Americans’ Perception on Global Warming
Global warming in the Earth is a process of continuous rise of an average temperature of the atmosphere and the oceans. Nowadays, global warming is one of the worldwide problems. “Climate change has gained enormous visibility during the past year, reflected in a range of American policy initiatives leading up to the international deliberations in Copenhagen” (Borick 1). The process has started in the late 19th century and it still continues nowadays. Global warming is unequivocal, and emission of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is its main cause. Human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and uncontrolled cutting down of trees could lead to the production of these greenhouse gases (Kolbert n.pag.). Global warming has quite a negative influence on the environment, which includes rise in the sea level and changes in the amount and pattern of precipitation and expansion of the subtropical deserts. Among the other effects of global warming are extreme weather conditions due to the shifting of temperature patterns. These effects lead to decreasing of crop yields, and, therefore, food security is in danger (America’s great headache n.pag.).
Scientist and environmentalist have warned of the possible future occurrences that can be avoided only in case of joint efforts of the stakeholders. However, their efforts to save the planet from global warming are fruitless thanks to the global warming skepticism. Skepticism is an attitude of trying to question knowledge, opinions or facts. Genuine skepticism is healthy as it entails considering the evidence wholly before drawing conclusions. Global warming skepticism is questioning or doubting the knowledge on global warming (Kolbert n.pag.). Actually, different public campaigns have misinformed has triggered the global warming skepticism. Some oil, gas and tobacco industries and coal interests are blamed for financing these campaigns. It is inevitable to note the drastic changes in climate including frequent and strong storms (Karl 426).
In addition, critical members of Congress continue to deny the facts of climate change. They tend to divert from the facts driven by money-dominated politics. Moreover, they even ridiculed the President of the United States of America for his devotion to combating global warming. The detrimental effects caused by global warming are clearly presented by the storms that hit America lately (America’s great headache n.pag.).
The global warming skeptics base their arguments on the statement that climate has always changed naturally. They claim that the recent global warming also takes place because of nature and not human influence. The positive feedbacks amplify temperate changes in the atmosphere. The dramatic change in temperature and general climate are proofs here (America’s great headache n.pag.).
Nowadays, the issue of global warming is a matter of concern more than ever. Cars cost Americans up to $63.1 billion in terms of time and fuel. An average driver spends hours stuck in traffic congestion, which is considered an inevitable product of fast growing and successful cities. The cities like Paris, London and San Francisco experience long queues at theatre box-offices and restaurants. Some consider this as an achievement. Americans, especially the citizens of the neighborhoods, drive themselves to work. However, most of them prefer to change the workplace or home when it takes more than 40 minutes to get to the place. Most people driving alone explain why High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes have a limited appeal. In California, carpool lanes cover only about 1,100 miles. They are however virtually empty (Kolbert n.pag.). The congestion of cars in California is an evidence of the skeptical nature of Americans when it comes to the issue of global warming. The amount of fuel burnt by cars produces greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The issue of global warming can only find a solution through the personal motivation to act in a manner favorable to the environment. “Conservatives stress that taking any proposed internationally binding action would have numerous negative consequences” (McCright 510).
Control of American’s carbon dioxide emissions could go a long way to fight global warming. Americans are aware of the effects of global warming on the future generation (Karl 415). Control of global warming requires changes in the social and political state of structures in every society. However, it brings about costs, benefits, and losses to the community. Sometimes consumers have to divert from their preferences of goods and services. Knowledge of these facts has the significant effects on global warming. There exists a strong opposition to higher carbon taxes from Americans. Most Americans, however, support international and national efforts concerning global warming; this shows that they are reluctant to offer personal contribution. Others feel that contribution at a personal level is not significant. Leiserowitz describes Americans as a nation “with broad concern about global warming, strong bipartisan support for international treaties and national mitigation policies, and strong opposition to higher energy or gasoline prices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” (Leiserowitz 5).
