De-stigmatizing the Climate Change Debate

February 24, 2016

~By Talia Schmitt (reposted from The Flat Hat)

The glacier calving in the Fjord of Eternity (Evigsfjord) - South Greenland. Courtesy of Talia Schmitt.

The glacier calving in the Fjord of Eternity (Evigsfjord) – South Greenland. Courtesy of Talia Schmitt.

As a sixteen year-old earth-lover, I was skeptical of climate change. “The earth is warming? Prove it,” I would say. They said this phenomenon was manmade. “How?” I would ask.

I cared about the birds and the trees, but didn’t understand this big change that people were telling me about: global warming. And so I probed, looked for evidence and conversations and now I can more confidently explain how the earth is warming and why the world is the way it is.

It is ok to be skeptical of issues. In fact, I think it should be encouraged, but with a caveat—we need to have open minds. Be open to science and the opinions of others. From there we can become the best students and teachers.

Unfortunately in this day and age everything has become political, and there is a social stigma attached to asking very basic climate change questions no matter which political party you stand with.

“What is Climate Change?” “How does it work?” “How are humans contributing to it?”

People may be fearful to ask these good questions whether they are democrats or republicans. Conservatives are fearful that if they ask these questions they will be portrayed as liberal. Liberals are fearful that if they ask these questions they will be seen as doubting their progressive roots.

If you fall into either of these categories, I dare you to swallow any embarrassment and ask these questions out loud – loud enough so that other people know that it is okay to ask them too.

Believe it or not, your most liberal or conservative friend might be earnestly wondering the very same thing. I grew up in circle of environmental advocates, but when the question “can someone explain the science behind global warming” came out, the room went silent. Unfortunately, people often race to the debate without understanding the problem. What we have to remember is questioning and curiosity are at the core of progress and education.

It wasn’t until I took a trip to Greenland with climate scientists in the summer before college that I really started to see evidence of climate change. They showed me the temperature data detailing climate abnormalities. I sent follow up emails questioning how they knew these changes could be attributed to man. Dialogue over phone calls and emails continued. Only after continued phone calls and emails am I now comfortable accepting and explaining climate change.

See a video of Talia’s arctic experience.

This type of skepticism is healthy. Climate change need not be framed as a debate, but rather a conversation– an opportunity for scientists to share their findings, and for the public to question, dig deeper and help find solutions.

In the College of William and Mary’s newest environmental blog Going Green (and Gold), that I am co-writing with the wonderful Jo Flashman ’18, we will share these conversations with you.  This is an opportunity for you all to learn about various environmental issues starting on campus and expanding around the globe. So let us know what you want to learn.  Email us, message us or talk to us on campus.
I am excited for this conversation to start on paper and hopefully continue in the halls of William and Mary.

Read Talia’s personal blog.

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