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There are few issues in America today that cause as much polarized debate as the following two dirty words: climate change. There are no current mainstream Republican presidential candidates that publicly support the notion that climate change is the result of human actions. Donald Trump claims that climate change is a conspiracy invented by the Chinese in order to “destroy American industry.” Ted Cruz believes that climate change is myth fabricated by liberals. Ben Carson stated that there is no significant evidence to suggest that climate change is a man-made problem.
Other former and current Republican candidates have acknowledged and accepted the science behind climate change, yet they have not prioritized it. In a similar vein, Marco Rubio stated that there is no point in the United States attempting to reduce its carbon emissions unless other nations do the same. “But,” he added, “they wont.”
Regardless, climate scientists from every corner of the world are overwhelmingly in agreement that climate change is indeed real, and is largely the result of human actions. Weather stations around the world have been collecting data for researchers – Carbon dioxide levels have increased significantly since the Industrial Revolution; the earth is now one degree Celsius warmer now than it was in pre-industrial times.
There are many naysayers that do accept the data pointing to the existence of climate change, yet they remain unconvinced that it is in fact the consequence of human actions. Skeptics will often times point to the “occasional anomaly in a particular data set, as if one incongruity gainsays all the other lines of evidence.” Along these lines, an out-of-the-ordinary snowstorm does not automatically contradict all evidence of climate change. In fact, a warmer atmosphere actually holds onto more moisture, so snow storms and other weather events involving extreme precipitation may become more common in the future. The belief that climate and weather are indistinguishable may perhaps be the most prevalent climate-change fallacy; climate is the average daily weather over a long period of time, and therefore it is nearly impossible to determine whether climate change caused a single weather event on a given day.
Should the human race not actively work to reduce its carbon footprint, the results could be disastrous for the future. Nearly 70 percent of species could go extinct if temperatures begin to increase by more than three degrees Celsius per year. Glaciers will continue to melt, sea levels will rise and extreme weather conditions such as tornadoes and hurricanes could become more commonplace.
The Republican party holds an overwhelming number of America’s climate-change deniers, and evidence suggests that science may not be the sole reason as to why. Currently 56 percent of Republicans in Congress flat-out deny the existence of climate change. One reason for this could be “confirmation bias,” or the verification of pre-existing beliefs and simultaneous disregard for conflicting evidence. Or perhaps cognitive dissonance comes into play. For example:
“If a business leader has a vested financial interest in fossil fuels, there’s a good chance he wont want to acknowledge the threat of climate change, because doing so would force him to address some uncomfortable questions about how he might be contributing to environmental destruction.”
Furthermore, skeptic groups sometimes receive funding from companies (for example, oil conglomerates like Exxon Mobile) that have vested interests in disproving climate change.
The United States is unique in its divided views on climate change. Apart from Australia, there is no other country that has such a large group of skeptics. Americans just aren’t thinking that far into the future; their priorities lie in more immediate threats and concerns, such as the economy or terrorism. Two-thirds of Americans do support the notion of the United States joining a binding international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it is seen as a low priority for most.
It is thought that climate change acceptance may be driven in part by a generational gap, much like social issues such as gay marriage or racial justice. If this is the case, might future generations be more accepting of the scientific evidence that the rest of the world has already recognized? Only time will tell, but unfortunately the research shows that the earth isn’t getting any cooler.
Photo courtesy of Huffington Post