“Not only is there no scientific consensus about the existence of global warming according to these documents, but also it is strongly suggested that global warming is definitely not occurring” (McCright 511). The issue of global warming is a paradox to most Americans. They consider themselves committed and concerned about the problem. On the contrary, they place global warming at the 12th rank out of 13 environmental issues. In addition, Americans do not talk about global warming to their relatives and friends. Risk perception researchers, however, have demonstrated that knowledge about risks is not sufficient to explain risk perceptions and behavior. “Thus the decline in the percentage of Americans that strongly believe their state has already experienced effects from global warming may be contributing to the lower levels of belief that the planet is warming” (Borick 7).
Americans love their own cars and are sick of everyone else’s. The same cars are one of the reasons of global warming. America has become a land of soulless subdivisions and lonely suburbs. The cities are adopting a smart growth, especially through the promoting of mass transit. When asked to choose between an urban house and a house in the suburbs that require driving everywhere, 83 percent of Americans preferred the later (Tiemney n.pag). Majority of people in the suburban areas live contentedly in their neighborhoods. Raising the cost of fuel has shown a little effect on reducing the driving rate in Europe. Even with a rate of $5-per-gallon gasoline, Europe experiences a higher rate of cars per capita than America. Thus, percentage of commuters preferring to use mass transit is reducing. American cities have lost the majority of their dwellers who have moved to the suburban dwellings. They resist any new developments coming near their homes because of the traffic they may cause (Tiemney n.pag.). “Large majorities of Americans who do not believe the planet is getting warmer express beliefs that scientists are overstating evidence about climate change for their own interests and that there is not enough scientific evidence to support claims that the Earth is getting warmer” (Borick 6).
Mothers in the suburban areas spend time chauffeuring their children to the malls and soccer games. These activities require a car. The same happens if people have to drive themselves to the workplaces.
Unfortunately, reaction of the United States to the climate change is terribly slow. The country produces a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide, with only a population of 5% of the world. “Americans do not, however, support all international policies” (Leiserowitz 109). The United States is one of the two nations that do not agree with the Kyoto Protocol; Australia is the second one. Kyoto Protocol is an agreement by the UN binding 37 industrialized countries for reducing emission of the greenhouse gas. Therefore, combating global warming ends up with a losing end at this point.
In his film An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore evaluates and gives an unequivocal analysis of the socio-economic and political causes of global warming. It causes catastrophic weather events such as Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the southern states of the U.S. The science behind global warming is retention of solar radiation in the atmosphere. The societal behavior increases production of carbon dioxide, which accelerates global warming. Politics of the US also determines the rules regarding pollution. McCright argues that “money is the driving force behind environmentalists’ claims of global warming” (McCright 513).
Americans are split equally concerning the worry about the issue of global warming. Half of them are worried due to a common belief that global warming is a threat to the habitation of man and other species. Social scientists have stated that people’s response to hazards is dependable on what their perceptions are about these hazards. The issues that people perceive as risks and the reason why they do so should be observed before any procedures are taken. Public perception on the issue of global warming will affect their rejection or acceptance of the policies proposed. Scientists, for example, continue to warn people on settling on flood prone areas, but they continue to build houses on such areas. According to the study by Borick, there has been a “modest increase in skepticism regarding the role of evidence and scientists in global warming matters” (Borick 5).
Making a general statement about the entire nation is quite dubious. A modern environmental movement has started in America. It reaped its first fruits under the presidency of George W. Bush. The United States spends much money on environmental science compared to any other country. There are city and state governments responsible for reducing emissions in the atmosphere (Kolbert n.pag.).
Borick, C. P. The Climate of Belief: American Public Opinion on Climate Change. London: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
“America’s great headache”. The Economist. 2nd June. Web. 11 Nov. 2012.
Karl, T.R. “Regional Trends and Variations of Temperature and Precipitation” in Regional Impacts of Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Kolbert, E. Can America go Green? New Statesman. 19 June, 2006. Web. 11 Nov. 2012.
Leiserowitz, A. Global Warming in the American Mind: The Roles of Affect, Imagery, and Worldviews in Risk Perception, Policy Preferences and Behavior. Oregon: University of Oregon, 2003.
McCright, A. M. Challenging Global Warming as a Social Problem: An Analysis
of the Conservative Movement’s Counter-Claims. 3rd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Tierney. J. “The Autonomist Manifesto (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Road).” The New York Times, 26 Sept. 2004. Web. 11 Nov. 2012.