The Heated Debate of Climate Change

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451853435Maybe it’s time the Republican Party retired the image of an elephant representing the party with that of a frog obliviously sitting in a vat of steaming water.

For a while, the evangelical wing of the Republican Party has rejected the science of evolution because it doesn’t fit into their biblical worldview, and no amount of “proof” is going to change their minds.

More recently, climate change (formerly known as global warming) has joined it as a polarizing issue. Somehow believing that “we” (well, in any case, “you”) are even partly responsible for the planet heating up, causing rising temperatures, extreme weather, rapid melting of the Arctic icecap, with a corresponding rise in sea levels, has become a political litmus test for Republicans.

The New York Times reports that only ¼ of Republicans identify global climate change as a “major threat,” compared to 65% of Democrats. This 25% puts them third on the list of climate change deniers around the world, ahead (or behind, depending on your perspective) of Pakistan and Egypt, who came in at 15% and 16%, respectively. In the Tea Party wing, (motto: “Wrong on Everything”) only 10% believe it’s a major concern, allowing them to proudly claim “We’re # 1” when it comes to burying their heads in the increasingly scorching sand vis a vis the issue.

When it comes to turning a cold shoulder on global warming, it doesn’t even matter if your city is literally ankle-deep in the problem.

Because another Times piece reported how in parts of Miami Beach, even on sunny days, flooding during high tide is occurring on a regular basis in the streets. The paper quoted Eliseo Toussaint, whose laundromat entrance was blocked by green saltwater that had filled the streets, including the entrance to his store.

“This never used to happen,” Toussaint said. “I’ve owned this place eight years, and now it’s all the time.”

Even worse, The New York Times cites a salesman who, in order to keep his feet dry on the trek from his car to the store,  keeps plastic bags and rubber bands with him that he uses to wrap over his shoes.

Yet even though Miami is a city that’s particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels – which are projected to rise one to four feet by century’s end – it’s such a hot-button (no pun intended) issue that Florida Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush, and the present governor, Rick Scott – two of whom are potential presidential candidates – have mostly stayed mum on the issue, or have come down firmly on the “What, Me Worry?” side.

You can imagine these politicians responding to the two businessmen’s concern by saying “Are you going to believe me, or the slimy green water that’s almost up to your knees?”

Republican denial primarily stems from two different factions.  Evangelicals (again) base their view on some interpretation of scripture that has God being in total command of the environment. The more free-market sector is motivated by their loathing of any regulations and taxes that government would impose on the fossil fuel industries and other major polluters to help stem the crisis.

That’s why I suggest Republicans change their symbol from an elephant to the frog, because this refusal to face the problem is nothing if not analogous to that famous experiment with a frog immersed in a pot of water in which the temperature is gradually, not suddenly, increased to the boiling point. The frog continues to contentedly sit there until, more or less, he’s turned into frog soup.

In our current political environment, the oft-quoted quote from Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan that “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts,” sounds positively incendiary. And it’s only getting more heated.

About Stan Sinberg

Stan is an award-winning newspaper columnist, radio commentator, and features writer whose humor has appeared in everything from the NY Times to WSJ and MAD Magazine. Stan is a native New Yorker living on the west coast. His website is www.stansinberg.com and you can email him at stan@stansinberg.com or follow him on Twitter @ssinberg1
Posted in: Democratic Party, Environment, GOP, Politics, Technology