Climate change (really global warming with a better brand name) has been in the news these past few decades with dire warnings. Climate models have underestimated the warming trend.
The old story of the frog tossed into boiling water and immediately jumping out comes to mind. With climate change the warming is so gradual (and sometimes welcome) we don’t notice we are getting boiled. Yet the temperature inexorably continues to climb. Like the frog, we will stay in the stew until the meat pulls away from the bone.
Fresh faces periodically jump onto the scene. Al Gore made a big splash over a decade ago with his Inconvenient Truth documentary.
This past week a new face entered the drama with Greta Thunberg scolding Congress. After delivering a groin kick to deserving members of Congress she met with allies in Congress and told them, ” I know you’re trying, but just not hard enough.”
As much fun as it is to watch a 16 year old girl knock Congressmen around, the most important point has been missed: Greta “is” the problem.
Same Old Tactics
“The world is coming to and end!” It has been the battle cry of environmentalists from the beginning. Scare tactics worked when pushed hard enough and often enough in the past. Now, after hearing this battle cry for longer than most readers have been alive the echo rings hollow.
Climate change is a money issue. Those against taking action do so on financial grounds. “It will cost too much for something we are not sure will really happen and even if it does it might actually be a good thing,” is their battle cry. And it is easier (and cheaper in the short run) to do nothing.
Then we come to Gore and Thunberg. Remember I said they ARE the problem.
All the while I watched and read about the smack down in Congress I couldn’t help but think about how much CO2 Thunberg dumped into the atmosphere flying* to Washington to give Congress a piece of her mind. Thunberg is right; she needs to try harder.
If the people most concerned about climate change are injecting the most most amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, is there any hope to solve the problem?
Actually, there is.
Re-framing the Argument
Fear stalls people in their tracks. This accountant has strong beliefs about climate change and prefers to call it what it really is: global warming. Gore showing charts of CO2 rocking to the moon did little to move the deniers. It’s not that climate deniers believe climate change is a hoax; it’s that they believe it isn’t a serious problem compared to the costs of mitigation. A warmer winter is welcome in their minds and the negative consequences will not affect them (in their minds).
Continuing to bash on deniers will not work! I’m sympathetic to the cause and know the problem is serious and needs immediate attention. And even I am exhausted by the constant assault by climate doomsayers. If it is so bad and their is no hope, why bother.
There is a solution, but it requires a radical rethinking of the climate change rhetoric.
Cutting greenhouse gas emissions is a good goal that can satisfy climate change crusaders while appealing to the pocketbook of the deniers. In other words, if we reframe the issue as a win/win the message will resonate with virtually everyone. The best part is nobody even has to mention that four-letter word: climate change or global warming.
Solutions that Work
Every time a new solar or wind project is proposed it lists the amount of CO2 that will not be emitted into atmosphere. That is a massive mistake!
Green projects have to be proposed with economics in mind.
This wind farm will drive down costs to local businesses, increasing the competitive advantage of our community in the world market.
Who is against that? No mention of climate change. Politics is removed. To be against this is to be against jobs and local economic growth. Not one mention is made about climate change.
A local town hall meeting might sound like this:
CROWD: Is this wind farm going to help climate change?
PROMOTER: Screw the climate. We are about business and economic growth. This will create jobs and increase business profits. Our cost advantages after this project comes online will make us a world leader in multiple industries.
The Republicans will snicker after the event about how they pulled a fast one over on the Democrats. Citizens concerned about climate change will have a similar, yet opposite, conversation in private.
Your favorite accountant is sick to death of good ideas getting shot down because climate change was attached to it. Want to kill a good idea? Say is will lower CO2 emissions. Doesn’t matter how good the idea is. Could you imagine tax cuts associated with reduced greenhouse gas emissions? You’d never see another tax cut in your lifetime.
Businesses understand this. Doing environmental good CAN and frequently IS good for the environment. Both sides of the debate are really in the same room, only they got comfortable bashing each other’s faces in and don’t know how to change their behavior.
It is self-defeating to frame trillions of dollars in spending as a climate change expense. Even those who know the problem is real have a hard time wrapping their head around seriously higher taxes to pay for something that will help other nations and people of the future. The “What’s in it for me” thought is strong. It is unfair to complain some are shortsighted on this issue. We all are to some extent.
Solutions where many will lose (taxpayers and business owners) will always have a problem getting their message across.
Changing the Way We Think
Business owners understand the power of changing the way they think in problem resolution. Individuals need to do the same.
Buying an electric car is NOT about saving the environment! It might be a status symbol. But in the end it should make economic sense. If the cost of owning the electric car is less over its entire life than an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle it is a logical choice even if the up front costs are higher.
The opposite is also true. There will always be a limited number of people willing to shell out for an expensive car that costs more than similar ICE alternatives. This limited demand will not be enough to reverse the global warming trend.
