Climate change is emerging as one of the early issues in the 2020 presidential campaign. The gaggle of candidates for the democratic nomination for President are all talking about it and advancing their own ideas to save the planet. CNN even committed to broadcasting several hours of town hall meetings on the subject. Research is showing climate change is an important issue for millennials, and several celebrities are claiming to be generational spokespeople on this issue. Meanwhile, scientists and climate experts are being pushed into the background and ignored.
Political conservatives are following the President’s lead and denying climate change is real. They are framing the issue as a liberal attempt to expand the power of government and advance their agenda. Many baby boomers just shaking their heads and thinking they have seen this all before, remembering the population scare and global cooling issues of the 70s and 80s. Here cynicism is trumping science.
What is truly regrettable about this whole state of affairs is that climate should be an issue that brings us together, since it impacts all of us. It should also be an issue that allows agriculture to tell its story of environmental stewardship. Yet, the advocates and the deniers have both turned a deaf ear and even villainized scientists and farmers on the climate issue.
Much of the rhetoric over climate change is about who is causing climate change. While it is tempting to say all the hot air from Washington is contributing to climate change, there is not scientific proof to back that up. Likewise, livestock flatulence gets a lot of media attention, but the fact remains that it is not a significant contributor to climate change.
While civilization, industry, and agriculture all contribute to climate change — and to deny such is bunkum — the root cause of climate change is the climate. While it is not headline grabbing, the reality is the climate has been changing ever since our planet was formed. The climate will continue to change long after the current voices on the issue are gone. Does this mean we should do nothing? No, but short-term policy and regulatory changes that are based on political ideologies instead scientific fact are not the answer.
Far from Capitol Hill and the media spotlight, there are individuals working to improve our environment and to adapt to a changing climate. Farmers are planting cover crops and saving soil with no-till. Researchers are finding way to adapt crops to changing climate conditions. Entrepreneurs are bringing new products to the market that reduce our industrial and agricultural impact on the environment. These are efforts that both sides of the climate debate should get behind.
Climate change is not going to be stopped, no matter what we do. The focus needs to change to adapting to the change. This will require science and technology that can help us adapt to and minimize our impact on the environment.