When I first read this prompt, I had to ask myself “is there really that big of a gap between the two parties regarding climate change?”, well, yes, there is. This, however, is not the only view dividing the left from the right. According to Pew Research Center, the difference between the views of Republicans and Democrats regarding American Values has grown from 10 points in 1987, to 18 points in 2012. Most of this change has occurred since 2002, where the mean difference was 11, only one point higher than in 1987. This partisan gap extends not only to specific parties, but also shows similar trends for independents who lean in either direction. The fact is, the schism is growing. This pattern holds true when we look at how each party feels when asked should we place more or less priority on environmental protection. Interestingly enough, the change in the divide has been largely due to the Republican shift towards placing less priority on the environment. When we look specifically at data concerning global warming, we see the numbers represent an even larger divide [democrats who believe there is substantial evidence supporting global warming (87%) v. republicans (44%)]. Answering why this divide exists is a whole different story.
I haven’t found a solid answer as to why the two sides are so divided, but for the most part I think it is a sort of domino effect. Each side is being forced to take a definite stand on single-party issues such as gay rights, abortion, and of course, climate change. As political elites on either end of the spectrum take a specific side concerning the validity of global warming, it seems like members of their corresponding parties seem to adopt those views as their own. Perhaps this is why while majority (69%) of American’s believe that climate change is occurring, this number has been decreasing in recent years (as the political divide has grown). Maybe we can also link this political divide to the recent priority given to our economic standing resulting from the Great Recession. Specifically, the decrease we have seen in Republicans view on environmental protection versus their support for stimulating our “free-market” economy.
Regarding the fear that increased environmental regulations will decrease job availability and hinder economic development, well that just seems a bit dramatic. Sure, environmental regulations can, and will, constrain the market to some degree. While a lack of environmental regulations may be beneficial for the economy in the short term, it may lead us to serious issues in the future. I think many of us here would agree, that at some point, the market is going to have to account for the cost of depleting resource and increased pollution. Why not begin incorporating such policy now? Job loss due to such regulations seems beside the point considering the growth in the renewable energy business as well as the popularity of other “green” ventures has the potential to create a number of jobs, if we were to fully embrace it.
Environment and economy do not have to be separate entities, and they shouldn’t be. Changing a worldview is a difficult task, and to do so requires time, education and action. I am sure the abolishment of slavery was seen by some as an economic loss, trading free labor for free men. Now, of course, the concept of slavery is appalling and unethical. It is my hope that our view on environmental ethics will take a route similar to those we have seen regarding our ethics on human equality. Maybe one day, we will look back with confusion as to how such environmental degradation was ever justified.