Candidates and voters need to get a few things in order before the 2024 presidential and congressional elections drag on.
First, there is no more important international, national, or local issue than global warming. There is some debate about whether global warming is a crisis. that’s right. Voters and candidates must treat it as one.
In August, the Pew Research Center convened 32 global warming skeptics to examine the reasons for their doubts. “Interviews revealed that language describing climate change as a crisis or imminent threat was viewed with suspicion by many participants,” Pew found.
why? Most interviewees considered claims about the climate crisis to be “hyperbolic rhetoric.” One person explained, “I do believe that the climate is changing, but I believe that it is changing within the natural cycles that occur all the time.”
It’s the word “believe” that confuses the issue. Global warming is a science issue, not a matter of belief or politics. The recognition that we must do something is not a religion or a political party. This is a rational response to an existential threat, and the world’s climate scientists agree virtually unanimously.
As one newsletter for journalists says: “Climate change is fundamentally a science story. Many news outlets have treated it primarily as a political story. But what politics say about climate change is secondary. The laws of physics are compromised. We don’t care whether politicians believe it or not. Putting the political side of the story above the scientific side is like wagging the tail at the dog.”
It’s not just the news media that is covering global warming as a political debate. The fossil energy industry and its Republican allies worked hard and spent millions to politicize global warming. they succeeded. Some Republicans still think it’s disingenuous to accept the idea that science or government should do something about it.
Two dates stand out in the history of the politicization of the climate crisis. First on June 23, 1988, Jim Hansen, the U.S. government’s chief climate scientist, gave historic testimony before a Senate committee that climate change is not only real, but already happening. .
The second date was sometime in 2001, when communications consultant Frank Luntz advised Republicans to instill doubt in voters’ minds about climate science and trusting scientists.
At the time, Republicans were at risk of being branded anti-environmental, especially after President-elect George W. Bush overturned outgoing President Bill Clinton’s executive order lowering allowable levels of arsenic in drinking water. was. Luntz called it “the biggest public relations failure” of President Bush’s first year in office and said Republicans “lost the environmental communications battle.”
Rather than directly opposing government action, Luntz advised Republicans to avoid using the term global warming because “climate change” is less scary. He called on Republicans to “make the lack of scientific certainty a central issue of discussion.” So, with Luntz’s memo in hand, Republicans joined the fossil energy lobby in a decades-long campaign to smear climate science and scientists.
Another malicious incident occurred in November 2009, when a group of anonymous climate change deniers hacked an email server used by climate researchers at a British university. Just before an important international conference on climate change, hackers have released thousands of emails they claim are evidence of a conspiracy by climate scientists to manipulate climate data and suppress critics.
Their allegations led to an official investigation and a major international news story. FactCheck.org confirmed that the denier misrepresented the email. Nevertheless, climate communication experts at Yale University concluded that “Climategate has had a significant impact on public beliefs about global warming and trust in scientists.” Pew weighed in on the issue because during interviews with skeptics, some said they didn’t fully trust scientists due to “uncertainty about economic motives or personal bias.” I encountered it.
Alleged conspiracies and campaign contributions from oil and gas companies ensured Congress won’t fight global warming for the next 30 years, as voters were unwilling to accept even the most credible warnings of a man-made apocalypse. effectively prevented them from taking meaningful action. Fifty-four percent of Americans now think global warming is a serious threat, still a small minority, but only 23 percent of Republicans agree.
(It is important to note that in July 2019, Mr. Luntz testified before the Senate that he was wrong, saying that his notes were “not accurate today.”) Mr. Luntz told senators: (Provided a new list of more positive words to use when communicating about global warming.)
We cannot pass the next election without a clear and undisputed voter mandate for public officials at all levels to treat global warming like a crisis. While a slim majority in Congress and President Biden deserve credit for passing anti-inflation legislation and unprecedented incentives for clean energy, that success is more than offset by the direct and hidden costs of fossil fuels. It is. Few Americans know how large the subsidies are.
Presidents Obama and Biden sought to reduce or eliminate more than $20 billion in annual tax breaks that Congress gives to oil, coal and gas. Congress continues to approve them anyway. As a result, taxpayers end up paying for the elimination of fossil fuels while subsidizing their production and use. To make matters worse, fossil fuels cause enormous damage to public health and the environment. Those costs are not reflected in market prices.
Last year, Americans supported fossil fuel production and consumption with a total of $757 billion in direct and indirect subsidies, which exceeded the IRA’s support for clean, unlimited energy from solar, wind, and other renewable sources. It’s far superior. Put another way, in 2022 every man, woman, and child in America will have to rely on the fossil energy industry to sell products that ultimately destroy homes, lives, lungs, ecosystems, biodiversity, and quality of life. You’ve paid almost $2,230 to help. This does not include ripple effects such as the growing “climate insurance bubble,” which puts 39 million uninsured properties at high risk of floods, wildfires, and hurricanes. Officials are concerned about a foreclosure crisis as people become unable to pay insurance premiums and home values decline due to weather disasters.
No responsible nation would allow this to continue. No rational voter would tolerate that. No political candidate should be allowed to ignore that. While many other important issues demand our attention, global warming is a rapidly metastasizing cancer that we must force into remission now. Many other things we value will become less important in a world ravaged by global warming. November 5, 2024 is the next big opportunity to stop it.
William Becker is executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP). A bipartisan initiative founded in 2007 that works with national thought leaders to develop recommendations to the White House and Congress on climate and energy policy. heHe is a former senior official at the U.S. Department of Energy.
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