The Lesser of Two E’s

Written by Firas Suqi ’14

Environmental issues tend to get less attention than the more fashionably debated “E” word of this election, the economy.

While last week we tackled the 1.4 trillion problems facing the economy, this week geologist Katie Adelsberger [The Douglas and Maria Bayer Endowed Chair in Earth Science at Knox] provided us with the debates surrounding the environment, as well as the placement of science (or lack thereof) within each party’s environmental narrative.

Illustration: Climate change

I mention both the environment and the economy in the first sentence, due to the fact that these two issues are practically entwined with one another, with the “engine” of the economy literally being fueled (whether by oil, natural gas, or nuclear energy) through resources found in the environment.

Each presidential candidate faces questions on the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

While originally founded under the Nixon administration in 1970, the EPA is being criticized from both sides of the political spectrum for either not doing enough to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, or as some see it, overly regulating greenhouse gas polluters by restricting industry and more importantly, job growth.

While Professor Adelsberger provided us with the ideological frameworks behind the debates surrounding environmental protection, she placed an emphasis on the objective evidence behind climate change and its contributors.

With strong evidence linking anthropogenic (human-induced) causes to climate change, Professor Adelsberger shared her frustration over the lack of influence scientific evidence has in lobbying politicians. The disposition of the climate change issue, Adelsberger argues, “is not up for scientific debate; the consensus of scientists agree that humans are part of the problem driving climate change.”

Instead, she notes how the general public distorts the topic into an economic or social one, which considerably slows down the process of environmental policy making.

A number of major environmental questions are at play this election, from the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, to putting a cap on carbon dioxide emissions. Voters will most likely take a stance on these issues that reflects a financially sound or morally rectifying attitude towards conserving the environment, and not one that emphasizes the findings of published scientific research.

At the end of the lecture, it seemed as though the only thing that could further the scientists’ argument would be an accurately calculated date of apocalypse, since all the signs seem to be indicating that such a day is soon to come.

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