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Eileen Tchao

Mrs. Thyssen
27 March 2016
The Polarization of Climate Change: Not Just Affecting the Temperature
Climate change has affected the earth and its occupants in irreversible ways. Areas that
used to be abundant with certain creatures, resources, etc. are now barren, and the pollutants that
we humans have brought upon the natural habitats of animals and the poaching we have done of
animals and their resources have brought many species near or to extinction. The very makeup of
earth’s atmosphere has changed because of human activity. These are the facts. The type of
people that believe these facts and take stock in the science of climate change, however, differ
based on ideology. This is interesting; intuitively, if something is proven with the scientific
method and through other empiric research, one would tend to believe it. This is not the case
with climate change. Recently within the United States, a polarization has occurred between
liberal and conservative leaning people and their belief of climate change. This was not always
the case, and this paper will delve into the reasons why this polarization has happened and how it
is undermining any progress that could have been made on halting climate change and reversing
the deforestation, depletion, and damage that humans have dealt to the earth. Before the common
era of polarization in politics and pairing of acceptance of climate change with liberal thought,
science was respected for its facts and accuracy. Present day political agendas have hindered
progress in climate change prevention.
The race to space, for America, was a turning point for science. Because liberals and
conservatives alike wanted to surpass the USSR/Russia and because of the Cold War, science

Science “was seen as regulatory rather than innovative”. This was the crux of the new Republican Party. instead. It has been proven through research that democrats tend not only to believe in climate change as a direct result of human activity. becoming conglomerated into the new Republican party agenda of being anti regulation. in the study’s words. but are weaker or negative for conservatives and Republicans” (Dunlap and McCright 21). but are also more educated as a whole about the topic. But by the 1970s. “the effects of educational attainment and self-reported understanding on beliefs about climate science and personal concern about global warming are positive for liberals and Democrats. conservatives saw science as the enemy: something to be feared and scrutinized instead of revered and listened to. In addition. and thus. As Clive Hamilton states. the conservative party had begun to push an antiregulatory agenda that became an umbrella which every aspect of life was shaded by. This environment has set the stage for the seemingly counterintuitive practices of parties concerning global warming and climate change. This was the start of the present day polarization between democrats and republicans about climate change.that made American achievements more impressive than those of the Russians was greatly welcomed. the new dawn of their current antiestablishment anti-regulatory anti big government spiel. becoming paired with liberal thought incompatible with conservative ideals (Baker 1). No longer were scientists experts in their field. since the conservatives had successfully paired all science with regulation because of their fixation on the Environmental Protection Agency rather than other important scientific entities such as NASA. Republicans show the opposite. . they were just another interest group with interests that did not coincide with those of the conservative coalition. Now. The government was pro-science and even acknowledged that climate change was happening as early as 1930.

Scientists themselves are affected by the politicization of climate change. Because politicians and figures that are respected as experts or elites are skeptical about climate change and still debate the facts of it’s existence. The population at large. Druckman. Essentially. this isn’t really the case. Unfortunately. “Both scientists and congressional staffers were more likely than the public to say that human-caused global warming is happening. even when there is a unanimous consensus among the scientific community about the scope and existence of climate change. Even more appalling is the finding that as conservatives become more knowledgeable . reflecting the accumulation and dissemination of scientific evidence. with around half saying warming had begun. Thus.“In 1997 there was virtually no difference between Democratic and Republican voters in their views on global warming. In 2008. Science used to be respected for what it was. and Cook 1). the population tends to follow the politicians that they trust on this important wonder why conservatives are confused. now those who think scientists have ulterior motives have bastardized it. But ideology and party identification influenced beliefs across each of the three samples — although to a lesser extent among energy scientists compared to the public and staffers” (Bolson. congress people. the population is confused. politics has gotten in the way of science when this was not always the case. One may ask or assume that voters question all this political nonsense clouding up the field of science and the facts of climate change. and even scientists themselves show partisan divide over whether they trust the scientific community’s findings about climate change or not. They don’t know whether to believe the scientists that conservatives claim have special interests and falsify information in an alarmist fashion or to disbelieve the institution and the idea entirely. This in itself is appalling. the proportion of Democratic voters taking this view had risen from 52 to 76 percent” (Hamilton 1).

the less likely they are to believe in it’s direct causation by human activity. Leaders such as President Obama and Prime Minister Blair made bold statements about the importance of combatting climate change with new industry standards and new environmentally friendly policies. these same leaders that so readily made statements about the importance of the cause did little to nothing in terms of agreeing upon policies indicative of the cause. (Bolson.about climate change. In 2009. not much was done in terms of policymaking. gun control and birth control by our political alignment. We. have been pre-conditioned to think a certain way about issues like global warming and climate change. much to the chagrin of international climate change specialists and those who care about human impact on . as Americans. Denmark to discuss the implications of climate change and to make an active commitment to slowing or stopping climate change happening because of human activity. but when it came down to it. However. No clear bold agreements were made internationally about curbing CO2 emissions or about making industry standards more environmentally friendly. set upon us by an individualistic society that teaches us that conformity to a certain group is good. This counterintuitive message. as people. and Cook 2). has stopped many from thinking logically about the issue and has made many listen to those who are not experts on climate change. in order to keep average global temperatures from rising more than 2ºc” (Salehyan and Hendrix 1). Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change unanimously urged world leaders to take drastic action and “called for limiting the level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere to below approximately 450 parts per million. international leaders met in Copenhagen. this phenomenon of downplaying climate change’s importance and debating its existence is not limited to just the United States. While world leaders considered these facts and very seriously hashed out the implications of human activity and their correlation with global warming. Druckman. abortion and same sex marriage.

Furthermore. The Copenhagen Accord promised to make drastic. the economy. the IPCC must . let alone have congress. even though it did next to nothing of the sort. but ended with “a vague commitment to limit global warming to 2ºC and to make necessary emissions cuts. can pass the drastic measures needed to combat climate change without stepping upon other interests that they have themselves. developed countries pledged to give money to less developed countries to help them combat and adapt to climate change and “governments would publically announce nonbinding targets and plans to limit carbon emissions” (Selehyan and Hendrix 33). What can be done about this growing problem? Why has every single politician shunned taking the drastic measures needed to combat this issue? These are questions that one may ask themselves about climate change. Politicians. but the international community patted itself on the back for taking steps to solve the problem.the environment. In order for this to happen. Because it is unlikely that one politician alone. and Wall Street. lobbyists. accountable for their promises to help reduce emissions and lessen human impact on the environment. not just America. The other question is not so easily answered. have ‘bigger issues’ to worry about. unless they are from the Green Party or some other one issue party only concerned about the environment. The accord was altogether weak and vague. One of two questions are easily answered. bold changes in order to combat the growing threat of climate change. accountability for governmental promises must happen. such as their own re-electability. although there was no binding enforcement mechanism for doing so” (Salehyan and Hendrix 32). Scientists must be believed. In order for anything to be done by the government on a large scale. including the president. Scientists and other constituents and even citizens must hold the governments of the world. and other constituents not block them every step of the way.

Both sides of the partisan aisle must believe in climate change.further consolidate it’s resources and do more research and studies on human impact on the environment. In order for humans to lessen their impact on the Earth. but also seemingly. worldwide. Climate change and human impact on the environment is a growing issue that will influence the earth for generations to come. Global warming is a serious issue that does not need to be hampered by politics. international agreements and governmental laws must be passed. this important problem has been politicized. not just in America. . The public does not take this issue as seriously because of the politicization of the issue and seemingly does not care as much because of this. Unfortunately.

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