Political Perspective of Global Warming
The United States of America is governed with a democratic system. However, the members that the American public have voted into office disagree on various issues that occur in the world, from the economy to the environment. Over the years, it appears that certain politicians have differing opinions on global warming than scientists who research global warming and its effects on the Earth in the near and distant future. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “the scientific evidence of global warming is unequivocal.”1 Global warming is defined as the current and continuous increase in the mean world temperature near the surface of the Earth.2 The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that the cause of the warming is the increased concentrations of greenhouse gases that are in the atmosphere.2 This increase in the global average temperature is worrisome, as atmospheric conditions around the world have begun and are going to change as a result.
The American public has heard the information and the scientific evidence on climate change and many believe that climate change is an actual disastrous event that will negatively affect the Earth. A study done by researchers at Yale and George Mason University have determined that two in three registered voters think that global warming is happening.3 However, some American politicians do not perceive the idea global warming as a threat, but rather believe that global warming is a hoax that science is trying to make real with misconstrued data. A study done by a research at Yale University wrote, “ Successive U.S. presidents and congressional leaders have been at odds with much of the world’s community regarding the reality, seriousness, and the need for vigorous action on climate change [and on global warming].” 4 Due to this disregard for the issue, the politicians do not prioritize creating and passing any legislation that would promptly result in attempting to slow and even stop the onset of global warming. Examples of politicians who do not believe that global warming is occurring, include current presidential candidates: Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum.5 Probably, the most apparent disdain for the science of global warming comes from Senator Jim Inhofe, who infamously brought in a snowball to the Senate floor to indicate that global warming cannot be happening as there is snow on the ground in Washington DC, and it is extremely cold outside at this time.6 As these politicians have exemplified, the perspective of conservative politicians is inaccurate, and therefore needs to be reevaluated based on the scientific evidence.
This issue needs to be addressed as these politicians may be end up leading the nation, or just create legislation that will affect the future of the nation. If the issue of global warming is not addressed, the Earth’s climate will drastically change due to the significant increase in temperature which is mostly human created, and the level is increasing at rates that have not been seen in the past 1,300 years.7 Figure 1, shown below, shows the rates of the increase of CO2 levels for the past 400,000 years.
Figure 1: A graph of Atmospheric Samples of CO2 levels from ice cores, which indicate that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen to extremely high levels recently.7
If this warming trend continues, the impacts that would occur would affect millions of people around the world. Sea levels and the global temperature would rise, the oceans would warm, the ice sheets would shrink and the Arctic sea ice would decline.7 Additionally, glaciers would retreat, numerous natural disasters would occur throughout the world, the ocean would acidify, and snow cover would decrease.7 . As the oceans get warmer, they are able to absorb less CO2 and therefore the carbon cycle is interrupted.8 With the melting of the ice from Antarctica and Greenland, enough water would be in the oceans to flood the coastal cities.8 Bangladesh will be submerged, and more than 100 million people will have to relocate as their countries get flooded.8 Figure 2, shown below, displays the trend in the mean average temp over three time spans: 10 years, 20 years, and 50 years.
Figure 2: The Linear Trend of the Mean Annual Temperature of the Earth During Different Time Spans
Many people are impacted by this cause, and look towards the politicians to be knowledgeable and aid in passing legislation that would reduce greenhouse emissions, thereby stopping global warming. The statewide significance of global warming is that the dynamic climate changes as the effect of global warming increases and it would cause much more natural disasters and bizarre events in areas that would normally not experience this type of weather. Some politicians have attempted to produce legislation in order to stop global warming, as well as to reduce greenhouse emissions. However, this has only be done by mostly Democrats, and Liberal Republicans, while the Conservative Republicans have continuously denied that any action has to taken to counteract global warming because it is a “junk science.”
