By Anji Seth, Associate Professor, Geography and Chair Atmospheric Sciences Group
Talk of global warming is everywhere here in Marrakech. But in the US people rarely discuss the topic among family and friends. Global Warming has become akin to politics and religion, a taboo subject in polite company, even as the science has become indisputable and policy is being enacted globally. Why is global warming such a hot button issue that we cannot talk about it?
For the students in our UConn@COP22 group it may seem to always have been this way, but for those of us who have been around the block, we remember a time not long ago when climate science was not controversial. The partisanship on this issue has developed in response to a long well funded and strategic campaign to delay action by creating doubt about the science and discrediting scientists. Since the mid 1990s each time the threat of policy action in the US became real, a well oiled machine (that was refined in the battle against regulating tobacco) went to work to mislead the American public. The end result has been a widening gap between the parties with conservatives doubting the science and progressives calling for action. But this gap is a result of misconceptions and misinformation.
People are entitled to their opinions about what to do about global warming. There are many points of view and valid differences which need to be argued to find the best policies to move forward within each nation. People, however, are not allowed to have their own facts about the science. Physics, chemistry and biology do not care what a person thinks about how they work. The science on this topic is straightforward and has been building for over 150 years. To deny the basic science is akin to denying gravity. One can have an opinion in opposition to physics, but physics will win, every time.
The fossil fuel industry has been very successful in normalizing the idea that global warming is a controversial issue. Let’s be done with that. Let’s instead normalize climate action. We already have global commitments to action though the Paris Agreement. We already have federal action though the EPA clean power plan and rules to reduce emissions from transportation. The U.S. federal government just issued a plan to reduce emissions by 80 % by 2050! Most U.S. states have issued renewable energy portfolios. The worst impacts of global warming can be averted if we have the will.
Let’s not be swayed yet again by the misinformation campaigns that are sure to come. Let’s normalize action on climate, clean energy and jobs of the future. Let’s talk with friends and family and diffuse the denial. The world is moving toward a clean energy future. Let’s lead the way.