For decades there has been debate about whether climate change is real, whether it is caused by humans, and what we should or shouldn’t do about it. Despite clear evidence that climate change is already causing damage through rising sea levels and irregular precipitation patterns, some still feel that we can go on with business as usual. Climate debate gives the companies benefitting from the fossil fuel industry time to continue profiting off environmental harm.
In coastal communities, rising sea levels could mean property damages with a hefty price tag, failing businesses, and even relocation. Despite the threats these communities are already facing because of our warming planet, some of them are reluctant to make policy changes to mitigate climate change. Why?
The politics behind the debates are getting in the way, bringing opinions into the realm of fact. Funding from conservative groups and oil companies is elevating the voices of climate change deniers, giving the illusion of a debate amongst experts. As a student of environmental communications, it is frustrating to see biased information on the same platforms the public looks to for facts.
Climate change has become so rooted in politics, some climate deniers believe Earth Day is a communist plot because it is on Vladimir Lenin’s birthday. (Who never spoke about environmental issues...) The debate is no longer about science, it is about clashing political ideologies. Even Exxon knows climate change is fueled by burning fossil fuels but their profits are driven by the same actions they know to be harmful. Companies like this benefit from the debate over climate change, and they benefit from the uncertainty of the public.
Charles Mann wrote in the September 2014 issue of The Atlantic that “bewildered and battered by the back-and-forth, the citizenry sits, for the most part, on its hands. For all the hot air expended on the subject, we still don’t know how to talk about climate change.” Allowing climate deniers, who are simply ignoring the facts, to speak on the topic is inhibiting action and allowing environmental harm to drag on.
The upfront cost of mitigating climate change would be a worthy investment and could prevent substantially more cost down the road but it is a cost nonetheless. There is already pressure on governing bodies to cut costs and lower taxes, why would they implement programs to prevent something they are not even sure is going to happen? They would not, and for the most part, they have not.
The debate on climate change is not really a debate on climate change, it is an effective method of stalling action toward sustainable energy sources. Debating allows companies who profit off fossil fuels to keep making money while decisions are being talked through. As a consumer of information and product, it is important to understand the bias in climate debate when forming your own belief on what is true.
Science has confirmed that climate change is real and it is caused by people. This is comedically demonstrated by John Oliver and Bill Nye in a short climate debate skit. The way we talk about climate change matters, it's time to stop giving climate deniers the time and space to spread false information.