Naysayers, don’t risk planet

Published 12:07 pm Friday, October 17, 2014

Between Ebola and ISIS and the Russians reminding the world they still live in the last century there has been little else in our media the past two weeks. While each of these events is worthy of reporting, all of them may well amount to far less than another crisis that captures little of our attention: global climate change.

A Gallup poll in September found climate change to be the last of 13 issues Americans were asked to rank in terms of importance. This spring a Gallup poll found only 36 percent of Americans think climate change will alter their way of life.

The truth is some Americans either do not care about climate change, do not believe it is occurring, or do not believe it is accelerating due to human activity, or do not believe humans can do anything to alter climate changes.

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And, when analyzed in a recent (2013) Pew Research Center survey it seems that those who deny that climate change may be a “major threat” to the planet tend to self-identify as Republicans in relatively large numbers. According to the Pew study only 25 percent of Republicans view climate change as a serious threat. And among Republicans, Tea Party members tend to be even less convinced of the serious nature of climate change. Only 10 percent of Tea Party members think the climate to be a major threat to the planet.

The Republican skepticism tends to track with the less wealthy countries surveyed and the less democratic countries.

Developed nations, richer nations and western democracies tend to have considerably more support for the prospect that climate change matters and is indeed a major threat to the planet.

Great Britain sees climate change as major with 48 percent agreeing. In Canada 54 percent agree; Japan 72 percent; South Korea 85 percent. Sixty-five percent of American Democrats agree with the seriousness of climate change.

This raises the question: Is the objection to climate change a political rather than a scientific issue in the U.S?

Well, certainly it suggests that among all the countries polled on the planet Republicans are either in the informed groups like Pakistan and Egypt, or they are outliers to the convictions of the rest of the developed world.

In seeking the truth we need not dig too deeply. The list of scientific bodies, commissions, associations and entities is extraordinary in its length and credentials. As of the writing the list of major climate focused affiliated groups denying climate change is standing firm at zero.

Deniers advance a petition of 31,000 scientists, members of the American Meteorological Association, that claim there is no evidence of man-made climate change.

But of course meteorologists are not climate scientists so their expertise is far from credible. Further, to participate in the study one only needed to have a bachelor’s degree in science, making the 31,000 number representative of 0.3 percent of such degrees in the U.S.

Why would anyone hold a political position on an issue central to the human lives, the world economy and the future of the planet?

One reason would be if you think science to be little more than magic, as pliable as fiction novels, and as corrupt as Tony Soprano. Certainly there are those in America who have taken this position.

Another reason might be the distrust of what acceptance of climate change might mean in our response on the planet; a climate response that could and should change energy resources in a major way sooner rather than later. And this response could be considered as a “punishment” to business interests and their very profitability.

The more cynical reason might be simply that “folks who vote like me do not support these truths so neither do I.”

But to risk the very planet for any of these reasons?



Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.