The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News



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Op-ed: How political polarization is affecting the climate crisis


Insufferable heat, the development of new diseases, food shortages and underwater nations seem to be a far-away idea only seen in a science-fiction film about the end of the world. However, these descriptions are slowly becoming a reality for many, as the issue of climate change becomes more prevalent in society. As unprecedented summer heat and increasingly intense natural disasters unfold, social, political and economic chaos will ensue as individuals flee their countries and scramble to fix their situations.

Despite this grim reality, some Americans continue to be hesitant about climate change. Our nation remains divided on the climate crisis in-large-part due to the political polarization in our government. Without unity, we cannot create impactful climate change policy. 

 The topic of climate change has been a source of debate since its first discussion in Congress in 1996. In the journal Environmental Politics, recent research discussed the language of the two parties regarding climate change. Republican members devote their attention to cap-and-trade policy, climate change denial, international accords and energy production, while Democratic speakers focus on public health and extreme weather. Republican speech continues to focus on the use of oil, coal and natural gas due to campaign contributions made by fossil fuel companies to candidates following the controversial ruling of Citizens United v. FEC in 2010. Many Democrats have emphasized the opportunities that will accompany a “green” economy and the use of renewable sources instead of fossil fuels. 

 In 1990, the system of cap-and-trade, which allows the market to determine the price of carbon in order for investment decisions and innovation to occur, was introduced in Congress to regulate the emissions of sulfur dioxide, a prominent component of acid rain. The policy has remained a prominent issue in Congress and in the fight for climate change policy. Many Republicans reject the idea of cap-and-trade, and wish to alter the legislation to “cap-and-tax.” This proposed change would allow numerous exceptions for large companies and allow for loopholes to avoid adhering to the regulation. 

Another issue underlying the divide between the two parties is the belief in science. Some people question the true motives of climate scientists and whether they hold ulterior motives for conducting such research. According to a Pew Research Center poll, 55% of Democrats place their faith in climate scientists and their understanding of the crisis. Democrats are also more likely to believe there will be numerous catastrophes that neither policy nor individual changes can stop. Unlike Democrats, Republicans are more likely to believe that climate change research is influenced by the desire of scientists to advance their careers (57%) or their own political leanings (54%) most of the time. 

As Democrats continue to be alarmed by climate change and its harm to all life, several Republicans insist there is a “small likelihood” such events will occur. 

It is alarming to see that our own government leaders refuse to acknowledge the facts. Some representatives argue against global warming because their states are too cold, as Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said. These remarks and alarming statistics display that education on the climate crisis is necessary for our leaders as the issue becomes more prominent in our daily lives.

In April, President Biden pledged more than $500 million to combat deforestation in Brazil and $1 billion to help developing countries move away from using fossil fuels, regions slated to experience the worst effects of climate change as the crisis continues. Through Biden’s proposal, the $500 million will be distributed over the course of five years and aid the Amazon Fund. The Amazon is home to hundreds of species and plays a large role in the water cycle; however, it has sadly seen a rise in deforestation. Though the plan would be beneficial to the country of Brazil, many Republicans are opposed to the idea of foreign climate assistance. According to a 2022 study published in the National Library of Medicine, Republicans often veto climate change legislation. Many question whether this proposal is truly necessary as taxpayer dollars are being spent on foreign nations. 

As the United States continues to remain polarized and public policy is halted due to constant discourse of the two political parties, we must recognize the imminent effects of climate change. Each day, citizens experience record-breaking temperatures as well as cataclysmic natural disasters. To end this, we, as a nation, must solve the issue of climate change through education. 

Lawmakers and citizens should learn of the effects of the climate crisis instead of minimizing its effects by calling it a hoax. Like in all political matters, both parties must reach common ground and recognize the importance of the issue at hand. As a nation, we cannot resolve our issues by avoiding or denying them. We must learn to come together, trust the facts and set aside our differences to protect our nation, its beauty and its citizens. Earth is our home, so let us learn to care for all its beauty.

Elena Hernandez is a second year psychology and criminal justice combined major. She can be reached at [email protected].

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