Illustrator/ Hannah Thillman
Politicians Who Deny Climate Change? Vote Them Out.
December 13, 2018
Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Although 97 percent of scientists who study Earth’s climate agree that climate change is real, an alarming amount of politicians insist that climate change is a hoax or not a danger.
The president of the United States, himself, was quoted saying “I don’t believe it” when asked about White House findings that not only offered evidence that climate change is real but also that it will have detrimental effects on the U.S. economy, according to the BBC.
Due to this denial of scientific proof that climate change is not only real, but dangerous as well, politicians have been able to use their influence to convince the general public that climate change is not an important issue that requires legislation. Politicians have been able to misconstrue data that proves that climate change is a reality and a threat. In order to prevent the widespread denial of the science behind climate change, it is necessary to educate the public and elect government officials that are willing to listen to scientists.
Climate Change: It’s Real.
Since the beginning of industrial activities of modern civilization, the levels of carbon dioxide, one of the main causes of climate change, has dramatically risen.
Although it has been scientifically proven that carbon dioxide levels have risen, and are harmful, politicians still claim that they are not. “There isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows carbon dioxide is a harmful gas. There isn’t one such study because carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas, it is a harmless gas. Carbon dioxide is natural. It is not harmful,” Former House Representative of Minnesota, Michele Bachmann, said on the House floor on Earth Day, April 22, 2009.
Although Bachmann is correct in the fact that carbon dioxide is a part of nature, everything else is inaccurate. The atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years, according to a study done by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Earth Science Communications Team.
This rapid rise of carbon dioxide is one of the main reasons that climate change is occurring. Before the industrialization of the modern world the production of carbon dioxide was managed by the natural systems of Earth: the gases were absorbed and emitted at a steady rate. Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been creating more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere can absorb.
Along with carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases have caused the climate to begin warming worldwide, the sea levels have began to rise, as sea ice has began to melt. Despite these changes, politicians still claim that climate change is not a threat to the environment or human welfare. “What the science says is that temperatures peaked out globally in 1998. So we’ve gone for 10 plus years where the temperatures have gone down,” congressman Jim Sensenbrenner said.
This statement is inaccurate. The average global temperature has steadily increased by about 0.8° Celsius or 1.4° Fahrenheit since 1880, according to a study done by scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Although this slight temperature rise may not seem like much, the average global temperature is an average of the entire world, not day-to-day weather conditions that are dictated by predictable cycle events. Global temperatures depend on the amount of energy that Earth receives from the sun and how much it radiates back into space, which rarely changes.
A global temperature change is significant because a slight variation can alter the entire world’s climate. If no legislation is passed to prevent the rapid release of greenhouse gases the temperature will continue to rise another 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century, according to a report by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
The global sea level has risen by about 8 inches since 1880, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This rise of sea levels is dangerous to low-lying coastal regions. Some coastal regions will experience more frequent flooding and if the elevation is particularly low the region could be completely submerged underwater.
If the rise continues at the rate it currently is, the sea level will rise another 1 to 4 feet by 2100. Climate change has a domino effect on the whole environment and if nothing is done about it the world and everyone in it will suffer.
Why Isn’t Anything Being Done? Politicians.
The general public is willing to pay attention to what politicians have to because of say due to exposure to incorrect information or endorsements from people who are considered famous can sway a person’s belief on a topic such as climate change.
Dr. Riley Dunlap, an environmental sociologist, said that the public follows “elite cues” when they form opinions on topics.
These “elite cues” are the main cause of the public believing what politicians say, without any proof. Politicians use their status as public figures to influence and misconstrue what the general public thinks about the climate change. This exposure to false information reduces people’s belief in and concern about climate change.
Along with “elite cues” and exposure to incorrect information, a person’s personal beliefs and social group can dictate what they believe about climate change. Political affiliations, worldviews, and values are significant in the shaping of people’s belief about climate change.
It is also likely that that a person will deny climate change if people in their social circle deny climate change then they will too, because the denial can be reinforced by others in their social network with similar beliefs, Huffington Post reporter Carolyn Gregoire said.
Finally, if people don’t understand how scientists reach their conclusions, it is easy for politicians to distort what scientists are actually saying. In order to prevent politicians ability to misinform the public, everyone needs to be educated on the reality of climate change and the effects that it has on the world around them.
Educating the entirety of the population about climate change would be impossible, but teaching students about it will ensure that the next generation is aware of the effects of climate change and ways to prevent it. The science behind climate change could be incorporated into school curriculum quite easily by means of the Earth science courses that are taught in most public schools.
Along with teachings in schools, a former meteorology professor, David D. Houghton, began giving presentations at schools, church groups, university classes, and community service organizations around the country to inform the public about climate change. This method could be used to inform the part of the public that are not schooled aged. Hopefully, once the public is informed about climate change, politicians will feel pressure to do something to prevent it.
Despite the overwhelming evidence from studies and visible changes in the environment that show that climate change is real, there is still a refusal to pass any legislation that would help prevent it. The reasons behind this is that politicians choose to ignore the evidence supporting climate change because of personal agendas and the financial backing that fossil fuel businesses donate to their campaigns.
Oil and gas companies donate a monumental amount of money to candidates that are associated with them. During the 2012 election cycle oil and gas companies donated $72.7 million to congressional candidates that were associated with these industries. The sheer amount of financial backing is reason enough for politicians to be leery about passing legislation that would help prevent the companies, that essentially pay for their campaigns, to lose money.
In order to stop climate change politicians must be willing to put aside personal affiliations with oil and gas companies and be willing to listen to scientists. If politicians don’t make a change, it is up to citizens to vote them out and vote for politicians who will listen to science and ignore personal affiliations.
Climate change is not only real, but a threat to the population and the environment. The atmospheric carbon dioxide parts per million at an all time high, sea ice is melting, the global temperature is rising, and the sea levels are rising, and still politicians refuse to pass any legislation that would help put an end to climate change. Along with not doing anything to prevent climate change, politicians use their influence to convince people that climate change is not real. The public needs to know the reality of climate change.
Otherwise, our world will never be the same.