Photo courtesy of The Daily Conversation
Story by Ty Smith, Managing Editor
Almost two years ago, I penned an article for The Saint about how environmentalism needs to be a bipartisan issue. I talked about how as recently as 2008 Republicans were running ads touting their support for environmentalist policies and their fight against climate change. I ended on a hopeful note, thinking that perhaps now that a Republican is in office, the right might cease its opposition because it’s no longer politically advantageous to do so.
And yet here I am, writing this article in 2019. Why?
The facts haven’t changed; the average surface temperature has been higher than average every year since the 1980s. Newer studies focus on the effect climate change is having on grasslands, forests, and even societies at large, rather than try to prove that climate change exists yet again.
Even the American public at large now believes in climate change, according to a nationally representative survey conducted by Yale and the George Mason University. The issue is nearly universal at this point; widespread agreement is apparent among the different races and ethnicities polled, and even the urban/rural divide lately melts away in the face of climate change.
Over 60 percent of whites, African Americans, and Hispanics believe that climate change is a serious problem, and more than 50 percent of city, suburb, and rural dwellers agree that action is needed. Two-thirds of the entire country agrees that climate change is serious and needs to be addressed. In today’s starkly divided America, that sort of agreement on anything is astounding.
Despite this widespread electoral consensus, climate change is still a partisan issue. The two parties virulently disagree on the matter; 71 percent of Democrats believe climate change is an urgent problem, while 47 percent of self-described independents and only 15 percent of Republicans share the same opinion.
Why does party identity play such a huge role in accepting the reality of our climate? Partisan politics, especially recently, necessitate that if your opponent believes something, you have to believe the polar opposite. They also necessitate that you believe in lockstep with your party. Dissent on any issue is frowned upon at best, and climate change is no exception to this rule.
Public opinion comes down in favor of action against climate change, but public opinion doesn’t run Washington; political parties do. As long as parties can keep climate change as a wedge issue, they’ll do so. They want to keep their seats in the government. For some things, this doesn’t matter, but climate change is a different story.
Climate change affects every one of us whether you believe in it or not, and the time for action is now. We can’t afford to keep squabbling in Washington, but partisan politics prevent anything from getting done. I reiterate what I said nearly two years ago: climate change must be a bipartisan issue.
About the Writer: Ty Smith is a senior at Aquinas dual majoring in Computer Science and English. He loves reading, writing, and his cat Buttercup.