Climate change dialogue is overwhelmingly present in the non-scientific community as part of popular culture, often in the form of controversy and/or a partisan political issue. In contrast, the scientific community has largely come to a consensus on climate change (see question 1 in link) and actively investigates the phenomenon with interdisciplinary support. With the release of the 2013 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report on September 27th, climate change dialogue has once again been revitalized in the public and scientific spheres.
The report contains conclusive statements that support anthropogenically accelerated climate change, such as, “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. … Human influence on the climate system is clear.”
In response to the prompt’s citation of climate change denial as present in American politics and popular culture, such dialogue is not solely dominated by non-scientists. Dr. Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric physicist and professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has openly criticized the IPCC report for, “hilarious incoherence,” about anthropogenic changes to global temperatures. He cites limitations of modeling and research that fails to prove significant global temperature rise in the last 17 years.
A variety of perspectives on climate change, including skepticism, are essential for science to continue aggressively vetting itself as it investigates and makes conclusions about climate change, an issue whose origins and catalysts are inherently nuanced.
The idea that environmental regulation is at odds with job creation and economic growth holds little water as a legitimate concern. The Clean Air Act, one of the most successful pieces of environmental legislation, is known for its environmental and economic benefits that are a direct result of unpolluted air. Similarly successful legislation includes The Clean Water Act, carbon tax credits, and cap and trade (emissions trading). In response to criticism of the EPA’s newest standards to cut emissions from power plants, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy remarked, “We have proven time after time that setting fair Clean Air Act standards to protect public health does not cause the sky to fall.” This demonstrates that there is no need for a dichotomy between the interests of environment and industry; environment and industry are mutually inclusive entities which share the benefits of sustainability efforts.
Discussing the cause of extreme partisanship on environmental legislation involves a conversation that is inclusive of scientific illiteracy, corporate interests, corporate personhood (Citizens United), increasingly polarized party platforms, the flaccid U.S. Green Party (it does not even have a representative), the innately exploitative nature of low-regulation capitalism (in the context of natural resources), and the caustic political climate that has been present since this administration was set to take office. However, I find that the conservative attitude on the environment can best be summarized by Regan’s response to public forest conservation efforts in the 60’s: “If you’ve seen one Redwood, you’ve seen them all.”
A relevant article that might be of interest to some: Republicans Block Science Laureate Vote Over Climate Change Stance Fear