Millennials Confront Climate Change – Part II

November 24, 2014

As more words in this debate become buzz words associated with specific political parties, we progress further from the chance of collaboration and towards a language of polarization.

Editor’s Note: The Millennial Voices series is written by and for Millennials to foster nonpartisan discussion. Ben Link is a junior at American University. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

In Part I of this blog series, we examined the reasons why millennials choose not to identify as “environmentalists.” As one millennial explained to NPR, the term “environmentalist” has been “sort of corrupted…politicized.”

This statement illustrates a shift happening to the overall language used in the American climate change debate. In recent years, phrases such as “climate change” and “global warming” have become laced with political connotations.

As more words in this debate become buzz words used to signal which party one sides with, we progress further from the chance of collaboration and move more towards a language of polarization. The debate will move away from one rooted in fact and evidence and instead become an argument about political identity.  

If we wish to make movement on climate legislation, we must reframe the way in which we talk about environmental issues.  

Source: The Energy Collective


                                Source: The New York Times

The nonpartisan Georgetown Climate Center and the Georgetown Public Policy Institute found that 87% of Americans support some type EPA action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, including 78% of Republicans and 94% of Democrats. Additionally, a Pew survey found that 69% of Americans agree there is solid evidence the earth is warming. With such strong support for climate change matters, environmental policy should not be so politically contentious.

Continuing legislative inaction bears both environmental and economic costs. Nonpartisan figures from institutions like the Pentagon urge taking action now, not in the future, basing their stance on fact and evidence, not political identity. To move environmental policy away from polarized politics, the language used in the climate change debate must be reframed to recognize that not all methods universally appeal both to liberals and conservatives and to acknowledge that different issues (e.g., economic, environmental, future prosperity) motivate people to action.

Ben Link is a Policy Intern at MAP and is currently an undergraduate student at American University majoring in CLEG (Communication, Legal Studies, Economics, Government). Ben has served many campus positions including council member for the school’s grant program, the Eagle Endowment, director of the Student Government Community Service Coalition, and teaching assistant for the School of Public Affairs Leadership Program.

As a tax-exempt nonprofit organization governed by Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, Millennial Action Project (MAP) is generally prohibited from attempting to influence legislative bodies in regards to policy and legislation. It is important to note guest authors frequently take firm stances on issues and policy matters that are currently being debated by policymakers; when they do, however, they speak for themselves and not for MAP, its board, council or employees.

Rep. Sara Jacobs


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