You could say that the American Right is holding the world hostage to their need for greed, especially when it comes to climate change.
As low-lying areas (like New York City) watch helplessly while storm surges wash over areas that could be permanently submerged within decades, as polar ice caps melt at alarming rates far greater than predicted, and as new accelerating feedback loops continue to reveal themselves, other countries boldly take decisive action. Our American government remains not only paralyzed, but poised to take an enormous step backwards, all because of a degree of uncertainty, that has to stretch itself to its fullest height to be even marginally considered the merest shadow of a doubt.
A recent Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey found that 58 percent of Republicans polled still believe that global warming is a hoax. This, at the same time that international polls are finding that Americans are among the biggest doubters, a dubious honor shared with our friends in the UK. Only 47 percent of Americans believe that global warming is real and is mostly caused by emissions, compared with 58 percent of Canadians, for example.
In response to what The Guardian is calling “the moral crisis of our time,” House Republicans have not only not taken action, but in January 2011, they actually disbanded the House Committee on Global Warming in order to “eliminate waste in government.” Remember that?
In a Gallup Poll of 127 countries that asked who believed that global warming was the result of human activities, the United States ranked 86th just behind Tunisia, with 49 percent answering in the affirmative. Top ranked South Korea and Japan had scores of 92 percent and 91 percent, respectively.
Are Americans really that ignorant or are we being deliberately misinformed? Clearly the media has a big role to play in shaping people’s impressions and interpretations of the news of the day. Left-leaning media (e.g. The Guardian) rarely contain skeptical commentary, while skepticism is commonly featured in right-leaning outlets (e.g. The Wall Street Journal). Studies have, in fact, shown that a person’s choice of media is a strong predictor of their outlook on the issue. I think it’s only fair to give credit where it is due, and in this case, Fox News deserves a prize, especially after a Fairleigh Dickinson University study found that regular Fox viewers were less well informed about current events than people who don’t watch news at all. Of course, this should come as no surprise to anyone. The results, incidentally, were filtered by political party, so that was not a factor in that particular poll, though I think it’s a safe bet as to which party predominantly watches Fox.
The issue of “balance as bias,” clearly comes into play here. The fact that two opposing positions are expressed with equal fervor does not mean that they merit equal media coverage. This issue has truly moved to the forefront in this age of extremism, regardless of whether we are discussing climate change, or what conservatives consider to be the far more important issue of the budget deficit. Ideological ideas, with little in the way of substance or merit, such as austerity, for example, are being given equal time, time that could be better used trying to solve the problem.
RP Siegel, PE, is an inventor, consultant and author. He co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining format. Now available on Kindle.
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