“You can find some who doubt humans are causing climate change,” says Lars Hjalmered, a member of the Swedish parliament’s Moderate Party. “But I think a definite majority of people think humans do cause climate change.”
The same cannot be said for Florida’s governor, Rick Scott. His reluctance to even discuss global warming – despite the fact that his state is considered America’s ground zero for impending sea level rise – prompted 10 scientists to offer to explain the science to him. Scott took them up on the offer, gave the men 30 minutes to speak, and then left without asking a single question.
Yet to the best of Oliver Krischer’s knowledge, no one in the German government is taking the topic so lightly. The vice-chairman of the German Green Party’s parliamentary group told the Topeka Capital-Journal that it’s impossible to know what other men are thinking, “But there is at least nobody that says climate change is an invention of some scientists.”
There are several in the U.S. Senate who do. When asked to give consent to a resolution that acknowledged climate change as real and a potential danger to his country, Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe called climate change the “biggest hoax” perpetrated against mankind.
Joachim Pfeiffer, a member of Germany’s conservative Christian Democratic Union party, says that, “(Addressing) climate change is an integral part in working towards sustainability which, in turn, is one of the three central goals for European energy policy besides competitiveness and security of supply.”
Similarly, Felix Matthes, a climate and energy researcher at Germany’s Oko Institute, says, “Here, 98 percent of the population says it’s a real problem, it’s a real concern. If a policymaker were to stand up here and say this is all a big hoax, it would be political self-suicide.” Matthes has twice testified in front of U.S. Senate committees on emissions trading issues.
Last year, the Pew Research Center released a study that showed only 67 percent of Americans believe there is “solid evidence” of global warming. When sorted by political affiliation, 84 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of Republicans believe it – and both those numbers drop when they’re asked if the cause is anthropogenic. Only 66 percent of Democrats and 24 percent of Republicans believe humans have anything to do with global warming.
The rift between what European politicians and American politicians believe to be true is a serious obstacle to global climate change reform. To propose a 30 percent cut in carbon emissions, President Obama had to bypass Congress with his executive authority. Republicans hated him for it, and expressed themselves accordingly. Now, in an effort to pass real climate change reform in next year’s Paris summit, Obama is attempting more legal gymnastics to avoid seeking the approval of a legislative body that has done everything in its power to deny that extreme droughts, toxic algae blooms and a melting antarctica have anything to do with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than any time in the last 800,000 years.
Republican Jon Huntsman has become so fed up with this denial of reality that he penned an Op-Ed in The New York Times to lambaste his own party.
“So obtuse has become the party’s dialogue on climate change,” he writes, “that it’s now been reduced to believing or not believing, as if it were a religious mantra… Our approach as a party should be one of neither denial nor extremism. Science must guide sensible policy discussions that will lead to well-informed choices, which may mean considering unexpected alternatives. We aren’t inspiring much confidence, especially among millennials, who at least want an intelligent conversation on the subject.”
But that’s a conversation that may have to wait, according to Professor Michael Mann, noted climate scientist and the director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center. In an interview with Planet Experts, Dr. Mann said that Republicans’ public opinions are what millions of dollars of fossil fuel money want them to be.
“Any republican now who comes out and says they accept what the scientists have to say will almost certainly be targeted in the primary campaign,” he said. “One of the best examples of that is Bob Inglis, a Republican from South Carolina, who was primaried out of his congressional seat some years ago by a candidate heavily funded by the Koch brothers.”
In his experience, there are many Republicans who privately admit that climate change is real and a threat to the planet, but are forced to decide between keeping their jobs or speaking the truth.
“That is the fundamental problem here,” Mann explained, “that is why there is such a disconnect between what the scientists have to say and what the public thinks.”
There is no such disconnect among the scientific community, of which 97 percent concur that climate change is real and is affected by man-made emissions.
Meanwhile, in response to President Obama’s new carbon regulation proposal, Dennis Hedke, chairman of the Energy and Environment Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, tried to pass House Resolution 6043, which states that, “Substantial amounts and types of real-data evidence clearly indicate a complete disconnect between anthropogenic emissions of CO₂ and the temperature of the earth.”
Hedke may not have gotten the memo that 7.3 million acres of land are now burned by wildfires every year, and almost every year since 2002 firefighters’ budgets aren’t enough to stop them. This may have to do with the fact that thirteen of the last fourteen years have been the hottest on record, or it may just be a coincidence.