It smacks me as insane when some lowlifes rejig their truck to belch more smoke or keys an electric car when walking past. The smoke is a different kind of pollution and actually is better for the environment since it settles out of the air reasonable fast. (Think of that if you rigged your truck this way. You actually are saying you are trying to help reduce climate change emissions. Makes you look foolish, doesn’t it?) And keying someone’s car is not only stupid, but ignorant. You are better than that.
Current thinking is politically charged. Greta Thunberg made a splash in the news. Yeah, she got a good one on Congress. And nothing will change. You don’t make friends or solve problems by finding new ways to insult people you need to help you solve a problem.
Instead of focusing on what is in it for us, we need to highlight the advantages to our opponents.
Electric vehicles will give America a competitive advantage.
Changing the electric grid will create jobs.
Businesses will generate an estimates $868 billion (this number is illustration only, not a fact) in additional profits if electric vehicles are fully implemented.
This solar field will reduce reliance on foreign oil, create 328 new jobs, lower utility bills for businesses and consumers and lower taxes over the next decade.
Of course the losers haven’t changed. Big oil is behind the fight against climate change initiatives for good reason; they stand to lose a lot. I don’t like leaving businesses or people behind even if they were part of the original problem. Remember, oil was a solution to a problem a century ago.
The synergies created by good economic policies can be used to create incentives for businesses and individuals negatively affected by the changes.
Big oil should receive serious tax credits when pushing into these new areas of business. The transition will be painful, but manageable if proper consideration is given.
Self driving trucks will not need to convince business of the value. Trucks able to run 24 hours a day without payroll expenses is all business will need to hear. Once self driving vehicles are safe enough they will happen. Just as climate change causes issues so will self driving vehicles.
Every problem has a solution that eventually leads to more problems. As long as the improvement overall is steady we are golden. Truckers losing their job will need tax incentives to get them from where they are to where they want to be in a world with out truckers.
Gas stations will always have a place as long as people are on the road. Electric vehicles and people still need to fuel up. Gas stations will need help with the expensive conversion to electric charging stations.
These are not insurmountable problems! We HAVE solved much worse than this. Climate change is real. Unfortunately we are the frog in the water getting cooked at a slow simmer.
Finger pointing is wrong. It never works. You never convince someone of your viewpoint by starting with, “You’re an idiot!”
We must reframe the way we look at climate change. We must change the way we think. This is not us versus them!
Change can be good. And profitable! If only we have the will. Otherwise another kid with a cute message will get a good jab in on Congress thirty years from now when the problem is still unresolved and much worse.
* Some comments argue this statement isn’t fair since she used a “zero emissions” boat to get here. No word on how she gets home after her 5-man team brings the boat back without her. Many reports and newscasts have stated the large carbon footprint of her journey. Thunberg has a 5 man team delivering the yacht back home and some of them presumable flew. At this point we still do not know with certainty if she will fly home or use another source. What is certain is the greenhouse gases emitted from this publicity stunt is reported to be greater than the emissions from a village in India over the course of a year. I stand by my claim.
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Things have been looking up at The Wealthy Accountant. Traffic is increasing and the audience is expanding. Even better, the original demographic attracted to the site has expanded, bringing in more people to benefit from the information provided.
The newfound success also causes problems. People unfamiliar with the FI (financial independence) community are frequently shocked at the way I present information. It’s an easy thing to do. Right up there in the title is the word accountant. The blog ought to be about taxes and similar stuff found in a CPAs office. Then you open the cover and find me standing there. Don’t worry! It would scare me too.
There is a major misunderstanding on what this blog is about. Yes, the word “accountant” is in the title. There are a few reasons for that. First, it’s getting hard to find an unused url in the dot com universe anymore. Second, I don’t want you to be an accountant (unless you want to be), but I want you to THINK like an accountant. There is a difference.
Thinking like an accountant allows you to make better decisions in all areas of your life: working, investments, taxes, even relationships and raising the kiddos. Accountants think in a logical fashion. They plan. They also look before they jump.
That doesn’t mean all the fun is squeezed out of life either. Readers around here discover real quick there is something mentally wrong with this accountant. I love having fun, kidding around, laughing and turning life into one big joke. And a drink now and again never hurt my feelings.
Accountants have a reputation for being boring. Nothing could be further from the truth. When no one is looking we break loose and riot across town. Then, when the cameras are turned back on, we don our wire rim glasses and pocket protectors. And if you are unaware, we are a darn sexy group, too.
Can We Talk about Something Other Than Taxes?
Approximately 15% or so of this blog is deep tax stuff. This is by design! Taxes can be boring because it requires the use of large portions of gray matter. It gets old after a while, even for people who love this stuff, like me.
My first goal is to entertain. This had better be fun or my readers will jump ship faster than a cat from a tub filled with water. (All paws and tails coupled with an unusual meowing wail.) And this stuff is fun. Most of what I tell you guys is true. The rest is modified to fit the story to the page and not burden you with massive back story or an info dump; not to mislead you, kind reader.
After I get you to chuckle I know you let your guard down. With your force field dismantled I can share serious stories with a moral; we can call them parables.
