“We don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet,” said Mitt Romney almost a year ago in New Hampshire. “The idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”
Each and every one of us should be acutely afraid of the possibility of a Republican presidency. I say this to you as a hard-working student. But moreover, I say this to you as someone who has seen the results of and who has great faith in our academic system. And my belief is that the Republican philosophy does not undervalue but actively devalues scientific product.
Although there are some ludicrous examples of this, I care most about the position generally held among Republicans that climate change is false. According to the Pew Research Center, only 16 percent of GOP politicians believe that humans are causing global warming. A staggering 53 percent do not think there is solid evidence that the earth is warming. This is, simply put, abysmal. I think that the phenomenon of climate change is one of most pressing challenges humanity is facing and has ever faced. And I also believe that climate change is a good case study of a phenomenon that is supported extremely well by science.
Unlike politicians, the trend among scientists seems to be an increasing acceptance of climate change. Nearly 98 percent of researchers publishing in the field believe that humans are causing warming activity, and numerous studies from the world’s best universities support this position. Ironically, many American politicians have graduated from institutions that acknowledge human-caused global warming.
And so, as students, we are left to conclude that Republican politicians have turned away from science in great numbers. Well that’s that: Those of us who are science majors should be concerned. But it’s more than that. Academic science is derived from academic principals that guide every course of study at institutions like Duke. All fields share science’s quest to drive at some deeper truth, meaning or beauty. The concept of building upon the knowledge derived by those before us is fundamental. And all fields grow from the symbiosis of sharing concurrent knowledge.
Do not confuse the dismissal of climate change by some politicians with an extension of science’s tenets of self-evaluation and self-questioning. Rather than questioning the methods of scientific studies, many Republican politicians are advancing political biases. Broadly speaking, I think this is representative of some politicians’ stances on climate change; by selectively choosing what not to believe, Republican politicians have rejected the worth of all the fields we study.
Every student passionate about his or her field should be concerned. I do understand—and occasionally sympathize with—those that see their degree as a vocational path to higher status. But these people are not out of the water so long as they live in the United States: Some of our own government agencies have acknowledged climate change. The EPA regulates emissions of greenhouse gases, following the landmark case Massachusetts v. EPA in 2007. The National Academy of Science has authored many papers regarding climate change. The CIA recognizes climate change as a threat to national security. Twelve villages in Alaska have explored relocation to avoid rising sea levels. So though the evidence abounds, Republican politicians continue to dismiss it. They have reached the point at which they devalue and even dismiss branches of the U.S. government.
So it doesn’t matter what you study—everyone should be worried, as the consequences of this dismissal are far-reaching. I’ve personally felt pain when a cap-and-trade bill failed in Congress. As I’ve said in previous columns, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has called for a reduction in emissions in order to curb global warming. If emissions are not reduced, the world’s positive feedback systems may spin climate change out of our control. We’re already seeing major effects.
That is, unless the U.N.’s warnings that 150,000 people die each year as a result of environmental changes linked to global warming is a liberal statistic.
I urge you, fellow students, to consider just how serious the Republican dismissal of evidence on climate change really is. It’s the kind of thing that would be sort of funny if it were coming from the football jock in your high school physics class. But it’s not. These are real people, holding scary amounts of power. And when they uncompromisingly reject science, we all suffer.
Lucas Spangher is a Trinity junior. His column runs every other Friday.