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The Politics of Climate Change

Posted by on in General Solar Topics
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Four years ago the issue of climate change did not come up even once in the three presidential debates between President Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney.

climate seriesThe climate change topic was ignored despite the fact that scientists had linked a very warm Arctic to that October’s superstorm--Hurricane Sandy. Nor was the topic mentioned despite the severe drought that was plaguing the Middle East, a situation that a National Academy of Sciences report says contributed to the Syrian refugee crisis. Thus, they concluded that the refugee crisis was partially attributable to human influences on the climate system.

It still remains to be seen whether climate change will become an issue in this election cycle, even though there is a wide partisan polarization between the two major political parties on not only whether climate change is occurring, but also on whether human activities are to blame if it is.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 59 percent of Americans believe the effects of global warming (climate change) have already begun. But there is a wide gap between those who identify with Republicans and those who identify with Democrats. Only 30 percent of Republicans believe the effects have already begun, compared to 89 percent among Democrats.

The same numbers hold true for whether current global warming is due more to human activities: 29 percent of Republican and 90 percent of Democrats.

Even more interesting is the gap between the two groups over whether the media is exaggerating the seriousness or impact of global warming in news stories: 72 percent of Republicans believe the media is exaggerating, compared to only 7 percent of Democrats.

But what would a debate sound like if these two differing viewpoints were put on stage for all to see?

Question: Is climate change a settled science?

Republicans: No. “People with a conflict of interest have manufactured a climate crisis.” (Wall Street Journal)

Democrats: Yes. “Peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.” (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) And the only conflict of interest is that of fossil-fuel providers, who attempt to obscure the science because they stand to lose billions if we switch to other non-polluting energy sources.

Question: Should we take action to mitigate climate change?

Republicans: We shouldn’t. It is a costly solution for a problem that is not proven. “Even the Obama administration admits that its coal plans will cost many billions but have no meaningful impact on climate even a century from now.” (National Review)

Democrats: “The EPA says cutting fossil fuel generation will be worth an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion in 2030, compared to annual costs of about $8.8 billion. Secondly, none of this puts a price on the avoidance of up to 6600 premature deaths and 140,000 asthma attacks in kids the EPA says the cuts will deliver—because you can’t put a price on suffering.” (Desmog)

Question: Is human activity contributing to climate change?

Republicans: If you believe that climate change is happening, how do you distinguish between man-made and natural causes of climate change? “There is too much uncertainty and doubt about the models and the amount of warming they project.” (Wall Street Journal)

Democrats: “It is clear from extensive scientific evidence that the dominant cause of the rapid change in climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide.” (American Meteorological Society)


Jim Arwood
Communications Director

Arizona Solar Center

Question to comment on: Is climate change happening now, and if so are human activities to blame?


  • Jim Stack
    Jim Stack Thu, Sep 22, 2016

    Politic told us Nuclear would be too cheap to meter. This article links tells how it has turned out to be just the opposite. Yet Solar is so cheap utilities have added fee's for having it your home instead of coming up with rates that make it work for all of us. Why can't we all just work together?

    Once nuclear power was sold to us as electricity supply that would be “too cheap to meter”. Now, even though the British Tory government knows it’s amongst the most expensive power sources on the planet…

  • Jim Stack
    Jim Stack Tue, Sep 13, 2016

    Eileen, Electric cars are a great way to use Solar PV Electric since you save 4x more that buying imported and Fracked gas. Most Electrics can go 4 miles on a kWh of electric. Our GRID actually has excess energy Off Peak. You can drop into the Scottsdale Pavilions September 17th 4 PM to 8 PM to see 40-50 leading electrics at our annual National Drive Electric Week NDEW2016. It's free and you talk to owners who drive all over the USA in Tesla's USA made vehicles and others that commute every day in electrics.

  • Eileen Bump
    Eileen Bump Mon, Sep 12, 2016

    I feel that climate change is affected by the natural cooling or warming of the earth's life cycle. I also believe that we are contributing to global warming by our use of fuels in autos and industry and this hastens the global warming. The ice caps have shrunk more in the last several years as our population has grown. i feel if this continues we will all be in serious trouble. Why aren't we promoting the use of solar and alternative sources of energy instead of relying on oil and coal? why don't we have more electric cars? Eileen

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Guest Sun, Apr 23, 2017

Jim Arwood served six Arizona governors in various capacities managing federal energy programs, culminating in his appointment by then Governor Janet Napolitano, as Director of the State Energy Office in 2006. After nearly 25 years serving the state of Arizona, Mr. Arwood retired from government service in 2010 and today consults for a variety of energy related organizations. He also serves as Director of Communications for the Arizona Solar Center.

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