Several people call it the "green fad", some call it a revolution. Whatever 'it' is, something is radically changing the way Americans are viewing and reacting to global warming. In the late 90's global warming was a washed out political issue that seemed to disappear from Americans' radar of concerns. People fighting global warming were ripping their hair out trying to find ways to get people to care. And here we are today; hybrid car sales are through the roof, it's all the rage to be 'green' in Hollywood, Christians are working to save the planet, and even the White House recently admitted that global warming is threatening polar bears. So what happened? It is my belief that global warming was never meant for politics, but that is where it got stuck in the 90's. It was not until 2000 when our attention got turned elsewhere that the issue of climate change returned to its roots within the environmental, scientific and academic communities. There it could literally re-grow as a moral issue that resonated in a new way for Americans. In 2005 and 2006 concern about global warming exploded as Americans began empowered themselves and their communities through new forms of communication, sharing of ideas, and examples in every day life. America is finally bringing global warming back.
Global warming has been tied to the Left ever since the euphemism 'tree hugging liberal' was coined. I distinctly remember heated conversations with conservative friends who saw global warming as a bunch of hocus pocus, and potential anti global warming laws as problematic for the economy, while I stood my ground being the good 'tree hugger' I was. We each prided ourselves on having open minds, but in the end we were both looking for the answer we wanted to see, the same answer that the political groups we belonged to deemed 'correct.' As exemplified by my friends and me, much of the rest of America's opinions about global warming depended on party affiliation.
Global warming got caught up in politics initially because of its potential lure for voter turnout. The academic, scientific and environmental communities are a large part of the Democratic Party's base, and as talk and research about global warming grew, the Party could not ignore the potential of global warming as an issue to get concerned voters to the polls. Of course there were Democrats who where concerned about global warming such as Al Gore, but the party's overall performance in Congress did not reflect their publicized enthusiasm about the issue. Even though the Democratic Party platform specifically mentioned 'global warming' in 1992, climate change was not introduced into Congress as a legislative bill until 1997.1 And whatever happened to the Kyoto Protocol? It was economically strenuous, but did that justify a 95-0 vote in opposition to the Protocol without a single Democrat speaking up?2 While liberals were eager to point fingers at conservatives to justify the lack of legislation, Democrats were obviously not pulling their weight.
On the other side of the political trenches, the Republican Party was indeed actively hindering legislation concerning global warming. Where the Democrats took up global warming as an issue because of constituent interest, the Republican Party saw the potential harm to business and industry, likewise responding in a way that would appease the Republican base. Their opposition to global warming theory, together with inconclusive and questionable documents such as the Oregon Petition and Leipzig Declaration that only supported Republican questioning about the validity of global warming, eventually convinced many conservatives that global warming legislation should be resisted. Additionally, global warming was associated with those 'tree hugging liberals' who often voted and acted in opposition to conservative values further making global warming theory an easy target for the 'culture warriors' on the Right.
The politicization of global warming highly increased awareness of climate change in the 1990s, but it also completely stunted progress towards passing legislation in Congress and made people obstinate about their habits. …