Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Climate Change isn't Beetlejuice

With today being Earth Day, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the general animosity towards science in this country and specifically, towards climate change. While virtually every scientifically-minded person realizes that the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is causing some problems, many in this country claim it is a "liberal conspiracy" to get us all driving a Prius and eating kale. 

Today, President Obama has addressed this dangerous thinking while visiting the everglades, saying, "Climate change can no longer be denied." This is an obvious challenge to Florida Governor Rick Scott, who allegedly ordered state workers to avoid any mention of the phrase "climate change." 

Climate change isn't Beetlejuice; saying it three times won't make it reality. Those trying to pretend it doesn't exist are doing the entire world a disservice. While climate change deniers hide behind shoddy pseudoscience funded by oil companies, animals go extinct, the ocean swallow up entire islands and extreme weather continues to threaten lives and livelihoods.

What is the root cause of climate change denials? How should we respond to them?
How should we address climate change?


Alex Medwid said...

The real cause of climate change denial is that a large percentage of the population simply can't see the effects of climate change. The weather and temperatures that take place in their daily lives are no different from what they remember in the past, so they can't perceive that the climate is changing. If it doesn't affect their daily lives, it's difficult for them to perceive it as a real problem.

It is somewhat difficult to deal with a problem like this in a representative democracy, as so many people do not favor policy against climate change. There is definitely an incentive for politicians to deny climate change. We need to respond to climate change denialists with the fact that the U.S. Navy considers climate change to be a pressing threat to the country's safety.

Murray Sandmeyer said...

I don't think climate deniers need to be addressed and dealt with necessarily. Recently, a video by Prince Ea entitled "Dear Future Generations" has been shared so much that it has reached over 55 million total views on Facebook. The video uses poetry and rap to make the point that we have a responsibility to reduce our environmental footprint or else coastal cities will be gone and millions of animal species will perish. The young people responding to it and sharing it seem to share these concerns.

The truth is, climate change is a social issue that is evolving much like gay marriage; young people almost universally agree while older people are on the other side of the debate. The political socialization is not being passed down to this generation, so if the trend continues, we will have an American public who recognizes climate change.

Karen Chow said...

I agree with Alex that people not being able to see the overall consequences of climate change plays the largest role in climate change denial. There’s also the point that skeptics make when there is even just one supposed “contradiction” to the fact that climate change is occurring. For instance, the recent extreme cold weather on the East coast this winter season may serve as fuel to some who deny global warming. However, a Washington Post article explains why the record cold weather and snow are not in contradiction with global warming, that it actually makes sense that there is more snow. This is because the rising temperatures of the oceans “elevate winter temperatures and contribute to the greater snow amounts,” as said by climate expert Kevin Trenberth.

To respond to climate change denial, we must continue to share scientific knowledge and explain how climate change is directly causing or related to certain events that threaten Earth and its inhabitants. Even if that does not suffice to convince more people that climate change is real, everyone will soon be able to experience its effects firsthand anyway, if significant action isn’t taken to fight it.


Elias Bermeo said...

Like Alex pointed out, there are many misconceptions regarding climate change that cause people to not fully accept it as reality. More often than not people think of climate change as synonymous with global warming and think that it only manifests itself as rises in temperatures. This can lead people to falsely point abnormally cold seasons like this past winter on the east coast as evidence against climate change. These conclusions are illogical, of course. This is as absurd saying, "world hunger isn't a problem because I just ate."
I think that the first step to erasing the problem of climate change denial is to have public officials with significant influence, like President Obama, come out and directly address them to the public. Changing the mentalities of the masses can start with changing that of public officials. this article provides some insight about who is generally more likely to deny climate change and why. It points out that yes, people ought to know the science behind climate change and why it is a reality, but once they've heard this and choose to reject it anyway, explaining it to them louder is unlikely to do any good.