Watching the news over the years, I have seen more and more disturbing images of climate change. From posts of polar bears lying lifeless on melting glaciers to reporters covering the blazing Amazon wildfires, I have witnessed worsening environmental tragedies occurring all over the world. There is no reversing the damage done to our Earth, but opportunities remain to prevent further environmental harm. People can take individual actions to help the environment, including composting food scraps and consuming less meat. But well intentioned as these actions are, they do relatively little to help the climate as a whole. The main source of potential large scale progress is not individuals, but rather initiatives taken by the government. However, the political divisions between Republicans and Democrats about both necessary climate policy changes and climate science’s validity as a whole prevent the country from taking the necessary action to protect the environment.
According to past proposals of bills regarding climate policy, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline bill preventing the expansion of pipe networks in the Dakotas, which Trump and his party all collectively reversed as stated in a New Times article, a majority of Republicans in Congress are opposed to passing laws that include environmental justice initiatives. Beyond the different priorities between the two political parties, there is a fundamental difference in understanding the problem: nearly two thirds of Republicans still deny that human actions impact climate change, as reported by The Climate Center. The disconnect between Democrats and Republicans in the government must be overcome in order to combat the climate emergency. Officials who represent our country hold the power and responsibility to address climate change, so facts about climate science should not be politically charged. Regardless of party affiliation, representatives need to recognize the escalating climate crisis and engage with the problem.
Even when politicians aim to address climate change, America still struggles to implement policies that support the environment. Today, many nations are working to achieve Net Zero by 2050. Net Zero simply means that we would not be introducing any additional greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere by this time. While Joe Biden has proposed and successfully passed several initiatives for clean energy consumption, there are still bills designed to protect the environment that struggle to pass through Congress. Furthermore, because Republicans often make the economy their top priority, climate policy usually falls short due to monetary concerns. According to Pew Research Center, 59 percent of Republicans believe that Joe Biden’s initiative to restructure America’s infrastructure to combat climate change will hurt the economy. Like national proposals, local level climate proposals also do not often get very far.
Along with problems in the United States government’s inner workings, representatives’ close ties to fossil fuel companies and financial incentives to pass policies in these companies’ favor also contribute to their reluctance to face the environmental crisis head on. The oil and gas industries have historically supported the Republican party. As stated in an article by the Guardian, wealthy individuals, who often have fossil fuels to thank for their money, invested over 100 million dollars in Republican representatives during the 2016 election.
Fossil fuel companies are well aware that Republicans often do not support climate focused policies at the expense of the economy, which is why the industries continue to endorse them. They want representatives that will allow non-regulated carbon consumption and emission, and are more than willing to provide funding to make that happen. In accepting this financial support, Republican campaigns flourish with little concern about funds, but fail to address the bigger issue at hand: the global climate emergency.
The climate crisis is not a problem that affects one specific population. Climate change will eventually harm every living creature on this planet, if it hasn’t already. Regardless of whether you support the Democratic or Republican party, climate change is everyone’s problem. The American government has the power to create and enforce laws that would decrease the United States’ contribution to climate change, and they have a responsibility to the citizens to do so. Once it is gone, the environment, unlike the economy, cannot be rebuilt or brought back.