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Are You a Climate Change Denier?

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The Conference of Parties for this year (COP 26) has ended and there are unhappy responses to the efforts of over 190 countries that attended to address climate change. The desire for firm carbon reduction targets that can hold countries accountable in some fashion was a big disappointment for many - particularly the young people that were present and outspoken in Glasgow during the conference. Indeed, there is a palpable angst among young people -even in this country - such that the term “eco-anxiety” has been coined.

In a study published in The Lancet (an independent, international weekly general medical journal), the results of a survey of 10,000 young people (ages 16-25) in 10 countries showed worrying results about climate change and their future:

• 59% are very or extremely worried

• 84% at least moderately worried

• 50% felt sad, anxious, powerless, helpless, and guilty

• over 45% said their feelings affected their daily lives negatively

The countries where the survey participants resided were the United Kingdom, Finland, France, USA, Australia, Portugal, Brazil, India, Philippines, and Nigeria.

Climate change denial is a small but powerful force that has had an outsized influence on preventing a meaningful or coordinated response to this threat. The USA is the second leading nation at 19% (behind Indonesia at 21%) in harboring climate change deniers. Five percent of Americans say it is not happening at all with 14% saying it is not due to human activities.

What can cause this in face of overwhelming scientific consensus and numerous current tangible impacts? In research conducted by the independent think tank InfluenceMap, several organizations were identified as using “prolific and highly sophisticated” methods toward supporting “incredibly dangerous paths” when it comes to climate policies. The methods they examined were regulatory consultation agreements, CEO messaging, financial filings, reliable media accounts, ads/PR, trade association links.

On a numeric scale of highly negative at -100 to highly positive at +100 in actions toward climate policies, what we find is that ExxonMobil at -66 and Chevron at -65 lead the pack in the negative direction. All the top denial supporting actors are corporate giants who have a vested business interest in the status quo. Four of the top 10 are specifically in the oil and gas sector. The campaigns and lobbying conducted by these large corporations have been extensive and effective.

It is useful to consider how our political representatives receive their financial support and see if there could be influence from the major corporate actors supporting climate change denial. After retired persons and those labeled Republicans/conservatives, the top donor to our Congressman Chip Roy is the oil and gas sector. Could that help explain a zero lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters?

Congressman Roy opposed increasing funding for Renewable Energy R and D and funding the Environmental Justice, Superfund, Brownfield and Diesel Emissions Reduction act. He opposed blocking extractive actions near the Arctic Refuge, Chaco Canyon, the Boundary Waters, Tongass National Forest, and coastal areas as well as opposing the investing in climate ambitious infrastructure. These are a few examples of the Congressman’s antienvironmental votes resulting in a 0 environmental score.

Maybe you are supportive of this kind of voting record in the interest of other issues you hold dear. I would argue that we ask for a rebalancing of priorities from our elected representatives to address this damaging threat. It is neither prudent nor wise and certainly not beneficial to only act in opposition for opposition’s sake.

Or perhaps you feel the “eco-anxiety” among the young is unwarranted. My position is that the consequences of allowing climate change to be placed on the back burner is more than adequately supported by science as an existential threat.

The top funding supporters of Congressman Roy are retired persons. As a retiree myself, I am concerned that our neglect to address this issue forthrightly will be considered an unforgiveable negative legacy to our children and grandchildren.

W Laurence Doxsey, Retired, Former Director of Office of Sustainability for City of San Antonio, former Environmental Officer for US Department of Housing and Urban Development, former Sustainability Officer for City of Austin, resides outside Medina.