With the COP 21 climate negotiations underway in Paris, countries have begun to outline climate commitments and to push others to increase pledges to cut carbon emissions. However, delegates from the United States are confronted with an additional hurdle—the knowledge that any deal will face political scrutiny back home.
Divided by sharp political lines, a recent Pew Research Center survey illustrates the political divisions on climate change attitudes. The results of the research show a majority of Americans support a climate deal, but believe that climate change is not hurting people now, nor do people believe that they are directly affected. The findings are startling, and the data shows that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to believe that it isn’t human caused, isn’t affecting people now, and shouldn’t be prioritized.
Transforming climate action from a partisan position into bipartisan collaboration is possible through reframing and refocusing how both political leaders, and everyday citizens, encounter it. Strategies for accomplishing this transition are detailed in Let’s Talk Climate, a newly released research report done in conjunction with ecoAmerica, Lake Research Partners, ASO Communications, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The report identifies how local and community leaders should engage with residents and constituents to lead them towards climate solutions. By emphasizing the opportunities that climate change presents for better living, more jobs, and a cleaner, healthier home for families—climate change can be transformed into action that benefits all Americans. What is needed is now is for mayors and municipal officials to lead, and to empower their communities.
President Obama struck an optimistic tone Tuesday on the second day of the Paris climate talks. But he also touched on the domestic political difficulty in a country still heavily reliant on coal — and when it comes to dealing with Republicans on the issue.
"Everybody else is taking climate change really seriously," Obama said. "They think it's a really big problem. It spans political parties. You travel around Europe and you talk to leaders of governments and the opposition, and they are arguing about a whole bunch of things. One thing they're not arguing about is whether the science of climate change is real and whether or not we have to do something about it."
But there is a strong segment of the U.S. political culture that is intent on having that debate. And with Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress, there isn't much chance that anything this president presents — a climate change treaty or otherwise — will pass.
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