Climate Change and Political Partisanship: Why is the Truth So Divisive?

Every intelligent mind that evaluates the causes for global warming concludes that human-induced green-house gas emissions are responsible for Earth’s atmospheric average temperature increases. The only people who disagree with this are fringe scientists and few in number. For mysterious reasons, politicians are highly polarized on this debate. This scientific question has therefore become politicized. Since the early 1990’s the debate has typically fallen along partisan lines. The question needs to be asked: ‘Should we raise awareness of the facts surrounding climate change and risk igniting partisan warfare?’

To investigate the scientific validity of an issue, to raise awareness and form thoughtful opinions, and to act on these views as citizens with our purchasing-power and electoral choices — all this seems a human duty and a moral responsibility. However, what if we also hope to avoid becoming embroiled in partisan conflict, and consider exacerbating its divisive character, by throwing fuel onto a fire, equally unacceptable? An alternative is to refrain from speaking altogether. This however, would imply remaining silent on matters of conscience.

To many it would be unconscionable to hold their peace on matters of importance to one’s community, the environment, and the world. As responsible citizens of one common homeland, if we know something we would wish to share it, especially if  it is of betterment to the world. Who wouldn’t want others to benefit from it, to stimulate large numbers to investigate it, to improve collective conditions and avert disaster?

Pursuit of truth is natural. The desire to teach it is equally natural. The facts compel our conscience to declare that human fossil fuels and deforestation are responsible for climate change and truly threaten life on earth as we know it. How can public information and unbiased investigation into the topic be promoted, while not attracting the label of partisan bickering? How can one be true to one’s conscience but at the same time avoid being drawn into conflict with partisan representatives and economic special interests?

Partisan demonizing carries with it a debilitating affect on intelligent discourse. Climate change is after all, an issue of global importance and collective human destiny. Is it possible to contribute wisely whilst remaining free of quarrel in a social environment charged with partisan bickering and economic second agendas?

Holding discourse hostage with the threat of demonizing and castigating alternative viewpoints undermines the truth-discovering power of consultation, cooperation, and collective action.

Dear Sandy: Will humankind put aside partisanship before the Earth overheats our species?