Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Opposition to Climate Change: Reasoned or Self-Interest?

The Republicans are moving forward in their opposition to climate change.  As the New York Times reported recently, the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives will push legislation stating that the EPA does not have authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act.   They have already done away with the House subcommittee responsible for climate change.   While this bill will most likely not succeed in the Senate, Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, has proposed a bill that would put off any new regulations regarding power plants and other industrial sources for two years.

Despite all the evidence, historic and current, that climate change is upon us and is to a large extent caused by the polluting effect of human industrial and other energy-related activities, there are those, both scientists and politicians, who do not believe this is true.  They either deny that climate change is happening or that it is caused by human activity as opposed to the cycles of nature.  Why?

There is no rational reason for doubting the facts of climate change.  While those who are skeptics have sought to poke holes in the evidence, either by claiming that Climategate showed that the evidence has been manipulated by climate activists or questioning how there can be global warming when the United States and Europe has been experiencing the coldest and snowiest winters in years, these claims have no basis. 

There was no falsification of data found in Climategate and the global warming pattern of climate change is not contradicted by the cold winters we’ve been having.  Overall, we have experienced the hottest years on record and temperatures at both poles and in the ocean are clearly rising.

When you look behind the smoke screens and bluster, one comes up with an answer very much in keeping with human nature and our culture … greed.   Whether it’s scientists who are dependent on the energy industry for the funding of their projects, or it’s Republican politicians whose first interest is always protecting the interests of their big business corporate donors, or it’s a Democrat from West Virginia, a state where politicians regardless of party receive significant financial backing from the local coal industry, the answer is the same.

These people are more concerned with their own personal self-interest then they are with the common good of their countrymen or mankind.  While this is not an uncommon human character trait, and it is certainly not a new trait among politicians, the increasing influence of corporate and financial interests in Congress over the past 30 years is very disturbing. 

Government officials … whether elected or employed … are responsible for doing the people’s work, of acting to further the common good.  President Lincoln coined the phrase, “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  The Republicans and some Democrats have instead sought to nurture government of industry, by industry, and for industry. 

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