The Politics of Climate Change

By Alex Wagoner

Climate change is a sore topic for most Americans.  It got off to a rough start in the late 1990s when then vice president Al Gore first brought it to the main stream media’s attention and later used it as a scare tactic when he ran for president in the election of 2000. The fear of climate change or “global warming” was immediately put on the backburner as a result of 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The Great Recession of 2007-2009 also managed to keep the issue of climate change far back in the minds of the American public until it resurfaced in 2010 with the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill of 2010.  For many who were finally beginning to recover from the recession, this environmental catastrophe really made an impact on the “eco-consciousness” of the American public and influenced them to become more “green.” Today, there is a serious push coming from younger generations and the left to develop a power grid based on alternative energy, cut emissions, and restore natural habitats (made evident by the Obama-Biden energy plan and the UN’s Paris Agreement).


So, why then is it such a “sore topic” for most Americans?


There really are two sides that support this argument:

The first party that is skeptical of climate change is the conservative group of America –generally speaking, the republicans.  They typically tend to dismiss claims of imminent climate change catastrophe and they especially despise the idea that climate change is caused by humans.  There is a reason for some of the ridiculous claims that republican politicians make to discredit the idea of climate change: money.  The U.S. economy (and really the world economy) is driven by fossil fuel energy companies.  Six of the top 10 largest revenue generating companies are energy companies. From a conservative economist’s viewpoint, it’s difficult to reconcile in the short-term cutting down on an industry that drives the world economy and dumping funds into R&D of relatively inefficient systems of energy production.


That said, the evidence really is conclusive; it’s hard to ignore the facts, and many believe something must be done.


Which leads into the second party skeptical of climate change: the democrats. Though this seems completely contradictory –democrats push for climate change action and believe that it’s absolutely real—the fact is that many are skeptical as to how much governments will actually stick to their word on their goals to cut back on emissions. Another side to this skepticism is that many believe that even if the world was to cut emissions to zero by the end of this year, the damage we have done is irreparable for the foreseeable future.

Both sides obviously have their own justified skepticism; the republicans are skeptical of the science behind climate change (and really, the money), and the democrats are skeptical of how willing the government is to support the necessary change. The sad part of the pessimistic view that Americans share is that they are the least affected by climate change.


In the past climate change was most closely associated with the loss of habitats for animals.  It was a consequence that few but PETA-loving ultra-liberal conservationists sincerely felt impacted (especially when saving natural habitats comes at the sacrifice of human comfort). In states like Costa Rica, the loss of biodiversity as a result of climate change has more precedence because it has a major impact on its economy which is dependent on tourism. This pressure has even pushed Costa Rica to shoot for an unrealistic zero carbon emissions and zero emissions state by the years 2021 and 2085. Unfortunately, the U.S. hasn’t been pressured to commit to climate change reform in the past –until recently.


Within the past decade, there have been news stories emerging of small, third-world nations that are being drastically affected by climate change.  Nations like the Pacific island state of Kiribati –which is literally sinking as a result of rising sea levels—or the Inuit tribes of North America whose ground is melting beneath them, starving, drowning, and forcing them to eventually relocate. The dire situations for these indigenous people are forcing the U.S. and many other world powers to take a look at the impact emissions and climate change have on human rights of indigenous people.


The recent uptick in stories of cultures being uprooted by climate change has made it clear; climate change is no longer some theory that is made up to disrupt the economy. It’s not a political tool used for debate among parties. It’s not even something that solely affects wildlife anymore. Climate change is a serious issue that is affecting people in less-developed countries right now and will soon affect everyone if nothing is done to inhibit it. Countries like Costa Rica and starting to lead the way, and hopefully greater world powers are soon to follow.





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