Climate change suffers from bad message, but hope is on the less-hazy horizon

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Smog over Los Angeles, California. Photo courtesy of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

People from countries other than the United States might be surprised to find that climate change remains a contentious issue here. Since the phenomenon entered the mainstream in former Vice President Al Gore’s 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” Americans have had a hard time coming to terms with the possibility of climate change existing, yet alone whether something should be done about it.

In an episode of the FX comedy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” one character argues that “science is a liar sometimes.” Part of what makes that scene funny is the realistic nature of that character’s belief—that “science” is not truthful is an opinion held by a large segment Americans still today.

While no actual evidence exists suggesting people who are more educated are more likely to consider climate change an issue that needs to be addressed (although conservative White males are more likely to be skeptical of climate change), many people are certainly uneducated in regard to the topic itself—confused about the facts and doubtful they can make a difference.

But for many who are trying to make a difference, their messages have been off the mark. Immediately targeting industrial sectors with harsh proposed regulations backfired, forcing those industries to mobilize lobbyists and thus politicians to make the issue political and polarize what could have been a healthy debate. The slow-but-sure change that has occurred in making automobiles better for the environment is an example of a positive effort. Fuel-efficient vehicles are cool now, and cars in the U.S. are more fuel-efficient than ever.

The good news is that the cool factor is starting to be applied to energy now. Arizona Public Service is expanding its solar use, and the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, the largest nuclear power plant in the U.S., produces 35% of the electric power generated in Arizona with virtually no harmful emissions. Slowly and surely, as advocates become better at framing their arguments and making climate-friendly industries efficient and sensible, Americans will come on board.


Note: This blog post was edited by Evaldas Labanauskas.

3 Comments on “Climate change suffers from bad message, but hope is on the less-hazy horizon”

  1. Hi Andrew!

    I love that your post kind of predicted what Peter Byck said to us in class the next day. Obviously in a perfect world you wouldn’t need to do much marketing for anti-climate change measures (though climate change would exist in the first place in a perfect world, either). I think as “green” products become more popular as people grow more environmentally conscious and sustainable projects like Byck’s become more common, we’ll see more advancements.


  2. Hi Andrew,

    I had no idea that the Paolo Verde Nuclear Generating Station produced 35% of Arizona’s electrical energy. I do think that more areas in the United States are trying to incorporate energy sources that are more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Hopefully the trend will continue upwards and there will be more changes made around the world.

    Thank you for your post.


  3. Andrew,

    First of all, I have to comment on the thoroughly conducted, relevant research in your post. Nicely done. Second, thank you for including one of my favorite shows in a post about climate change. ASIP has been a favorite of mine for a while.

    Now, while it doesn’t strike me to be incredibly surprising that many white, conservative males are primary opponents on the political issue of climate change, I am still a bit perplexed at the reasoning behind their claims. The article you used mentions that reform from climate change is bad for capitalism but I would think that representatives would start putting the needs of their society and the people they represent before their values in capitalist principles. Perhaps I’m just an idealist though.

    Thanks for your thoughts on the issue!

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