Politicians who accept environmental studies of the world climate as summarized in the IPCC Reports are certain that Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) are the cause of global warming. Other politicians who reject this causal connection refer to the significant changes in earth’s climate over many millennia. They draw support from some scientists who insist there are too many uncertainties to attribute global warming to this cause.
The past thirty years have seen wide variations in public opinion polls, which suggests that on the issue of the cause of global warming American voters are undecided who is correct.
This great divide in US politics coincides with certain philosophical beliefs as to the role of government in a modern economy. Environmentalists consider that the state (US Government authorities) must enact laws to suppress GHG emissions. They defend the need for such laws on the ground of a common good that independent minded legislators can recognize and protect, despite a lack of a clear majority in voter opinion.
The contrary opinion is based on libertarianism. America’s accomplishments come from its absolute commitment to individual liberty. Enacting laws limiting business activity where there is no clear public recognition of their utility is restrictive of individual rights. In the long term such laws will erode the entrepreneurial spirit that has made America great.
Both sides acknowledge that taxation is a necessity for a modern state: the difference between them is a question of degree. Libertarians regard the current level of taxation as beyond what is reasonable and so an obstacle to the legitimate creation of individual wealth. The Tea Party, a recent grass-roots political movement, believes that if not checked taxation contributes to a government bureaucracy that is inimical to individual achievement.
A leading US Senator calls global warming a “hoax”. US law makers who propose action against global warming are referred to by their opponents as “socialists”. Very recently a leading US environmentalist and former politician referred to global warming sceptics as “immoral, unethical and despicable”, words much stronger than he has used before.
Read moreComments on the Great American Divide