Merriam-Webster defines a fact as “a piece of information presented as having objective reality.”
According to the Pew Research Center, 67% of American adults believe in global warming. Among Democrats, the number is significantly higher at 84%. Among Republicans, the number is significantly lower at 46%. It gets even worse with Tea Party Republicans, among whom 25% believe there is significant evidence that climate change is occurring.
I don’t know what reality the Tea Party is living in, but it’s certainly not objective.
That’s not to say there’s no hope for the GOP. 61% of non-Tea Partiers believe in climate change, which is near the national average among all adults. It’s not good, but it’s a start.
The answer: special interests and propaganda.
It’s no surprise that oil companies have a major influence on politics. During the Bush-Cheney administration alone, oil companies spent around $400 million lobbying the federal government, according to PBS. Further, the industry contributed over $82 million to federal candidates, parties and political action committees with 80% of those contributions going to Republicans.
A great deal of people worry that in American politics, money is rapidly becoming equivalent to speech. This would explain why so many on the right in Washington are quick to deny the evidence of climate change, or claim it’s part of the liberal agenda, or argue that alternative sources of energy are uber-expensive job-killers.
While in many cases going green is expensive, the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term costs. And as we innovate and develop easier ways of harnessing clean energy, those costs will drop significantly.
Before we can do anything, the gap between Republicans and Democrats on this issue needs to be closed. However until climate propaganda is removed from the media, there will never be cooperation. A fact-twisting cycle is at work in a tag team effort between Republicans in Washington and Fox News.
Fox News is a conservative media outlet. They lack the objectivity to be considered journalistic, and therefore their stories consistently have a political twist. Their coverage of climate science is inaccurate 72% of the time. At that point, it’s propaganda.
Feeding misinformation to people is pretty much the number one no-no of journalism, but Fox News prefers to bend these rules to serve a political agenda. The cycle goes like this: politicians with ties to oil companies deny global warming exists to serve their financial interests, outlets like Fox News distort the truth to pertain to the agendas of the politicians they support, and Fox News viewers who now refuse to believe in climate change support and vote for the politicians that share this denial.
But just because lies are escaping through the media, doesn’t mean that the truth is lost in translation. In June of 2014, the twelfth episode of Cosmos hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson focused on climate change. 3.5 million Americans tuned in to the penultimate episode of a series that created a connection between the scientific community and the average American.
Oddly enough, Cosmos aired mainly on Fox (thanks to executive producer Seth MacFarlane, creator of Fox’s hit animated series Family Guy). I watched every episode, and Tyson’s masterful ability to communicate the word of science was an enthralling educational experience. The twelfth episode explained the greenhouse effect, humanity’s impact on global warming, and debunked myths purported by skeptics.
People like Tyson make you feel like there’s hope for those who deny the existence of climate change. The facts are all there. Every American just needs to realize that if we accept scientific consensus and change our habits accordingly, we could become the model for the rest of the world to combat global warming, our greatest enemy.
We must be the change we want to see in the world, or risk being the change that ends it.