Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Polarization of Climate Change

We have entered a huge public debate concerning climate change. The science is irrefutable, and yet we have this enormous debate. Some of it is understandable. The fossil fuel industry fears it has a lot to lose, so it is funding denier agencies to the tune of about $70 million per year to keep it going. Still, there is more to it than that. I have long believed that much of the debate has nothing to do with science and more to do with politics. A recent article I saw in the Wall Street Journal supports my case.

The Wall Street Journal is an excellent paper and is the go-to source for news on business. However, they have taken a very severe climate change denier position, often making very unsubstantiated claims, such as this editorial here. This one was bad enough to motivate a response, written by Jerry Melillo, the chair of the independent Federal Advisory Committee that produced the National Climate Assessment. The WSJ, for whatever reason, included a response by a Weldon Wilson of Sherman Oaks, CA. I did some searching and the only Weldon Wilson I found in Sherman Oaks, CA is the chair of an insurance company. How this makes Mr. Wilson credible enough to debate climate change with Dr. Melillo is beyond me. But, let's look at Mr. Weldon's last statement,

I for one prefer to leave my grandchildren with the risk from fossil fuels rather than the consequences of the Obama agenda.

Whaaat? The Obama agenda?

To keep the facts straight, manmade climate change has been an active topic since the early 1980s, at the very least. That was long before Obama ever showed up. But, I think this statement illustrates much of the problem at hand - agreeing that we are changing the climate equates to agreeing with Obama in the minds of many people.

For the record, I am not a fan of Obama at all. He did not get elected with my vote. If I was to go off and voice my opinion of him I'm afraid the things I have to say about him would result in the Secret Service knocking on my door to ask me some questions.

But, climate change is not about Obama and it is not about Al Gore, either. It is about the science and the science is undeniable. Really, the only possible way for anyone to deny man made global warming is to reject science. The science has nothing to do with any individual or political party. But, we have managed to make it look like it does.

In the minds of too many people, climate change means Obama. Denying climate change means the Republicans. This is too bad for the Republicans. I'm not a Republican either, so it doesn't really bother me that they are driving over a cliff. But, if the Republicans want to move forward and win elections then they need to start doing things like embracing climate change and fighting the effects it is having on the electorate. More and more people are becoming convinced it is real and we are at fault and something needs to be done. Political campaigns may get money from the fossil fuel industry, but its the people that vote and if the people reject the message it will be harder to win at the ballot box.

The real problem with that is it will simply politicize the public debate even more.

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