Climate change is still viewed with a measure of skepticism in the US. This is despite perennial warnings by scientists around the globe, warning of dire consequences if serious action is not heeded. While much of the world now views climate change as being the result of human activity, many Americans still harbor lingering doubts.
A newly released draft report by the United Nations is suggesting that climate change may have an enormous impact on the planet and human civilization. According to the report, the increase in greenhouse gas emission is “increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.” However, the report stressed that action can and should still be taken. According to the report, every effort should be made by governments around the world while there is still time, as “a combination of adaptation and substantial, sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can limit climate change risks.” This UN report comes on the heels of a newly reached agreement among European Union members this past Friday, with plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2030.
Yet, despite this bleak outlook, the United States suggested that much of the information in this report “may be impenetrable to the policymaker or public.” Indeed, climate change is still viewed largely with skepticism by many in the US. It is an issue deemed polarizing. Some candidates for local office are willing to assert a stronger environmental agenda, but those election campaigns at the national level often steer clear of the issue.
This is particularly true of the Republican party, where candidates have taken up the mantle of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who declared earlier this year that he was not a scientist, and could not definitively answer whether climate change was caused by human activity, or is the result of some other, natural phenomenon. This has been a theme since repeated by other prominent Republicans elsewhere, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Rick Scott. Nor are they alone. According to a report by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, 58 percent of Republicans in Congress have, at some point or other, expressed skepticism that climate change is the result of human activity. Despite repeated reports by scientists that suggest a link with climate change and human activity, many of these officials claim that the science is still incomplete on the subject. These positions by prominent politicians are reflective of polls that continually show that climate change is low on the list of priorities for American voters.
Climate change is still seen as a divisive issue, with many expressing skepticism in the US. Many Americans believe that this pattern of climate change is a result of natural consequences, and that there is little to nothing that humans can do to alter it. Still, much of the rest of the world is trying to take action, seeing these threats as real. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has suggested that it is 95 percent sure that climate change is indeed the result of human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels. It had previously suggested in 2007 that it was 90 percent certain that climate change was the result of human activity, and had stated the same with 66 percent certainty in 2002. While skepticism remains rampant in the United States, particularly in the theater of national politics, much of the rest of the world feels that the argument is over, and action needs to be taken. There will be a conference of U.N. environment ministers in Lima later this year, and there are hopes that this will lead to a solid framework for a huge summit on this issue scheduled for late next year in Paris. Also, many hope that the EU agreement earlier this weekend will also push other countries, perhaps particularly the United States, to take this issue more seriously, and ultimately, into taking stronger action on this issue.
By Charles Bordeau
Photo by Eric Allix Rogers – Flickr