Shouldn’t it be about the facts?
Even as US Secretary of State John Kerry joined 174 other countries in signing the “Paris Agreement” intended to combat global warming, at a signing ceremony at the United Nations in New York last week, Republicans were digging in their heels. Leaving many to wonder what changes will be in store if a Republican wins the upcoming presidential election.
If you’re like the majority of Americans you cheered the warmer-than-usual temperatures that most of us had this winter. Less ice. Less snow. Lighter weight jackets. But if you’re a skier, skater, environmentalist or polar bear, you might feel altogether differently. Were the balmier temperatures just good luck –or the result of global warming?
Well, that seems to be the crux of the matter -- and the answer could depend on whom you ask. And the response might surprise you –because that answer might be based more on which political party they support than on scientific fact. So how did that happen?
It seems that somewhere along the line the facts got confused with public (or personal) opinion – and just like the game of “telephone,” the original message has a way of getting lost as information get passed from person to person. And as with most partisan issues, the conservative view seems to get more conservative and the liberal view becomes even more liberal. Never the twain shall meet -- unfortunately.
Scientific facts compiled by NASA and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were published in Scientific American last fall along with a list of firmly held opinions -- that fall on both sides of the discussion.
According to NASA, evidence that Earth is experiencing global warming include:
- Warmer ocean temperatures
- Record high temperatures worldwide
- A rise in sea level
- Shrinking ice mass and glaciers
- Less snow cover
And among the opinions cited by Scientific American:
- We need to take powerful steps now to reduce the use of fossil fuel to avert catastrophe
- Climate change is responsible for weather events that have already occurred -- ranging from hurricanes to droughts
- Natural gas is good for the environment
- Fracking (for natural gas) is bad for the environment
How did it all get so mixed up? Remember Lady Bird Johnson’s “Don’t Be a Litterbug” campaign in the 1960s? Well, she may have been a Democrat, but the beautification of America was something we could all get behind. The same could be said for the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and he Endangered Species Act of the early 1970s.
And then as one decade morphed into the next, Democrats and Republicans moved further left and further right –creating Party causes and opinions that were often politically based and polar opposites.
And the rest has become one big vicious circle. A simple explanation? Maybe. But as each Party expresses their beliefs – in this case, the Democrat’s support of taking action to control the effects of climate change – the other Party automatically does whatever it can to stop it.
And financial support, fundraising and lobbying – on both sides – didn’t help to bring about any mutual understanding or compromise on the global warming issue.
In fact, it was just the opposite. Billionaire entrepreneurs, Charles and David Koch exerted considerable influence among conservative legislators regarding climate change.Five years ago, Rolling Stone listed the brothers among the top 12 people most instrumental in blocking global warming legislation. Koch Industries, founded by their father, Fred, got its start in the refining industry before expanding to become the multi-billion dollar conglomerate that it is today. But that isn’t the only reason the brothers are against the global warming movement. Fred Koch was notoriously apprehensive about the government controlling private companies – so he, and later his sons, worked hard to prevent that from happening.
According to Rolling Stone, to that end, the Koch brothers have contributed to Americans for Prosperity, a group that’s been associated with the GOP Tea Party movement as well as donating major funds to conservative think tanks and spending $38 million to lobby against climate change legislation.
And as money flows to fund campaigns -- of both Republicans and Democrats -- politicians are encouraged to support the causes of their donors. It’s only natural that the recipient comes to believe the cause they’re now supporting. Which makes the other side all the more against that cause. And so it goes.
So while we’re seeing the polar ice sheets get smaller and the storms here at home become more frequent and severe, climate change is left to our legislators to resolve. Unfortunately, the science behind the issue often takes a backseat to the money behind the politicians.