The link between various anxieties of a myriad of types and the electoral victory of Donald Trump in 2016 must be undisputed. The entirety of the 21st century since September 11, 2001 has been marked by a growing pile of worries among people of the globe, ending the façade in the West regarding the fall of the Soviet empire as the end of history. If we view the 20th century as the last of the modern age, then our current millennium lives in a post-modern age dominated by fears of war, starvation, technological disasters and nuclear proliferation.
The end of the 20th century in the United States marked a massive reversion back to the 19th century, before the reforms of the 1930s and 1940s changed income inequality in the United States. This economic anger amongst the American middle class, alongside fears of Islamic terrorism and anger towards social progressivism, including the advent of that devil political correctness, carried Donald Trump unto Pennsylvania Avenue.
The irony, however, is the massive lack of objective information. There is one anxiety of the 21st century that is so dire in its consequences yet so few in its worriers that its occurrence would be marked as a warning to future generations, and such is the anxiety of climate change.
A recent meta-analysis by J. Stuart Carlton of Texas A&M University found that 97 percent of all biophysical scientists have concluded that there is sufficient evidence to prove that climate change is a manmade phenomenon. The vast majority of the 97 percent also believe that the consequences of a climate disaster will be far more deadly and destructive than anything humans have faced in modern times, save for nuclear holocaust.
An objective viewer would seem to think that this enormous approval of the doctrine of manmade climate change would warrant massive support in the United States, but this is not the case at all. A Pew Research Center study undergone in late-2016 found that only 36 percent of Americans are personally concerned about climate change.
Not only this, but the belief of manmade climate change is highly correlated with political leanings. The Pew study also polled Americans about various questions regarding climate change and categorized them into four political groups: conservative Republicans, moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats, and liberal Democrats. The results of this section were truly shocking. Only 18 percent of conservative Republicans and 24 percent of moderate Republicans believe climate change is even occurring.
This question did not even ask about the cause of climate change, meaning that only a minority of Republicans recognize the indisputable fact that the temperature is rising by some cause, a finding vastly more conclusive than anything their local weatherman could say. Only 7 percent of conservative Republicans and 15 percent of moderate Republicans believe that climate change scientists are in the best interest of the public, meaning that a over 80 percent of all Republicans hold to the belief that there is an international conspiracy to use government subsidies to buy green energy products amongst 97 percent of all biophysical scientists around the globe, a claim that may not even be found in the Gospel of Alex Jones.
I do not mean to seem demeaning to Republicans, including Trump voters. I recognize the immense struggle of many middle and lower-class Trump voters to survive in the socioeconomic jungle of the 21st century. I recognize how the philosophy of political correctness, although developed in good faith and with honest intentions, has radicalized into a cult of self-censorship. However, these unfounded claims, believed by millions to evade responsibility for a natural disaster by denying its existence, are inexcusable. However, I put more of the fault on Congressmen who listen to these fables and used them to craft legislation. Unfortunately, my claim to objectivity in these matters may be disregarded by some by objective studies and voting history analyses that find that the overwhelming majority of Congressmen who oppose climate change legislation are Republicans.
C.S. Lewis had an interesting theological thought experiment that I feel fits this situation amongst a vast majority of Republican congressmen. Regarding some of the critical teachings and sayings of Jesus of Nazareth, including his apocalyptic visions and his commandment to his followers to ‘Take no thought for the morrow,’ Lewis said that the man must have been either evil, deluded or divine. This trilemma fits well with these Republican politicians, with a simple substitution: they must be evil, wanting to destroy human civilization, deluded, stupid enough to disregard the findings of these scientists, or corrupt enough to forgo a life for their children and grandchildren for an extra two years in Congress.
Unfortunately for all Americans, red or blue, evidence seems to point to the door number three.
A study from the Center for Responsive Politics in 2017 detailed all of the donations made to congressmen in 2017 from the oil and gas industry. Their findings summarily found that the overwhelming majority of these massive donations went to Republicans. The highest three donators for this year were the Chevron Corporation, Western Refining, and Koch Industries. For Chevron, of the $1,448,601 donated to PACs for congressmen, only $39,797, less than 3 percent of the total donated, went to Democrats. The other two companies fare worse in this discrepancy. For Western Refining, only 1.8 percent of their $1,297,800 in contributions went to Democrats. For Koch Industries, the standard bearer for the anti-climate crusade, only 0.4 percent of their $984,300 in donations went to Democrats.
The problem with the Lewis trilemma is that although one answer is seemingly likely through the reading of the Gospels, it cannot be proven correct. The same problem arises for my trilemma. I recognize that correlation does not equal causation, nor can I conclusively prove that Republican congressmen vote against climate regulation because of their donators, but the evidence is there. Such massive discrepancies in donations between Republicans and Democrats must show that oil and energy companies heavily favor the GOP. The voting histories of Republican congressmen and their Democratic counterparts also shows a similar discrepancy. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) post an annual scorecard rating each congressman’s support for climate change regulation on a rating of 0 to 100. For the 2016 scoreboard, the lowest cumulative rating for a Democrat was Colin Peterson of Minnesota with a rating of 33 percent. Only eight of the 292 Republican congressman had a score higher than 33.
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The response of many climate change deniers in the Republican political establishment are half-baked at best. Some of their catchphrases include “Scientists are undecided,” or “I’m not a scientist and can’t claim to know these things.” The obvious response to the latter of which is that there are professional who can know these things, of course. The unfortunate thing is that the same Republican voters who brought these congressman to Capitol Hill will be the first to suffer if renewable energy and preventative measures are not undertaken by the federal government to prevent or prepare for a massive climate disaster.
Jason Beck is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs on alternate Tuesdays.