The Climate Change Divide in Science, Politics, and Media

Climate science appears to have made it clear that global warming is linked to the increase of carbon dioxide emissions in the troposphere, yet so many prominent conservative scientists, politicians, and media outlets are still skeptical of the consensus.

Patrick Moore, ecologist and former president of GreenPeace Canada, now condemns the cause of the organization he helped erect, stating that “there is no definitive scientific proof through real-world observation, that carbon dioxide is responsible for any of the slight warming of the global climate that has occurred during the past 300 years […] but there is certainly beyond any doubt that CO2 is the building block for all life on Earth and that without its presence in the global atmosphere at a sufficient concentration this would be a dead planet.”

Prominent conservative leaders have made public statements skeptical or against climate change and environmental regulation, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Former Speaker of the House John Boehner. Libertarian Senator Rand Paul was questioned about his beliefs on manmade climate change as well, to which he said that “scientific debate should not be dumbed down to politics.” He adds to the debate, framing the conversation in a geological lens rather than one concerning atmospheric science. “Anybody who’s ever studied any geology knows that over […] long periods of time, that the climate changes […] I’m not sure anybody exactly knows why. […] My guess is that the conclusions you make from that are not conclusive.”

Conservative pundits in the media also vocalize their skepticism over the science regarding man-made climate change.

Steven Crowder, former Fox contributor and host of the conservative show Louder with Crowder, made a video about the controversy entitled “DEBUNKED Top 5 Myths about Climate Change,” criticizing climate prediction models and claims that the ice sheets are melting, along with the logic of using the perceived consensus of the scientific community. Crowder asserts that he himself is not an atmospheric scientist, however “if you can’t make the case as to why climate change is a catastrophic effect and man-made, you have no business citing some arbitrary number.” Citing a NASA study, Crowder also makes the claim that “if the net gains [of the Antarctic ice sheets] continue to slow the current rate without fail, it would still take three decades for the Antarctic Ice Sheets to see any form of net loss.”

In an opinion piece for the Daily Caller, freelance writer PierreGuy Veer responds to the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report attributing human activity of global warming with the criticism: “It’s not surprising that the IPCC, an organization founded to find a way to limit human influence on climate, would sound such an alarm. After all, if it were discovered that nature is the main driver of climate change, the IPCC would be out of a job.”

Richard Lindzen, Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is also skeptical of climate change, what he calls “global alarmism.” In a segment for PragerU, an organization that presents conservative principles and arguments in sound bites, Lindzen comments on the sensationalism of coverage on climate change. “Global warming provides […] politicians [with] money and power. For environmentalists, it’s money for their organizations and confirmation of their near religious devotion to the idea that man is a destructive force acting upon nature. And for the media, it’s ideology, money, and headlines. Doomsday scenarios sell.”

Carolyn Gregoire, senior writer for the more liberal Huffington Post, proposes that many Republican leaders and special interest groups deny climate change because of a confirmation bias geared against environmental regulation. “They don’t listen to scientists,” Gregoire writes, “and listen instead to high-profile skeptics.”

Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman interviewed Heather McGhee, president of Demos Action, framing manmade climate change as an economic problem as well as an environmental one. Goodman notes that, “the Republican Party, […] overall, are saying [climate change] is not an issue. […] you’re really talking about building up a debt. And debt certainly is a concern to Republicans.” Framing the issue through an economic standpoint, Goodman asserts there is hypocrisy among the fiscal conservatives of the Republican party on this issue.

Comedian John Oliver devoted an entire segment about climate change on the HBO talk-show “Last Week Tonight,” responding to a lack of consensus on man-made climate change among the American public. He makes the point that “you don’t need people’s opinion on a fact […] the debate on climate change should not be whether or not it exists, it’s what we should do about it.” With this sound bite, John Oliver mirrors the sentiment of many progressives who question America’s lack of modern, comprehensive environmental legislation.

Professor and NPR contributor Adam Frank expresses disbelief at the logical inconsistencies among the Republican constituency, noting, “in the face of these facts, climate denialists claim that the science is somehow mistaken or it’s a deliberate hoax.” Like so many progressive voters and outlets, Frank noted the thirty scientific organizations that sent letters to Congress, urging them to act on the climate issue.

Much climate skepticism may be founded in misinformation, or with data taken out of context. Crowder cites the argument that the Antarctic ice sheets are not melting – in fact, the ice sheets are growing; however, Crowder fails to mention the overall net loss of the ice sheets due to the Arctic ice sheets melting at an accelerated rate.

Many scientists, as documented by the IPCC, have also come to a consensus that an elevated amount of carbon dioxide – between 1750, the dawn of the industrial era, to 2005 – in the troposphere is the main driver of global warming. NASA has also backed the organization’s claims, noting that current warming is “of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.”

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