkit encourages Americans to think and prepare locally, because "(e)very community and business faces some risk of climate-related disruptions to their operations," it says.

The toolkit first of all instructs citizens how to "identify the problem," in case the problem isn't apparent.

President Obama, encouraged by liberal donors such as Steyer, is making climate change a priority in his final two years.

Steyer made his comments about climate change as part of a panel discussion hosted by the Center for American Progress. The panelists were asked how businesses could be persuaded to support the green energy agenda.

“Two things to be said about business,” Steyer began. “One is, I think it’s important for us to have a framework for the interaction between government and business. And so, American business is famous worldwide for innovating, commercializing new ideas and bringing them to market all over the globe.

"The government’s role though -- has a real role -- which is to set up the framework so business makes good decisions. And in this case, in terms of carbon pollution, what we really need is to make sure that the polluter pays for their pollution,” Steyer said.

“So the government’s to make sure that all the costs are included in your computer programs so you make good decisions, both for your company and for society. So when we’ve seen that, when government does that -- which is absolutely a basic function of government -- we’ve seen businesses do an incredible job.”

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