At a Glance
Climate change weaves together such narrowly defined environmental chal-
lenges as flooding, drought, weather-related disasters, habitat loss, and so
forth and connects them to controversial questions about the size and scope
of the state, the benefits and costs of industrialization, the ways to handle
uncertainty and risk, and the very relationship between humanity and nature.
As the Earth’s climate warms, such consequences as rise in sea level, decline
in freshwater supplies and agricultural productivity, and extinction of spe-
cies create various political challenges associated with generating collective
The politics associated with climate change involve psychological, cultural,
economic, and ideological factors. Differences of opinion on climate change
in the United States represent a stark example of the more general politi-
cal polarization that has occurred in the 21st century. As an issue, climate
change creates political terrain that is not neutral in an ideological sense.
As the atmosphere is a common-pool resource, addressing greenhouse gas
(GHG) pollution requires some degree of governmental intervention. And
given the global scale of the problem, the overall amount of coordinated
government intervention required is considerable. As the Democratic Party
has shifted to the left both socially and economically, its membership has
become more philosophically comfortable with acknowledging and accept-
ing such problems, as the party members are more comfortable embracing
government-related solutions. As the Republican Party has become both
socially and economically more conservative, its members have taken more
skeptical views of climate science and have taken a more hostile position
toward government policies designed to address it.
Many Democrats . . .
• Believe we should accept the scientific consensus that climate change is
real and that human-related emission of greenhouse gases is an important