Scientists gather their data and information and tell politicians about the information they have found. However, if no actions are done, due to the personal beliefs of the politicians, the model and the scientists are blamed for misinforming the politicians and the media.9 This is the basis of why most conservative Republicans do not agree to legislation that would reduce the effects of global warming. Additionally, climate change legislation is usually delayed as the politicians need more proof that global warming is or is not occurring in the world today.9 Politicians who oppose this idea of global warming have generated ideas that would support their misinterpreted view of the issue. A few examples of the arguments against the threat of global warming, made by politicians who perceive the science of global warming to be a “junk science” follow.5 Jeb Bush states “I think the science has been politicized. … The last six years we’ve actually had mean temperatures that are cooler.”5 The past six years have been warmer than expected.5 Ted Cruz’s thoughts on global warming are “ You know, back in the ‘70s, … we were told there was global cooling, and everyone was told global cooling was a really big problem. And then that faded. [“Climate change, as they have defined it, can never be disproved, because whether it gets hotter or whether it gets colder, whatever happens, they’ll say, well it’s changing, so it proves our theory.”]5
However, the majority of the politicians do understand that global warming is a threat, and therefore laws were created to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and to stop the threat of global warming. There are many arguments in support of potential resolutions. From the 1979 World Climate Conference, “Carbon dioxide plays a fundamental role in determining the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere, and it appears plausible that an increased amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can contribute to a gradual warming.”10 Al Gore in his acceptance speech for his Nobel Peace Prize noted that “The penalties for ignoring this challenge are immense and growing, and at some near point would be unsustainable and unrecoverable.”10 Science itself has given the world evidence that global warming is occurring, and if it continues unheeded, the world will change for millions of people as well as animals. This is why, the United States, and other nations around the world, had developed the Kyoto Protocol, in which the industrialized nations of the world had to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 1997.10 The United States withdrew their participation in the Kyoto Protocol, under the presidency of George W. Bush, because “more of the burden for reducing emissions [is] on industrialized nations, rather than the developing ones.” 10 Other legislation that has been passed on climate change, by the politicians who believe that climate change is a threat, are the American Power Act of 2010, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, the Low Carbon Economy Act of 2007 (Parts 1 and 2), and the Clean Air Planning Act of 2005.11 The results of these laws are cleaner air and newer forms of energy for the public to utilize, and the creation of the Energy Technology Deployment Fund for low to nonexistent levels of carbon energy technologies.11
The constraints that would limit the range of alternatives to this issue are the conservative Republicans’ perception of climate change, the economic costs of creating new departments or technologies to help reduce carbon emissions, and the limits to the adaptation of climate change regulations, such as the desire for people to stay where they are, and the balance of the ecosystems of the Earth.12 The risks and ramifications of not having all the politicians agree that climate change is an issue, and therefore having arguments against the legislation that is on the table occur in the courtroom. The sooner actions are taken to stop climate change and all the politicians agree with the idea that climate change is a threat, the sooner more legislation can be passed in which greenhouse gas emissions and climate change can be addressed and slowed, or even stopped completely. Many organizations, such as NASA, NOAA, and the EPA are able to inform people about the threat of global warming, as well as the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee can also inform the senators and representatives about the climate change that is occurring.13
Figure 3: The Percentage of Difference Between Democrat and Republican Responses on Issues facing the world.14
A recommendation that would be able to change the politicians’ perspectives on global climate change would be having voters support candidates who recognize the threat of global warming, and are willing to endorse and encourage other lawmakers to accept the reality of climate change. The likelihood of someone getting into the Senate, the House, or the White House, if they support the idea that global warming is a threat and realize that actions need to be taken to counteract it, are higher than the likelihood of someone who does not believe in this, and will not take action for it, Additionally, another way for these politicians to see the effects that global warming has on the Earth is to have them act as scientists for a day in the labs where the effects of global warming are studied, and to show them the data as well as models of what would happen if global warming was able to continue in the world. These recommendations would address the issue as the candidates who desire to be President should be able to address issues that would affect the Earth currently, as well as in the future. Current presidential candidates already discuss fiscal issues, and international relations, so addressing one more global issue such as the warming of the earth should not be that much more. Also,
having politicians become environmental scientists by taking them to the labs and having them run the experiments to get data and examine the models, would be beneficial for the global warming deniers to see what is happening and what the data indicates will happen if nothing is done to stop it. One opposing argument is that politicians are not scientists. However, if they are able to experience and see for themselves the effects of global warmings, which are presented in a way that would be able to understand, this valid statement should not be an obstacle in the politician’s understanding of climate change.
