On April 22nd, many around the world will celebrate “Earth Day,” a day set aside to focus on the environment and environmental awareness. Much of the current discussions regarding the environment and Earth Day deal with “Global Warming,” or, “Global Climate Change.” Based on which scientist or author you read, the environment is either in peril, or, there is really no problem. Is the environment worse than what it was four hundred years ago? Is the Earth in danger? These are scientific questions which can be answered through the scientific method. However, many leaders in America approach these questions not from a scientific viewpoint, but from a political agenda. Those who support the notion there is an environmental catastrophe occurring are heralded as heroes by some, while those who claim there is no real problem are called deniers and threatened with jail sentences. What should be a free and open discussion has become a battle for the freedom of speech.
History of Earth Day
On April 22nd, 1970, Americans celebrated the first “Earth Day,” a day to bring awareness to the public of the desire to promote governmental and personal policies that would bring about cleaner air, healthier food, and the protection of wildlife. Wisconsin U.S. Senator Democrat Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, worked with Californian Republican Pet McCloskey to build Earth Day into a national movement. They hired Denis Hayes as national coordinator. In 1990, Hayes organized an international Earth Day, and since then it has become an event that is recognized throughout the world. For his work, Senator Nelson was awarded the highest award given to a civilian, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Clinton in 1995.
Birth of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
On December 2, 1970, the EPA began as a result of an executive order signed by President Nixon. Part of the executive branch, the EPA has grown to a branch of over 15,000 employees. Regulations from the EPA can have the effect of law. This goes against the separation of powers principles instituted in the American constitution.
Climate Worries in the 1970s and 1980s
In the 1970s, at the dawn of Earth Day, a great number of national and international organizations reported that the Earth’s climate was on a dangerous cooling trend, and that a New Ice Age was coming. The National Academy of Sciences, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, many in American media, the Climate Research Unit – University of East Anglia, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) all reported that humans were in danger because of Earth’s rapid cooling. Many scientists believed that human production of carbon dioxide and aerosols would trigger an ice age that would destroy human life. The worry of global cooling continued into the 1980s.
Global Warming Worries Began in the 1980s
In late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher, who would become Great Britain’s first female Prime Minister, raised fears of the possibility of global warming. Thatcher was influential in bringing these theories to the international world, and she promoted the founding of the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, which would later be used by other organizations to promote the idea that global warming is an international danger.
Global Warming as a Political Issue and Not a Scientific Question
Throughout the 19900s, the 2000s, and 2010s, discussion about global warming have evolved more around politics than science. Those who believe in global warming paint those who question it as “Deniers” and unscientific, while at the same time these same global warming proponents do not allow any debate. Global warming proponents President Obama and former Vice-President Al Gore repeatedly state that the debate is over, that there is a scientific consensus that the Earth is warming and that it is due to man’s activities. However, thousands of scientists disagree and continue to point out the problems with the global warming data and conclusions. To read more on this discussion, go here.
Though Prime Minister Thatcher appears to have started the global warming discussion, in 2002, she wrote, “The doomsters’ favourite subject today is climate change. This has a number of attractions for them. First, the science is extremely obscure so they cannot easily be proved wrong. Second, we all have ideas about the weather: traditionally, the English on first acquaintance talk of little else. Third, since clearly no plan to alter climate could be considered on anything but a global scale, it provides a marvellous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism. All this suggests a degree of calculation. Yet perhaps that is to miss half the point. Rather, as it was said of Hamlet that there was method in his madness, so one feels that in the case of some of the gloomier alarmists there is a large amount of madness in their method.” (from her 2002 book Statecraft/ see link below)
1. When is Earth Day and when did this "day" begin?
2. What were many climate scientists worried about in the 1970s?
3. How did global warming begin as a political issue?
4. How do believers in global warming treat those who don't believe, or question, global warming?
5. What is your opinion about debating global warming? Should this be a topic that reasonable people can do research on and debate?