changed since 2008? Drexel University’s Robert Brulle, professor of
sociology and environmental science, says that four factors help explain climate change’s political problems, even within the
Obama camp. The administration is “not really talking much about
climate change at all, either,” he said. “You have the Democrats
sort of just getting quieter and quieter, and the Republicans getting
louder and louder in denial.”
First, in the
summer of 2008 – when the last presidential campaign was in high
gear – unemployment was low. The opposite
is true today.
becomes a peripheral issue when unemployment is so high,” Brulle
said in a recent interview.
second factor: the rise of the Tea Party.
In 2008, the Tea Party did not exist.
By 2010, it was an organized political force.
to a poll conducted in April and May of this year, led by Yale Forum
publisher Anthony Leiserowitz, 53 percent of Republicans who do not
identify with the Tea Party say that global warming is happening. In
contrast, among Tea Party members – who make up 12 percent of the
American public – only 34 percent say that global warming is
“All the Republican candidates have
to go through the gauntlet of the Republican primary, which is where
the Tea Party is going to have the most influence,” Brulle said.
The result is that candidates are taking positions to appeal to their political base in the upcoming primaries.
news coverage is also a factor in this year's climate politics. Media coverage
and public concern about climate change increased dramatically in
2006 and 2007, during the period when Gore’s “An Inconvenient
Truth” was released, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
issued its Fourth Assessment Report, and Gore and the IPCC won the
Nobel Peace Prize.
by 2010, coverage had returned to 2004 levels, Brulle said: “It’s
just not a major item of discussion.”
Finally, the movement to oppose action
on climate change has grown much stronger since 2008, Brulle said. In
the post-“climategate” world, for example, climate "skeptics" feel free to claim publicly, though falsely, that climate
scientists faked their data.
During the same time period, the energy
industry invested millions of dollars in lobbying, according to an
analysis by the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund.
“Five hundred million dollars has
been spent since the last race to discredit climate change,” said
Shawn Lawrence Otto, author of “Fool
me twice: Fighting the assault on science in America.” The GOP candidates' views,
Otto said, represent “the triumph of ideology over knowledge.”
Speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in September, former President Bill Clinton also criticized the GOP candidates for denying climate change. "We look like a joke," he said. "You can't win the nomination of one of the major parties in our country if you admit that the scientists are right."