There is a new study out that people may actually experience weather in different ways depending on their political beliefs. The study published in Nature Climate Change examined the politicization of the weather, which has gone to the extent that Democrats are more likely to believe that the weather is warmer than usual than their Republican counterparts. It is interesting to note the partisanship in the experience of weather. Obviously, partisan politics play a role in how people observe the world, though it is more than a little unsettling to see to what extent that is true. The question is, what does this mean? Why do people still not believe in the reality of climate change and why is there such a partisan gap about it?
The fact that belief affects perception is unsurprising, but the extremity of the recent study’s conclusion is incredible. Many people may be inclined to believe that something as concrete as the weather should not be affected by political beliefs. Nevertheless it is and that fact points to the extremity of the political arguments involved. On the one hand, Democrats claim to have a complete consensus on climate change from the scientists best situated to know all the facts. On the other, Republicans claim that such consensus and, indeed, the entire problem of climate change is completely manufactured. People are caught between an either-or argument from both sides. The weather is political now and no one can avoid it.
Why does this situation persist? One answer is the interests of the political parties involved. Republicans are reputed to be in bed with fossil fuels, regarded as one of the primary culprits in the case of dangerous climate change. They deny the issue exists because it would cut into the bottom lines of many corporations which benefit from practices detrimental to the economy. That is the narrative that many on the left wing have put forward as an explanation for the differences. On the other hand, Republicans say that their opponents are bent on hurting businesses and taking power by manufacturing a problem to justify more extreme government regulations. Ultimately, it does not matter which side is right and most likely neither is wholly correct. People will believe what they want to believe regardless of the facts, which is what the argument on climate change shows.
One other reason why people still do not believe in the reality of climate change is the media. On one hand we have reports of the huge consensus in the scientific community on the issue. But many in the media do not report that fact and instead take partisan lines of reporting on the issue. There is a verifiable 97 percent agreement on climate change in the scientific community, but the conservative wing of the media has sought to deny this fact. Articles like those on Breitbart which claim to “debunk” news of the consensus and gleefully reporting contradictions meant to convince people that what they hear in one place is not true. Once again, people are forced into an either-or choice between conflicting messages. How are they to choose which is correct?
People from different political parties experience the weather differently because of their political beliefs, because they are forced into choices which require acceptance of certain kinds of facts at the expense of others. The truth is lost somewhere in the mix of all the partisan bickering and, along with it, any objective experience of the weather. Why do people still not believe in climate change which is a statistical and scientific fact about which there is enough consensus to make it acceptable to reasonable people? They are forced to make their choice between extremes called Republicans and Democrats. It is as simple as that.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury
Photo by WWF France – Flickr License