Climate and Congress: A Catastrophic Combination?
Conservatives in Congress are all too willing to admit that they are not scientists. In fact, “I’m not a scientist” is a popular deflection against questions regarding global climate change. In that simple sentence, they are actually saying, “I’m not a scientist, and I willingly choose to remain unenlightened by scientific knowledge.” Even though 97 percent of scientists agree that human activity causes worrisome climate change, conservatives in Congress have staunchly refused to acknowledge scientific consensus and its implications for public policy.
Environmental preservation means human preservation. While an apocalyptic environmental catastrophe is unlikely to doom the human race tomorrow or next week, it is evident that are species’ current activity and environmental impact is unsustainable. Our posterity’s survival and enjoyment of the planet is dependent upon the actions we take now. In order to stop global climate change, we must study the scientific phenomenon and potential solutions, such as alternative energy sources. Further, we must take the scientifically approved solutions and implement them through legislation.
Unfortunately, conservative politicians have not only been reluctant to legislate environmental protection policies, they have also constrained the ability of scientists to study global climate change and discover necessary solutions. Recently, the House Science, Space, and Technology committee approved cuts to the National Science Foundation’s geoscience program and programs in the Department of Energy that search for alternative energy sources. The committee’s latest stab at environmental preservation, and, by extension, our own preservation, is bill that would cut $300 million from NASA’s earth science budget. NASA issued a statement that the bill “guts our earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate…NASA leads the world in the exploration of and study of planets, and none is more important than the one in which we live.”
If conservatives aren’t scientists, then why do they doubt the claims of true experts on global climate change? Why do they severely damage the continuation of studies that have already told us that we are in danger? There are two answers, both of which are common answers to any question regarding the behavior of politicians. These answers, of course, are votes and money.
There are plenty of voters who believe that global climate change is a myth and who don’t want their tax dollars “wasted” on what they believe to be nonsensical (and even conspiratorial) studies. In order to secure the future implementation of environmental protection policy, we must also institute educational reforms that include improved instruction of environmental science. Unfortunately, conservatives are also fond of cutting funding for education, even when it means perpetuating ignorance. However, it remains clear that an essential component of solving global climate change is educating the populace and debunking the real myth: the false belief that global climate change is a myth.
In addition to educating the populace, we must also reduce the influence of corporations on politics and elections. Conservative politicians are motivated to deny global climate change because it promotes the interests of potential election donors – polluting corporations. Such corporations seek to maximize profits regardless of negative externalities. Unfortunately, and counter to many conservative claims, the free market does not solve all problems. Unchecked corporations will choose the cheapest methods of production, whether it’s polluting in the United States or in a third world country. Without policies that promote the use of alternative energy sources, oil companies will drill until every last drop is gone.
We must also debunk the myth that a perfectly competitive free market always promotes economic efficiency. This belief fails to recognize the fact that the future enjoyment of economic prosperity is dependent upon the preservation of the planet and our species.
Furthermore, we must come to terms with the facts that global climate change is real and we must continue to fund studies that will determine the courses of action that will save our planet and our species. We must educate our populace and reduce the influence of corporations on politics in order to prevent politicians that deny global climate change and threaten scientific study from assuming office. Finally, we must pressure Congress to continue funding earth science programs and refuse to allow politicians to slash the budgets of essential organizations like NASA. The future of our planet is at stake.