Supporting climate change would affect the financial support of many candidates due to the fact that many of the financial supporters of the current presidential candidates do not support the idea of climate change and therefore, may withdraw their financial backing of the candidates. Having politicians act as environmental scientists may utilize money that the labs, as well as the government has, to allow them to interact with the labs where global warming is occurring, and to present the information to them in a manner in which they would be able to understand the information coherently. These actions will additionally revert the politics that surround the issue of global warming back to a time when both parties were able to work together on stopping this issue. This time was 2005 to 2009, where both Democrats and Republicans were able to work together and create legislation that decreases the carbon footprint of America, as well as reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The only political implications that could occur are that every lawmaker is able to understand what global warming will do to the planet in the future, realize that the science is not politicized or misconstrued in any way, and create more legislation that will be passed in order to stop the onset of global warming.
In order to have the politicians on the same page of the topic of global warming, a committee should be established that would help the politicians become environmental scientists and see how the global warming affects the earth and the people. This committee would also create models that would show the effects of the legislation for global warming actually affect the planet and the people as well. A committee similar to this exists already, although it publishes the report on climate change, and does not aid other politicians in helping to understand the science behind the results. This would resolve the issue, as the idea of global warming would be framed in the minds of the politicians and therefore it would be easier to have both parties and all the politicians agree on the same point: that global warming is an imminent threat and that it needs to be addressed immediately, rather than in the future, when its effect may become irreversible. The benefits of having this occur would include: a shorter amount of time to pass climate control legislation, the improvement of the nation-state’s economies due to the new legislation, a clear notion of what global warming really is, and how it affects the population and the Earth.
The risks for this issue are that mainly fiscal, as most of the money that is distributed throughout the government comes from conservative families and supporters who want to use their wealth to create their idea of a perfect world. If all of the politicians start to agree that climate change is a threat and it needs to be addressed, most of that money would be withdrawn from the government, and therefore, the government will not have enough resources to run all of its programs. The opposing arguments are that global warming is occurring because of natural cycles, and is not caused by manmade activities, and there is no consensus among the scientists that have been studying this.
The solution is that a committee of scientists that assists the lawmakers in becoming environmental scientists for a while, which would enable the lawmakers to see how the world changes with the onset of global warming. The political parties would implement this committee of scientists after objectively viewing their work and studies in the lab. These scientists would then take members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives and have them participate and run a model which shows the effects of global warming, as well as the effects of the legislation that would start to reduce the effects of global warming. This way the politicians can see for themselves how the climate would change as the different legislations were passed concerning global warming and greenhouse gas emissions. The time frame for implementing this solution should take about a half a year to do. Within two months, the new committee should be established, with all of the correct paperwork that is processed, and then within the next month, scientists should be picked for positions on the committee. These scientists will start to work in the committee and collaborate on their research, before they are able to discuss their ideas with the lawmakers, within the next few months. After that, lawmakers would be able to become environmental scientists, look at the different models of the earth under the different conditions and work with the scientists to produce legislation that would reduce the effects of global warming and its impact on the future of the planet. The successful implementation of this committee would yield a result of all lawmakers agreeing that global warming is imminent and that action needs to be taken to reduce human activities that accelerate global warming. The recommendation will be documented in a committee report that would discuss which lawmakers were involved, how they interacted with the program, their thoughts on global warming after seeing the effects, and how the program led to new legislation.
The new committee would need to be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate through a majority vote. This solution would need to be presented to a group of state lawmakers, and then to the United States Senate and House of Representatives. One would need to create meetings and schedule times with their lawmakers in order to implement this plan.
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- “Basics.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/basics/>.
- Leiserowitz, Anthony, Edward Maibach, Connie Roser-Renouf, Geoff Feinburg, and Seth Rosenthal. Politics & Global Warming, Spring 2014. Yale School of Forestry. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <http://environment.yale.edu/climate-communication/files/Politics_and_Global_Warming.pdf>.
- Leiserowitz, Anthony. Climate Change Risk Perception & Policy Preferences: The Role of Affect, Imagery, & Values. Yale School of Forestry. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <http://environment.yale.edu/climate-communication/files/LeiserowitzClimaticChange.pdf>.
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- Bump, Phillip. “Jim Inhofe’s Snowball Has Disproven Climate Change Once and for All.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2015. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/02/26/jim-inhofes-snowball-has-disproven-climate-change-once-and-for-all/>.
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