According to Pew Research Center, the United States has the highest carbon emissions per capita, but it is among the least concerned about the potential impact of climate change. Ironically, when scaling the global population, we arrive at a 51 percent median of people who say that climate change is already harming people, and another 28 percent believe that it will do so within the next few years.
With matters like California’s drought already affecting us, it’s shocking that there hasn’t been as much of a discussion about climate change in our state. The problem with the denial of climate change is two-fold: not only are there people who simply don’t believe that it exists, but there are also those who resolve to make quick and easy, but also temporary changes in their lifestyles, and then sit back and congratulate themselves when it’s no longer convenient for them to maintain these changes. It’s simple to take shorter showers some days, for instance, but more difficult to shift to environment-friendly vehicles or solar-powered energy.
According to ThinkProgress, more than six in 10 Americans are represented by someone in Congress who denies climate change – 59 percent of the Republican House caucus and 70 percent of Republicans in the Senate, which makes for over 200 million people represented by someone who denies climate change (meanwhile, only 16 percent of Democrats say they do not believe in climate change, according to fivethirtyeight). As a sharp contrast, 76 percent of Americans do believe that climate change exists.
“The U.S. Republican Party is an anomaly in denying anthropogenic climate change,” said Sondre Båtstrand, a researcher at the University of Bergen in Norway, in a study comparing the stance of conservative parties across the globe on climate change. “Conservative parties as such are not in opposition to climate policies, but the pro-business position is evident in that conservative parties do not challenge coal or petroleum in countries with large reserves of these resources.”
There is only so much we can do about this part of the problem – going out and voting in the next election to replace these Congressmen would be the most obvious solution. When government officials around the globe are working to come to a consensus on macro-level changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the burden also falls on us to make changes on the micro level.
The 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP21) saw over 150 heads of state and leaders around the world including Barack Obama, Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin, attending a conference held in Paris in 2015. Developed countries accumulated $62 billion of public and private funding for climate action in 2014, and 185 countries published their commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
For ordinary citizens around the globe who want to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, COP21’s official site suggests the following: using energy-efficient appliances like certain light bulbs; switching off appliances that are on standby mode; turning off the light when leaving a room; slightly reducing heating during the winter to cut energy consumption; reducing internet use; conserving water; reducing travel time in cars by using public transportation, cycling and carpooling; recycling waste and using fewer disposable products; cutting down on paper or using paper from sustainable sources to prevent deforestation; and eating more seasonal fruits and vegetables.
But these suggestions are not the temporary fix that many would have you believe. What a lot of people tend to do, in regards to these suggestions, is adopt them in small, controlled intervals. They will make “easy” changes like taking shorter showers and separating their trash – but only for as long as it is convenient for them. And then, when it’s time to revert to their old lifestyles, they’ll pat themselves on the back for a job well done.
We are in a position of privilege where we can consider environmentalism a trend – but if we want to make any real difference, then it needs to be a lifestyle change altogether. While a significant part of the responsibility falls on our congressmen to make these changes on a macro level, the burden is also on us to make changes on the micro level. There is no quick and easy fix to climate change and just ranting about how terrible things are and how ridiculous people are to deny it, without making a conscious change in our own lifestyles, is a waste of time and energy.