Hot In My Backyard

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Whether or not you are in the habit of listening to podcasts, a recent episode of the popular National Public Radio show, This American Life, is worth your time. Aired on May 17, 2013, the episode, entitled Hot In My Backyard, spends an hour exploring why climate change is not taken more seriously in policy-making and by the public. Although the show focuses on the American context, most of the explanations pertain to Canada as well. The first part of the three-part show follows Colorado’s State Climatologist, Nolan Doesken, as he discusses weather trends with one-on-one with local farmers and in public lectures. The reporter who follows him is extremely surprised that he only uses the term ‘climate change’ when pressed. His reasoning? In a country where just over half of the population believes that climate change is real and caused by humans, using the phrase ‘climate change’ is alienating and counter-productive. Doesken prefers to discuss weather trends and let the evidence speak for itself.</p>

The second part of the show discusses the Republican Party’s point of view on climate change, which essentially amounts to complete denial that climate change exists. However it becomes clear during this segment that far more Republicans believe in climate change than might be expected; however they don’t speak up for fear of committing political suicide. This is evidenced by the experience of former Republican Congressman, Bob Inglis, who suffered a terrible defeat in the 2010 election after he spoke out in support of climate science. Since then, Inglis has dedicated his career to convincing Republicans that climate science is sound: a difficult task.</p>

Finally, the third segment of the episode features well-known environmental writer and activist, Bill McKibben. McKibben has come to the conclusion that unlike the anti-apartheid and anti-slavery movements, climate change lacks a true enemy against which people can rally to defeat. He has decided to make oil and gas companies into that enemy. The first step of this goal is to build a strong student movement to pressure universities to cancel their oil and gas investments. While this cause is being taken up on campuses across the U.S., universities are reluctant to commit.