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Politics vs climate change
As the presidential election rolls around once again, the debate is of course centered on the most important issue – the economy. Amidst the bickering and arguing over how the flailing economy should be handled, the former center stage issue of climate change has largely been overlooked in this election cycle.
Sidelined? Yes. Still polarizing? Absolutely. A new survey by Yale and George Mason University shows that there is still a sharp divide between Republicans and Democrats on climate change. Whereas 86 percent of Obama supporters believe that global warming is happening, only 45 percent of Romney supporters believe so. Undecided voters were very similar to Obama supporters, with 80 percent believing in global warming.
However, denying global warming is becoming a harder and harder position to defend. Whereas stories of the melting ice cap and abstract figures of rising temperatures had made it easy to dismiss global warming as a hoax by environmentalists, more recent changes are hitting much closer to home.
Wildfires, droughts, and other extreme weather make global warming a much more personal and undeniable problem. More and more people are acknowledging global warming as real. A survey in July by the University of Texas at Austin showed that 70 percent of the public believed that global warming is happening, up from 65 percent in March.
This figure, however, does not indicate that there is less of a divide. When asked if they believed that global warming is caused by human activities, 65 percent of Obama supporters said yes, as opposed to a mere 27 percent of Romney supporters.
Attitudes about environmental policy clearly reflect this dichotomy on the cause of global warming. While 78 percent of Obama supporters said the U.S. Congress should be doing more to curb global warming, only 35 percent of Romney supporters said the same.
Though the economy is a much more pressing issue, climate change should not go unnoticed. The global economy is still very much based on the consumption of fossil fuels, and efforts to alleviate global warming will undoubtedly require a shift to alternative energy sources. Such a shift would cause an economic upheaval as the cornerstones of energy production are replaced. Alternatively, if no switch is made, the depletion of fossil fuels would collapse the current energy supplies, leading to a catastrophic disruption.
Despite the future implications, advocates for the cause and politicians are weary of speaking out. After the recession began, environmental activists were cast as energy taxers who did not want to help the economy. A now-debunked scandal sowed the seeds of the idea that scientists fabricated global warming to scare the general populace. Since then, politicians who had made climate change an important issue on their agendas have been repeatedly voted out of office.
President Obama, however, has broken the silence in his acceptance speech of the Democratic nomination, proclaiming that “climate change is not a hoax.” Global warming is perhaps the biggest change in the planet’s history since the rise of humankind, and it will have an untold effect on society. Along with the economy, we should also focus our attention on the future of the planet.