Climate change has become a hugely polarizing issue in our society. However, for those that firmly believe in its threat it seems impossible that people are not responding or even believing in the dangers and reality of climate change. There is a lot of scientific data on the issue and there is a lot of media coverage on the issue. Both sources tell us climate change is real and posses a huge threat. Despite this the public opinion in the US and globally remains split. In this project I want to explore first why it is so divided and second what can be done to unify people so that we can address climate change with all our resources; thats what its going to take in order to solve this problem.
Check out this survey and results as you go:
Check out a podcast I conducted about creating discussions around climate change and avoiding sanctimonious actions.
2:35- 9:45- Jannet Lotawa talks about the history of colonialism and how it is problematic when addressing climate change in the developing nation of Fiji and elsewhere.
10:00-20:20- Dr. Caryn Abery talks about how the earths system is so complex that arrogance when addressing climate change will lead only to further problems.
20:30-End- Doctor Michael Town talks about the very issue of lack of understanding in our discussions with each other about climate change and how we need to share our stories and make an open community around climate change that celebrates action without assaulting inaction. P.S. This is the interview that inspired the topic of this whole project.
Divider One: Ideology/ Religion
The history of earth and life on earth dates back scientifically millions of year. However, for many of the major religions on earth this timeline is much much shorter. Religion is wide spread globally with only about 16.3% of the population unaffiliated with a religious group. That means that 83.7% of the world belong to religious groups. Groups that often, but not always, contradict the scientific view on the history, system and impacts of the natural world. Now religion on its own does not hinder peoples willingness to accept climate change. So the answer to getting everyone on board with climate change isn’t to get rid of religion. In fact I believe it is quite the opposite. The are a large number of demographics within the US alone that are religious affiliated and concerned about climate change. The two are not mutually exclusive as hispanic Catholics in the US have one of the highest percentages believers that humans are responsible for climate change (77%) of any demographic. That is much higher than the national average of about 50% believing in human cause, 23% that it is naturally caused, 25% that there is no evidence it is even happening, and 2% don’t know (numbers from 2014) On the other hand demographics such as the White evangelicals are far less likely to believe in climate change than the national average. 37% of white evangelicals believe there is no solid evidence on climate change. This is hugely problematic for all our efforts against climate change. Therefore, groups like that should be targeted for action, not through demeaning them or demonizing them. Rather, we should look to engage with them and find ways to involve them in climate activism while respecting their belief systems. If we go out and attack their beliefs and religions we will only drive them away from the discussion which benefits no one.
Divider Two: Political Polarization
Political polarization has been a driving force behind this divide over climate change. For decades Democrats have criticized and attacked republicans for not accepting climate change and for decades republicans have attacked and criticized Democrats on their belief in climate change. The end result has been no real change in our political policy on climate change federally in over a decade. However, recently we have started to see a shift in political actions an attitudes. Under the Trump administration he has rallied against climate change and the scientific community calling climate change a hoax. Contrarily, the public response was not in his favor but rather a jump to the highest percent of climate change believers in american history at 73%. This is a huge step in the right direction but there is still a long way left to go. It is encouraging to see these numbers and especially to note that a good portion of the growth is coming from the republican side, traditionally on the opposite side of this issue. Young republicans are becoming increasingly more concerned and receptive to climate issues than older republicans.
It is essential for climate change to transcend political lines if we truly want to address it. As we’ve seen we are getting closer to this goal but it is essential that we keep the pressure on both sides to address this issue. For republicans it means increasing the interest of their representative in supporting their issue. Republican voters will be far more inclined to listen to the reality of climate change. On the other side Democrats can continue to push the issue but not at the expense of republicans. Using the issue to attack republicans and undermine them will only work against us. If Climate change is used as a weapon it will only cause more of a divide and continue to rally republicans against it. Therefore, it is essential that work on climate change is done to support the spread of concern and support on both sides, not as a way to attack the other.
Currently we are seeing the Democratic side push forward a plan called the Green New Deal (GND) to promote widespread action on climate change. Parts of the plan are really promising for reaching both sides of the aisle. The climate regulations and aid and job creation would be likely supported by Democrats and republicans a like. However, it is clumped in with other issues around health care and social inequality and while these are important issues to address they are also polarizing. By including them with climate change it could end up polarizing the entire package and risk losing votes from the other side. This would be a tragic loss since there is so much good in the GND. We need to move climate change to the top of the headlines and issues on both sides of the aisle, this will mean that we have to keep it separate from other polarizing topic. However, that’s the only way anything will be done politically about it. It starts at the lowest levels government officials need to hear from voters that they care about climate change and are willing to make the sacrifices needed to do it. If you look at the map on the website below you will see some surprising numbers about how ready and willing people actually are to take political action on climate change.
Explore this map made by Yale University making concern and support for and against climate change and policies around it by county in the US.
Divider three: the Media
Ah the media. The media has been the focal point of many cultural, ideological and political confrontations in recent years. There is a growing issue around the reliability of the media and from it the term “Fake News”. Fake news has completely split public opinion on the media for better or worse. I understand the criticism of many major news outlets for their political leaning and at times propaganda like messaging. However, we still need the media and there is still good journalism. We need the media because it is the bridge between the scientific community and their findings and the general public. This is essential to the issue of climate change because a lot of the issue isn’t that people don’t believe, it’s just that they don’t know whats really going on. In the Yale map it is easy to see that still roughly 50% of the population don’t even think the scientific community is on board with climate change. This is huge problem because if people don’t even believe scientist are in agreement why should them themselves be in agreement. Part of the issue is that Climate change simply is too big of an issue for people to really grasp or want to hear about. Its like death or an existential crisis. It can be real and a threat but its so imposing no one wants to think or talk about it. It is also just not as sexy as the big media stories of immigration, terrorism and crime that flood our media. And this is not just the media’s fault. It doesn’t make sense for them to report on news that no ones interested or stories that won’t get viewers. The way to change this is not just making the media report the story but by creating viewership and dialogue about it.
Creating a Discussion
“If we can’t even talk about climate change, we certainly will never be able to fix it.”
DR. JAMES MCCLINTOCK
Read this article and see the tips the author provides for having a successful conversation about climate change. Conversation is how we build understanding and empathy to bridge ideological gaps, religious or political. The fact is that no one wants the world to suffer because of climate change. Everyone cares about their world and the people that share it with them and will do whatever it takes to protect it from threats. Republican or Democrat; christian or atheist, it doesn’t matter as long as we make climate change about people and protecting our planet. Not a debate not a fight amongst ourselves but a common goal. We are all seeing and experiencing climate change and so it is paramount that we share our stories and experiences to create a full dialogue so we may address the issue of climate change. This is a discussion that must happen now not in five or ten years but right now and it cannot stop. even if we avoid the 1.5 warming the conversation must continue so we can be united as responsible stewards of our planet.
A Question for you: How will you contribute to or start a discussion, not an argument, not an opportunity to prove someone else wrong, but a disscusion with another person about climate change?