Years ago, Republicans and Democrats both spoke about the need to address climate change. Climate change plans were in each parties’ platforms in 2008. The same year, Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi were filmed sitting together on a love seat, with the Capitol in the background, discussing climate change. Gingrich says “we do agree our country must take action to address climate change.” Gingrich now says he regrets having made the commercial.
Today, someone’s party affiliation is the best predictor of whether they believe climate change is a problem. A large majority of Democrats are concerned. About 25% of Republicans say they are concerned.
The good news is that there’s a place where this partisan divide doesn’t exist, where climate change is discussed as a human issue, not a political one. On Oct. 23 and 24, Winston-Salem conservatives, climate change skeptics and everyone else have a rare opportunity to hear a nonpartisan overview of the science behind climate change, how it affects us personally and its impacts on the economy, jobs, national security and our health. And, you can have your climate change questions answered without judgment.
But first, some history to underscore just how curious this partisan divide really is. Carbon dioxide was discovered to be a greenhouse gas by American Eunice Foote in 1856 and confirmed by Irishman John Tyndall in 1859. In 1896, Swedish scientist and Nobel laureate Svante Arrhenius predicted burning fossil fuels would increase CO2 levels in the atmosphere and cause global warming. Arrhenius also determined the atmosphere acts like a blanket, trapping heat from the sun. (If the atmosphere did not trap heat, our planet would be about 60° F cooler than it is.) There is no record of whether Eunice Foote was a Republican or Democrat. She was just trying to advance scientific knowledge, as were Tyndall and Arrhenius.
In 2006, Kathleen Biggins started looking at climate change with the same nonpartisan curiosity that led Eunice Foote to do her experiments. To better understand this complex subject, instead of going to typical “green” sources, she sought out business people and members of the military, as well as scientists. She also looked at the opportunities that addressing climate change presents and spoke with conservatives about their concerns.
Then Kathleen founded C-Change Conversations, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting nonpartisan discussion about climate change. With climate change communications experts she developed the C-Change Primer, a presentation that focuses on answering five questions: (1) how do we know climate change is real, (2) how do we know humans are causing it, (3) what do scientists think, (4) is it dangerous, and (5) is there hope?
The primer has been enthusiastically received by audiences across the political spectrum and throughout the country. Kathleen will present the primer at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 at the Central Library downtown and at 12:15 p.m. on Oct. 24 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The events are free and open to the public.
Why attend? Nonpartisan presentations and dialogue like the primer are critical to solving problems. Effective, lasting solutions are developed when people with diverse knowledge, skills and concerns collaborate. Solutions to climate change depend on a sound understanding of the relevant factors which, for climate change, means science, economics and an understanding of the risks.
The partisan divide on climate science is bad, but not hopeless. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) has said, “We must ensure clean air, clean water, and a healthy, safe environment based on science.” A basic understanding of climate science, including potential impacts on the economy and national security, is critical for policymakers and those who think we should or should not take measures to address the perceived threat. Making good policy is difficult if there is disagreement about whether or not there is a problem.
We live in a republican democracy. The First Amendment guarantees our right “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Our rights to vote and to tell our elected officials what we think are what has made America the most powerful nation in history, because they promote collaboration to solve critical problems. Just as our elected officials need to be knowledgeable, we also need sound information to inform our votes and how we petition our representatives.
If you are interested in learning about climate change, its risks and how conservative principles can be applied to address it, I encourage you to attend the C-Change Primer events. You can learn more at c-changeconversations.org.