Climate Change: Election Year Myths Debunked

Mar 23, 2016

The 2016 presidential election season is in full swing, and candidates from both parties have been known to “spin” the truth. Climate change is one such issue that has been spun beyond recognition; call it myths run amok.

     In truth, the climate change debate has focused more on collateral issues than the threat of climate change, per se. The science behind it and threats posed play second fiddle to the perceived “costs” of acting on it.   

     So-called job losses and costs to the middle class often camouflage the real political fears of upsetting vested interests, jeopardizing campaign coffers and, above all, risking the loss of an election or reelection bid. Easier, it seems, to dismiss the urgency of acting on climate change than defend the underlying reasons for opposing it.

     A handful of candidates – and radio talk show hosts – find it easier to dismiss climate change as a hoax; case closed. Most, however, take a more subtle approach designed to offend the fewest number of people. Typical climate change dodges look something like this:

  1. The science is not yet settled and we shouldn’t rush into hasty actions
  2. Countermeasures are job-killers, costly, and an invitation for ‘Big Brother’ to intervene
  3. It’s a global issue and the United States alone cannot make a difference; so why try?

     A closer examination reveals a few flies in the ointment. Consider this:

The science is yet to be settled: It is doubtful there will ever be a 100% scientific consensus on anything, but when 97% of the climate scientists and virtually every major scientific body in the world agree that 1) climate change is happening, 2) it is heavily anthropogenic (man-made) and 3) the rate of change is rapidly – and quantifiably – rising, it’s hard to scientifically ignore.

     We don’t need computer models to tell us that. The record high global temperatures year after year; massive ice melts in the Arctic, Greenland and elsewhere; accelerating atmospheric CO2 growth rates; rising sea levels, and bizarre climate-induced weather patterns and more tell a story that can’t be ignored or denied. 

Climate change measures are costly job killers: There are transitional costs in revamping power stations, energy systems and demand reduction efforts, but the ROI paybacks are most always favorable. Opposed to the longer term costs of doing nothing, this one’s a no-brainer.

     Opponents are missing the bigger picture and that is the dynamic new engines for growth and job creation a robust response to climate change will produce. Harnessing the technological and entrepreneurial strengths of America in a major effort (think ‘Man-on-the Moon’ or the ‘Manhattan Project’) is right in our wheelhouse. Big challenges energize America, and you can bet the most effective solutions will come from localized public and private sector initiatives – not Big Brother.   

It’s a global challenge and we can’t make a difference: The ability of any one country to effectively address climate change on its own is marginal. It’s a global problem requiring global solutions. The COP-21 Paris Agreement (See: Progress not Perfection) demonstrated the importance of each country developing their own unique solutions to reach a greater global goal.

     Now here’s the rub: All countries are keyed in on what the United States is willing to do. Our failure to ‘walk the talk’ on COP-21 will directly influence their willingness to proceed with their own climate change/emission reduction efforts. The United States has tremendous leverage, and if it’s global leadership our candidates seek, this is a sure fire arena for exercising it without reverting to a massive deployment of military force to show we’re leaders. Food for thought…

In conclusion:   

The climate change debate ought to focus on the threat it poses and the science behind it; instead, it is being framed around many of the aforementioned collateral issues. That said, the myths behind these issues need to be exposed and debunked. Let the voter beware…


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