Tiffany has been a JustMeans Staff Writer since 2010. As an Ethical Consumption Writer, she reviewed eco-labels, products, and lifestyles. As a Sustainable Development Writer, she reviews global systems, international development, and system weaknesses. Tiffany has a background in sustainability, strategic planning, and education. Some people change when they see the light, others when they feel...
When the Biggest Polluters Don't Believe in Pollution
A recent survey measuring country-specific beliefs in anthropogenic climate change found that the United States' citizens are quickly falling into denial. With less than half of the surveyed population in agreement that climate change is related to human factors, the United States drops off the charts of countries accepting and acting to address climate change. This raises quite a few issues of concern, one of the biggest issues being what happens to a Country that refuses to believe and consequentially take control of their impact? With the United States utilizing a little less than a fourth of the World's resources, the impact US citizens have upon the future of our global climate is significant.
The report also disproved theories that the citizens of developing nations were not concerned with or aware of anthropogenic climate change. Brazilians easily beat out the US with nearly 80% of citizens surveyed believing that humans have contributed to climate change. They also surpassed Britons, who came in at 70%, which is surprising after the extensive work the UK has committed to do regarding their carbon footprint. With developed and developing nations now quickly surpassing the United States regarding citizen awareness, the question that looms heavily on the minds of global citizens is: Why? With excellent education systems, access to information, and well-respected academics supporting anthropogenic climate change, why have the citizens of the United States steadily declined in their belief that their actions are tied to a larger global system?
There are a great many possible sources for this dissociation between actions and their subsequent impact, yet the government's lack of commitment on a Federal level and the extensive funding to "debunk" anthropogenic climate change tend to be heavy contenders. The United States has failed to legally commit to any national targets for climate change reduction, and has fumbled in the international climate spotlight since the fallout at Kyoto. Cities and States have risen to the occasion with standards specific to their regions. Third parties and corporate pressure have created enormous support for corporate climate change reduction, including the Carbon Disclosure Project. America's schools are undergoing "Greening" and it is hard not to hear about the Universities battling to be the most sustainable. All of these institutions, cities, and states are made up of US citizens, so where is the disconnect between their collective actions and their personal beliefs?
Many researchers have pointed to the concerted effort to debunk climate change, specifically anything to do with changing human, albeit first world human, behavior. Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway highlight the effort to not necessarily deny climate change, but simply to cast doubt on it as an effective tool for manipulating the public opinion. They compare the strategies used to cast doubt on climate change to those initially used to cast doubt on cigarettes being harmful to your health. Same strategy with a few different players. Their book, Merchants of Doubt, highlights these cases and our human behavior to deny statements or facts that are contrary to what we want to believe.
For the time being, it is a moment of celebration that developing and leading nations like Brazil and its citizens both recognize and believe that anthropogenic climate change is a serious issue. As countries continue to educate their public about their fragile relationship with the environment, the possibilities for shifting our mindsets and routines toward sustainability becomes a reality. Yet the debate as to who bears the burden of unchecked anthropogenic climate change, like that in the US, will continue to arise. The hope is that next time, the United States will have an answer.
Photo Credit: Mike Adams and Dan Berger