Discussing the weather is the archetypal small-talk conversation. I could be talking to someone I see every day, to someone who lives on the other side of the planet, to my confidante, or to a passing stranger, and weather would always be an appropriate and expected topic.
Weather is always happening, always changing (or not, but even that’s worth mentioning), and lately, it’s been even more unpredictable. Logically, greater unpredictability would raise the prevalence of weather in conversations, as anything new and unexpected satisfies our consumer society that sustains itself off of constant, ever-changing entertainment.
So, now that we seem to be talking about the weather more than ever before, what does that imply? It means, like most things, that it becomes a partisan issue:
“Wow, I can’t believe it’s snowing in April…”
“Yeah, that darned global warming.”
“Umm, actually, isn’t that evidence against your so-called ‘global warming’….”
“In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!”
Though it is alarming that the leader of one of the most polluting countries in the world doesn’t understand the significance of global warming, the first example is important since many people think global warming is a matter of opinion.
A recent Gallup study shows that this is still a partisan issue and that the rift between Democrats and Republicans is increasing. Only four percent of Democrats believe that the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated, compared to 69 percent of Republicans. 89 percent of Democrats believe global warming is caused by human activities, whereas only 34 percent of Republicans share that view.
Because of the abundance of hurricanes and snowstorms this past year and the number of people it affected, one could expect the weather to concern voters in the coming 2018 elections. But, as with shootings, we tend to favor reactionary over preventive solutions. Thus, hurricane relief and rebuilding infrastructure are preferred, as humanity’s ego attempts to win a game of chicken against the forces of nature.
I’ve “crunched the numbers” and looked at the current frontrunners from each party in all 36 gubernatorial elections this year. From this, we can see how the importance of protecting the environment has been overshadowed by other issues. Only 24 of the 72 candidates I looked at (one-third of the total) mentioned their support for protecting the environment; this included 21 Democrats and 3 Republicans. The surge of political debates this past year, whether about gun violence, women’s rights, immigration, or terrorism, all put climate change in the “old news” folder. But if humans don’t want to be old news too, we must keep the fight for the environment alive and at the forefront of the public consciousness, no matter who gets married, which Kardashian is pregnant, or what latest opinion Mr. Trump’s thumbs decided to share with the world.
A tweet such as the one mentioned previously is entertaining, but it’s so much more important than it looks. It reminded me that Trump withdrew from the Paris Accords seven months prior. The news cycle has shifted so much on a daily basis that Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords has become dangerously forgotten.
Trump’s climate change tweet is a double-edged sword. It may have renewed the public’s attention to the climate change debate (since the media considers every one of Trump’s tweets to be “breaking news”), but it has also provided a strong endorsement of the partisan value of weather. And no one wants that.
These days, “partisan” optics are immediate roadblocks to any legislation being put forward. Your political affiliation receives the same amount of blind, patriotic support that you would give your local sports team. If President Trump, head coach of the Republican Elephants, says that the Democratic Donkeys’ support for protecting the environment is wrong, all the Elephant fans will blindly follow, forgoing the crucial step of fact-checking. Moreover, the opposite is true. We cling to an idea that when someone in power says something, we trust their word. It shouldn’t be considered completely rational thinking but, unfortunately, it is.
Although there are economic strings attached to climate change—whether it be in prevention or consequence—the weather should not be a partisan issue. Yes, the price of production would increase due to environmental regulations, and, yes, the price of production would also increase due to global warming’s disastrous effects, but that should not be the primary selling point. Every politician, whether supporting or rejecting global warming as fact, uses economics to justify their stance. What about survival as a good argument?
Clouds don’t respect borders regardless of immigration policy. Rising sea levels aren’t pro-life or pro-choice. Droughts don’t pay taxes.
Despite what Nanny McPhee tries to convince us to believe, snow in August is not a good thing in the Northern Hemisphere. For those who can vote, the primaries are starting in June; do your research and vote for a candidate who supports an environmental policy that will enable them to have any constituents in the future.
Elia Kruger is a member of the Class of 2021 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org