Entertainment is the most effective form of education. Learning is easiest when it doesn’t feel like learning. Never will you hear me say, “I’m going to teach you a lesson.” (Unless you make me really, really mad.)
Now we get back to the thinking part. I want to help you improve the way you think. Granted, I am no genius when it comes to the answer to life, the universe, and everything. (The answer is 42, if you must know.) Instead, my unique experience of working with people on the intimate details of their financial and personal life gives me an advantage only someone in my position has.
I’ve seen a lot over the years: divorces I never saw coming and could not understand, couples married for decades succumb to drugs or gambling, and worst of all, the number of young people who have died. If there is anything that causes me to pause in life, it is the number of young adults and children I saw to their grave. What can I possibly say to a bereaved surviving spouse or distraught parent? Answer: There are no words. All I can do is hold my client and reassure them they must be strong in honor of the lost loved one. Some days at the office are harder than others.
Most of all, I want you to have a seat on my side of the desk. My hope is you will take a chair behind me and silently watch me work my trade, to see the things I see. I’ve seen a lot. Most of it is hilarious, other times it amazes me how I keep from taking my own life. (How many young people have to die of disease, violence, or accidents before enough is enough?)
I hear your hopes, dreams and fears. I laugh (and cry) with you. You are my people. I joke because it hurts so much in here. When you hurt, I hurt. It is not an over-exaggeration when I say I love my clients. There has never been a better group of people to ever walk this green earth.
From your life I learn lessons, lessons I want to pay forward by sharing to the world at large. After entertainment, The Wealthy Accountant is about living life well, living life right. We can do this only if we do it together.
I am not your guru. All I have is a massive repertoire of stories and a modest memory and ability to share them.
It’s not about money. Money gets a lot of play around here, but it is not about money. Money gives you freedom and few other fun things. In the end money is not the issue. Your family, friends and community are. All the money in the world will not replace those things. Without these things we are miserable.
Finding meaning in life as you view life is what counts. I can’t tell you what to do or what will work for you. My stories only provide prompts to jog your memory and thinking capacity into action discovering those things which make your life worth living.
Can I Say a Word or Two about Taxes?
Tax posts get the most push-back around here. Explaining taxes is a risky business. Heck, even the Tax Courts don’t always agree on the correct way to interpret sections of tax code. If the Tax Court has problems getting their arms around it, what chance do I have a winning the crowd with a tax idea or concept?
Most of my tax posts are built around concepts versus hard tax law or application. This is by design. I want this to be a tool for the common man. Tax professionals will find value, but will need additional research above what I share here. The reason is simple. Once you peal open a complex tax issue there are so many variables, I could easily sink into the quagmire of boring tax blog rather quickly. Then no one wins. Especially my ego. I like traffic! Makes me feel wanted.
I seem to get a lot of comments poking and prodding around the edges of my tax concepts. It’s a good thing because it means people are thinking about what I am presenting. It is also a bad thing because it means at some level the same people are missing the point.
If fewer than one in five posts focus on tax, where does the accountant come in? Well, accountants do a lot more than taxes. We do payroll, bookkeeping, consulting, retirement planning, auditing, and more. Tax is one small part of the equation. You think accountant are tax guys (or gals) only because that is a big part of their public image.
The most difficult task any accountant faces is taking the complex tax code and making it understandable to non-tax pros. And we have to do it without making the client feel inferior. Trust me, I am not up here and you down there. I have to find a way to bridge the gap.
So I am left with concepts when I write here. I have written plenty in the past about serious tax issues for tax professionals. The people who read that stuff is a fraction of 1% of the people who read this blog and I don’t blame them a bit. It is dry reading. You only read that stuff when researching a tax issue for personal needs.
The Wealthy Accountant is not meant as a stale tax guide used for reference only. When I share tax ideas I know I am leaving out the 3,083 other possibilities. The ideas I present are different from anything else you read on the subject or hear from your tax pro. If it wasn’t different, why bother?
My last post was on saving half your gross income and how it reduces your tax liability. My argument was: Saving half your gross income doesn’t cost half your income because the government has a coterie of deductions and credits attached to saving and investing. Several readers were concerned I skipped, missed, or potentially mislead readers by leaving out certain possibilities. I made a conscious choice in my presentation. I fully understand what I skipped and with good reason. To add too many possibilities or circumstances starts to bog down the post. Boredom is the greatest risk I face when sharing an idea.
My worst fear is that some readers might miss the message. My motivation is to make a difference in the life of every reader who wanders this way without turning it into drudgery. It is a difficult road. Please, keep questioning my work when it doesn’t make sense. I could have made a mistake and it is easy to correct before too many people read the error. But don’t get lost in the forest for want of a good shade tree. I will never intentionally mislead you. To the best of my ability I will take a complex issue and reword it in a way that is understandable to people not active in the legal community. Always seek the concept I am offering.
The reason I am here, kind reader, is for you. If I save you a bit of money: awesome; if I cut your taxes a tad: excellent; if I get a smile while I do it: priceless.