In recent years, the global warming crisis has been a hot topic, one that is often coined by Republicans as a “liberal issue.” In Scott Waldman’s article, “Republican lawmaker: Rocks tumbling into ocean causing sea level rise,” he articulates some of the central claims made by Republicans and Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee. The conversation was argued by a leading climate scientist, who was often involved in correcting misstatements by both sides.
To understand why each group feels so passionately about the cause of the issue, what their underlying beliefs are. On the one hand, we have a group of people who believe that humans are the sole cause of the global warming crisis. Greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel burning, and a string of other human activities have caused Earth’s temperatures to rise, at incredible rates. Their belief system could be classified as a reverse commons theory as defined in Garret Hardin’s (1968) article, “Tragedy of the Commons.” In his article, he describes how humans have been taking away from the commons for so long and how the planet cannot keep up with these demands indefinitely. Conversely, global warming is a result of things being added to our commons such as the atmosphere, by humans. This parallels the article from written by Katherine Wu (2018) from the Smithsonian, who described the dire state of our planet, where even a two-degree increase in temperature would cause immense problems.
The other group does not have much sense of urgency but has shifted from claiming that global warming was not taking place at all, to identifying other causes than humans. Mo Brooks, a Republican from Alabama stated that the cause of the oceans rising was merely sediment or rocks being deposited on the bottom of the oceans. This was refuted by the climate scientists, Duffy, who pointed out that these changes would have minuscule effects on a geological timescale. The same feelings are held by a majority of Republicans who believe even if humans are contributing to global warming, it is not enough to be the full causal mechanism. This attribution of responsibility is the determining factor between these two groups.
The first group has an urgency to the research and data collection that supports their beliefs, but also shows the fragile state of our planet. These scientists spend millions of dollars a year on these endeavors, and much of the same is always found; global warming is happening, but now it is an even more pressing issue. It must be realized though that data can be skewed, which was reiterated by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who was bothered that the climate scientist, who had been accused of tampering with data in the past, was not further questioned by the committee. Statements like these show a cause of the tension between the two groups, which is the skepticism of scientists. These scientists who do highly specialized work, out of the general public’s sight, and bring back evidence that refutes our traditional beliefs are often not accepted. This issue was discussed in an article by Handlin (1965), where he stated that we have ambivalence towards the scientific community. This love-hate relationship works by scientists bringing about new findings that can benefit us, and also findings that challenge our traditional way of beliefs (Handlin, 1965).
Although most of the second group remains skeptical about data that names humans as the leading cause, there has been a rapid change in some perspectives of this group. According to a NY Times article by Nadja Popovich and Livia Albeck-Ripka (2017), the viewpoints of Republicans in areas that are experiencing the effects of global warming, are the ones who are now realizing that their actions may have more of an effect on the situation than anticipated. This further shows the fluidity of our traditions in these circumstances. This change in viewpoint of some of the second group does bring a sense of hope because they are beginning to realize the fragile state of our planet, and take some action to lessen the effects of human activity.
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