Debating Climate Change - The Missourian: Opinion

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Debating Climate Change

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Posted: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 8:10 am

Climate change is a hoax perpetuated by liberals and the left-leaning media.

That was the message Larry Lazar was receiving from his right-wing media sources back in the 1990s. Then he went to Alaska on a family vacation and saw for himself how glaciers are melting at an alarming rate due to global warming caused by the Greenhouse Effect.

It was an epiphany for Lazar, a St. Louis businessman, who shared his personal journey of climate change discovery as one of the panelists at a recent discussion on climate disruption held at East Central College.

Missourian Feature Editor Karen Cernich covered the symposium and filed an excellent piece, “Green is Resilience,” where Lazar and others shared their perspectives on climate change and some of the solutions that other countries are pursuing to combat it.

Kuddos to East Central College for hosting the discussion which offered an open and meaningful inquiry on a subject that has been and continues to be seriously distorted and undermined by political agendas.

When you take off the ideological blinders and witness firsthand the realities of global warming as Lazar did in Alaska it may cause you to see things in a whole new light and you just may go from doubtful to alarmed.

That is why discussions like the one held at East Central College are beneficial. Sometimes science, like other subjects, is often best digested in these types of open and unfiltered forums using personal observations rather than through sound bites in political campaigns — remember “drill, baby, drill.”

You wouldn’t describe any of the panelists as tree-hugging zealots. Their perspectives and many of the solutions they offered were grounded in common sense and old-fashioned values.

The polarizations of science is a real problem and one that is getting worse.

Lazar pointed out that there is no serious debate that global warming is real in the scientific community. The physical impact of our changing climate on our ecosystem is no longer in doubt. While a few naysayers may downplay its causes or impact on the environment, the scientific debate has moved well beyond whether it exists to how to mitigate the dangers.

Yet Americans’ views on climate change appear to have more to do with politics than science. That’s according to recent polling data which shows that protecting the environment continues to be one of the most polarizing issues in our country and among Republicans and Democrats.

Bloomberg View reported that polling data released in March further underlines that partisan split. The Gallup Organization found that 36 percent of Democrats cited climate change as something they worry about, compared with just 10 percent of Republicans.

The only area that showed a bigger partisan gap was the size and power of the federal government, along with its corollary, federal spending and the deficit.

Gallup found an even larger gap when it asked about the effects of climate change. When asked whether global warming had already started, 73 percent of Democrats said yes, compared with just 36 percent of Republicans. Fifty-six percent of Democrats called it a serious threat to their way of life, compared with only 19 percent of Republicans.

Fully one-third of Republicans said global warming would never happen, something just 3 percent of Democrats agreed with.

This wasn’t always the case. Republicans and Democrats used to agree about the need for stricter laws to protect the environment: More than 90 percent of respondents from both parties supported the idea in 1992.

The science has progressed considerably in the last 20 years yet Republican support has plummeted. What gives?

One explanation is the Republicans fear more government intervention to address the issue, including more federal research, more federal programs more intervention into the economy and more taxes to pay for it all.

That’s understandable. But to solve any problem, you have to first admit you have a problem.

/opinion