Climate change is a fact, a phenomenon that has been proven innumerable times with a wealth of empirical data and a consensus within the scientific community. Despite the clear truth in the theory, in recent years, some Americans have begun to question this man-made phenomenon. This has largely been the work of Republican Party politicians, who, lobbied by companies who depend on profits from oil and gas industries, have publicly become increasingly skeptical of the very real problem of climate change.
Amazingly, even after a number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico pounded the US coast, climate change deniers have stood by their claims saying we should stop trying to “politicize” these natural disasters by linking them to global warming. This pushback underscores the partisanship that has developed around climate change. These hurricanes and other natural disasters, while not caused by climate change alone, are increasing in frequency and magnitude as temperatures rise worldwide. In other words, things are bad and are getting worse as a result of man’s impact on the environment.
During previous presidencies, climate change had been battled by limitations on carbon dioxide emissions in addition to restrictions on fishing, construction, and other activities that could permanently damage the environment. However, just within the first six months of Trump’s term, many of these policies and laws have been dismantled by his administration simply because of partisanship and self-interest.
The main cause of this Republican partisanship on climate change can be attributed to the party’s debt to large gas and oil companies. This dependence is clearly demonstrated through Trump’s cabinet appointment of Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil. This is one of many examples of conflicts of interest. Insiders in the Trump administration have incentives to relax controls on climate-harming behaviors.
One such cabinet member is Scott Pruitt, American lawyer, Republican politician from the state of Oklahoma, and now administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). His has subjected his department to cuts, and many of his actions appear to be influenced by his denial of climate change. As the head of the EPA, he is the chief enforcer and policy maker tasked with looking out for the interests of the environment. Despite this position, Pruitt has bluntly stated that he does not believe in climate change.
This is not to say all Republicans deny climate change, but it is the case that a large number in the Party have shown no concern for the environment. We can see this in studies such as that performed by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington DC, that found that only 20 percent of US Republicans say that climate change is a serious issue. On a global stage, this low percentage of Republicans is embarrassing as the same study found the global median to be 54 percent. Still, this global median is alarmingly low and is a representation of how far down the wrong path we have come. However, there are definitive measures and examples of how we could improve our country, and ultimately the world, in a better direction.
California’s state government is a great example of how we should be approaching climate change. They have passed innovative and meaningful legislation over the past decade. One interesting development emerging from their climate-conscious approach is the Carbon Cap program. This program, according to The Washington Post, “is built into California’s existing cap-and-trade system, a carbon-pricing initiative that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by placing a ceiling on the amount of carbon companies are allowed to emit and penalizing those that exceed the limit.” This legislation has been instrumental in the cutting of California’s carbon emissions to below their goal. According to Jeffery Greenblatt, a scientist at the Depart of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley Lab, “not only will California meet its 2020 reduction goals under AB 32, but it could achieve reductions of at least 40 percent below that level in the 2030 time frame.” If legislation and policies similar to those in California were implemented on a national scale, the benefits would be of even greater significance.
Other solutions lie in renewable energy, especially in developing solar energy. Solar panels were once expensive and unattainable for much of the upper lower to middle class, but now prices have been cut significantly. With greater government incentives for people switching to solar, we could reduce carbon emissions even further.
These are just a few examples that would have an enormous positive impact on the state of the environment and the future of our planet. However, none of these solutions will change anything if we as a country can’t set aside our politics. Politicians must realize that what is at stake is far more important than any corporation or lobbying effort.