It has become common practice for members of the Republican Party to sidestep issues of climate change by questioning its very existence. However, with polls showing that a majority of voters now accept climate change and support policies that combat it, the Republican Party is shifting its approach. The phrase “I am not a scientist” has now been the go-to slogan used by members of the Republican Party in order not to take a stance on the issue of climate change. This refusal to comment has shown no actual benefit to the candidates’ polls. It has merely been a way to stand on the sidelines of an issue and give no concrete details as to what a candidate will actually do once in office.
The phrase “I am not a scientist” does not give any substantial support to actual views on the issue. It is a way to skirt around the issue and avoid being called “anti-science.” The Republican Party has been known for denial of climate change, and the reason for the ambiguous new position is to cover up that original stance to better fit the mold of the new voting population. This will most likely not affect how the party chooses to deal with the issue in office; Republican views still remain the same, as climate change is among the lowest priorities on the political totem poll.
Not only does “I am not a scientist” fail to take a stance on the issue, but the logic behind the phrase also makes no sense. Republicans take a stand on most other issues, regardless of the fact they are not experts in those fields. Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist who has advised House Republicans and conservative political advocacy groups on energy and climate change, stated the following in a New York Times article:
“Using that logic would disqualify politicians from voting on anything. Most politicians aren’t scientists, but they vote on science policy. They have opinions on Ebola, but they’re not epidemiologists. They shape highway and infrastructure laws, but they’re not engineers.”
In the broad spectrum the new slogan will not significantly affect polls, considering it is one of the smaller issues voters consider. However, climate change is becoming an increasingly large issue, and at some point will need to be addressed. The voter climate is changing and revolving more policy around climate change, yet not at the rate at which it needs to happen. The 2016 election may incur changes to the policies made by the Republican Party that still skirt around the edge of an issue, but also include some kind of stance on a smaller scale.
The Republican Party has made arguments that address climate change as an occurring problem, though only to the extent that humankind’s responsibility is unknown. Climate change is known to be in some part a natural occurrence, yet according to NASA Global Climate Change, “the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded there’s a more than 90 percent probability that human activities over the past 250 years have warmed our planet.”
Research by actual scientists piles up, yet there is still doubt. This has been another way for the party to bypass the issue and address it in a way that ensures no action will really be taken, seeing as it is a “natural occurrence” that no one can change.
The reality of the situation is that it is a larger issue than some choose to believe. At some point, the reality of global warming will gain more ground in the political community due to the fact that climate change is clearly not going away. Whether the Republican Party chooses to acknowledge it or not, there will come a time that a stance needs to be taken and people will have to make decisions. If they can’t become scientists, then maybe they need to hire some.
Alexandra Madsen ’18 firstname.lastname@example.org is from Chicago, Ill. Her major is undecided.