In politics – perhaps especially in environmental politics – language and the framing of issues matters. Opponents of climate change action have had considerable success in describing carbon pricing as ‘a tax on everything’. The description misses the point, given that the whole idea of carbon pricing is to drive the emergence of an economy in which we can do everything we need and want to do without affecting the climate. Nonetheless, the ‘tax on everything’ message has been effective at building opposition to climate action, particularly given the level of economic anxiety being experienced by much of the population.
In that context, David Robertsâ€™ adoption of the term â€˜climate hawksâ€™ to describe those who care about climate change and clean energy could be a smart move.
I like the term for a number of reasons. It is concise and comprehensible. It doesnâ€™t seem too closely tied to any particular political philosophy. Just as somebody almost anywhere on the political spectrum can be a â€˜deficit hawkâ€™, it should be possible to be a serious supporter of action on climate change regardless of your other political beliefs. Finally, I think it could be useful that the term â€˜hawkâ€™ is normally applied to people who you wouldnâ€™t think of as natural environmentalists. We need to be making the point that dealing with climate change is of interest to everybody; it is as much of an issue for someone concerned about the geopolitical stability of Southeast Asia as it is for someone who wants to preserve the beauty and biodiversity of Canadaâ€™s boreal forest.
Previously, I have expressed my hope that the increasing obviousness of climate change will discredit climate change deniers. Perhaps the same phenomenon could empower outspoken climate hawks – hopefully, before the worst effects of climate change become impossible to avoid.
[Update: 22 October 2010] The Oxford English Dictionary has a relevant definition for the word â€˜hawkâ€™:
In Politics, a person who advocates a hard-line or warlike policy, opp. to a dove
1548 HALL Chron., Edw. IV, 199b, If he might..allure the duke to his partie, that king Edward should be destitute of one of his best Hawkes. a1553 UDALL Royster D. III. iii. (Arb.) 48 Ye were take vp for haukes. a1700 B. E. Dict. Cant. Crew, Hawk, a Sharper. 1824 GEN. P. THOMPSON Exerc. (1842) III. 328 Men are hawks when they view their interests singly, and beetles when they are to lose in crowds. 1834 H. AINSWORTH Rookwood I. iii. (Farmer), The game’s spoiled this time..the hawks are upon us. 1843 LEVER J. Hinton ix. (1878) 56 He..ended by becoming a hawk, where he had begun as a pigeon. 1962, 1964 [see DOVE n. 2f]. 1965 Economist 25 Sept. 1189/2 President Ayub’s difficulties in curbing the â€˜hawksâ€™ in his country. 1966, 1967 [see DOVE n. 2f]. 1967 D. BOULTON Objection Overruled iii. 85 The committee seems to have become immersed immediately in a struggle between doves and hawks. 1969 Guardian 21 Feb. 10/2 The hawks at the Treasury..want to have one more hack at consumption.
I also like another of the definitions: “To pursue or attack on the wing, as a hawk does; to prey upon while flying.”