We need a new American dream

Climate Change denial in the United States: Global Warming as a political stance rather than an evident reality

The new way for right-wing politicians and big industries to do away with peaceful environmentalist protesters, seems to be through legislation. A new bill that considers any oil, gas, coal, or plastics facilities as “critical infrastructure” and adds aggressive new penalties for vague charges of trespassing or tampering, is currently awaiting approval in Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota and Montana.

According to free-speech experts, it was the violent Jan. 6 Capitol riot that instigated these new restrictions. The problem with this reasoning, however is that these restrictions are imposing on peaceful demonstrations that are meant to prevent potentially harmful protests in the first place.

In addition, this new bill is limiting free speech by sewing fear among protesters. The bill allows lawmakers to increase criminal penalties for commonplace protest at these sites, such as blocking a roadway, tethering oneself to equipment or even just rallying near a company’s property. Violations that were normally classified as misdemeanors are now reclassified as more severe crimes ― in some cases, even felonies ― with fines of tens of thousands of dollars, and convictions can sometimes carry jail sentences. Considering these penalties, many peaceful protesters are discouraged: “When someone has to weigh the potential of imprisonment for protesting, they will really, very likely limit their own speech,” said Nora Benavidez, director of the advocacy group PEN America’s U.S. free expressions program. “These bills are just a chilling effect on protest.”

Critics say the bill is mostly about politics, a way for its author, Republican state Sen. Mike Thompson to signal his climate-denying views now that he’s serving as chair of the Senate’s utilities committee. This process of turning environmental phenomena into a political issue, has become more and more prevalent in the United States over the past ten years.

Climate Change Denial has become an ideal tactic for American right-wing politicians and big industries, to shift the people’s attention to other issues, rather than to face the issue at hand, i.e. global warming. This is something that European right-wing politicians now seem to be taking over, e.g. The far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) that has abandoned the previous cross-party consensus on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Paris climate agreement. However, Europe is still far from the amount of climate change deniers that make up the United States.

YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project conducted a survey in 23 different countries on people’s views on climate change, which had an eye-opening outcome. Only Saudi Arabia (16%) and Indonesia (18%) had a higher proportion of people doubtful of manmade climate change than the United States.

Guardian graphic. Source: YouGov/Guardian

The survey showed that 13% of the Americans polled believed that climate change was taking place, but that human activity had no role to play. And no less than 5% didn’t believe the climate was changing at all. Americans were also more likely than any other western country polled to say they did not know whether the climate was changing or people were responsible — a total of 13% said this. That leaves only 51% of the American’s that were polled, who believe climate change is a real thing, and that human activity is contributing to it. So how is this possible, with such a significant amount of scientific evidence in a relatively educated country as the U.S.?

Blame it on fossil fuel companies and powerful lobbyists that have managed to keep many Americans unwilling to accept the reality of climate change for their own gain. Think of The Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry, who have put billions of dollars into lying to the American public, “Even sending literature to science teachers in schools,” Margaret Klein Salamon of the advocacy group Climate Mobilization told The Guardian. “They are so well organized and have managed to turn climate change into a controversial subject that gets shut down. It’s clearly working.”.

Another factor that explains why Americans are more prone to climate change denial is conspiracy theories. Americans appear unusually prone to climate-related conspiracy theories, the YouGov data suggests. A total of 17% of those polled agreed that “the idea of manmade global warming is a hoax that was invented to deceive people”. Donald Trump didn’t exactly help solve this issue either. Instead, he further promoted this conspiracy and added his own idea that climate change was made up by China.

The worst part of all this, is that even though the United States hold the biggest amount of climate change deniers in the Western World, they don’t exactly have the lowest amount of contribution to climate change.

Source: Boden, T.A., Marland, G., and Andres, R.J. (2017). National CO2 Emissions from Fossil-Fuel Burning, Cement Manufacture, and Gas Flaring: 1751–2014, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, doi 10.3334/CDIAC/00001_V2017.

In 2014, the top carbon dioxide (CO2) emitters were China, the United States, the European Union, India, the Russian Federation, and Japan. As the chart shows, the United States contribute to almost double the amount of emission, that the entire European Union, consisting of 28 countries, contributes to.

So, even though at least Europeans tend to be more open to the idea of climate change, if Americans aren’t, there still won’t be a significant enough change.

International Politics major at AUP in Paris. Nature lover.

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