The Michigan presidential primary results earlier this year bear out something that’s hard to admit – climate change does not matter to many people in Michigan.
The issue of human-caused climate change never seemed to gain traction as a central issue in the campaign. Although the Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders endorsed action to curb climate change, Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are on record as denying that climate change exists.
With a roughly 50/50 split of Democratic and Republican votes in the primary, the results imply that climate change was a compelling issue for only half the population of Michigan. This finding is in line with a Yale study in 2014, which revealed that only half of Michigan respondents believed that global warming is caused mostly by human activities and that the effects are harmful. These results are in contrast to a much larger majority of climate scientists who maintain that climate change is human-caused and harmful.
Unfortunately, the issue of climate change has been framed by politics and what people believe. In science, it’s not about what you believe; it’s what the facts tell you. The facts point to the real danger of excessive greenhouse gas levels and the urgency of addressing climate change.
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas; this is the first thing we learn in any meteorology or climatology class. The undeniable fact in any climate debate is that global carbon dioxide levels continue to increase. Excessive carbon dioxide levels from burning fossil fuels have caused global temperature to rise. Global temperature rise has led to many negative impacts. Climate change is a real issue, even in Michigan.
Yet skepticism remains. Skeptics like to rely on “talking points.” A popular talking point is “the climate’s always changing.” In actuality, the weather is always changing; climate has been relatively stable up until now. Skeptics who are able to distinguish between weather and climate will say “there has been no change in climate.” Climate change is often subtle and, in fact, can be easily masked in the Midwest.