Hope for Doubtful Conservatives: A Personal Narrative

Climate change’s disastrous consequences on our planet and our role as humans in accelerating climate change has been known by many for over 30 years. Yet despite knowledge of the climate crisis, we have yet to unify our country against this urgent matter and are still one of the leading countries in greenhouse gas emissions. The biggest hurdle in the battle against climate change is the polarizing political stigmas that surround and alienate people away from the topic. Despite the fact that climate change impacts everyone in this nation, the topic of climate change has been typically cast aside by conservative Americans.

As a young adult, who grew up in a very conservative household, I have a lot of insight on conservative values and perspectives on many issues, climate change being one of them. Being in a predominantly liberal school system while simultaneously being surrounded by conservative ideologies, I came to the realization that I stood in the middle of most arguments. Yet despite my general neutrality, I was skeptical about climate change just like many conservatives are. However, after researching the topic for myself, my views had changed. Seeing documentaries with polar bears dying and ice caps melting is one thing, but when I saw record numbers of people forced to watch their homes burn, a feeling all too familiar filled my being. My family lost two homes to fires and knowing that other families have to go through that as well broke my heart as I realized that my behaviors contributed to these disasters. But it didn’t stop there. Within my first year of moving to Texas, I saw more of the same. This time, people fled from the coast as more category 4/5 hurricanes began to wreak havoc, flattening and flooding the south block by block. Those realities and others like vanishing coastlines, abysmal crop yields are impossible to ignore. That’s when I realized climate change isn’t a seemingly distant force, it affects people all across the country if you just look around. Climate change is a force that doesn’t care what race or religion you are, geographical location, economic status, and especially not your political affiliation.

This graph from Nasa’s Earth Observatory exemplifies the increase in acres burned across the state of California over the last 50 years.
This image from Popular Science illustrates how category 4 and 5 storms have been increasing drastically as time goes on. In almost half of the oceans, the amount of category 4 and 5 storms has doubled in the last 30 years.

Typically right-leaning (republican), middle-aged conservatives are the hardest group to reach with climate activism. This is because of the fact that many misconceptualized the topic as a partisan issue and ignore it due to political beliefs and personal doubts. Many conservatives simply go against climate change efforts to spite those on the left without realizing that a lot of climate activism supports their core ideals like emphasis on community health, communal support and practicing good ethics. Most Conservatives like my family represent the doubtful group of people in the Six Americas. They are people who doubt climate change because of skepticism and are usually away from the areas impacted the most by climate change. But by changing conservative perception on the topic of climate change, we can shift focus from proving climate change’s existence to supporting a diverse set of solutions for the climate crisis crisis.

This image from Yale University’s Climate Communication website shows how Conservative republicans are currently the lowest group when it comes to those who acknowledge the climate crisis.

While changing an entire group’s perception of a topic like climate change takes time, it is indeed possible as I have in my own household. By bringing the concept of climate change forward into reality by analyzing various evidence and locales we can break past traditional political stigmas that have been detrimental to the climate movement. I encourage conservatives to be open-minded, to view the video below, the scientific findings, and do research on their own time as what I have included is just a small fraction of the available resources. Although initially doubtful, my parents came around to the reality of climate change after seeing similar trends to the aforementioned examples and relating our own personal circumstances. They made the connection between the natural disasters and how human behavior is worsening them. After getting past the initial barrier that is the politics surrounding climate change, conservatives like my parents realized that finding solutions to climate change can actually still support their values despite initial misconceptions.

This graph from the United States’ EPA expands on the concept that human behaviors attribute to climate change.

When conservatives do realize just how massive of a threat climate change is and are willing to look at the issue objectively, as seen with my family they realize that climate solutions can still uphold conservative values such as good morals and a strong economy. By making the transition from viewing climate change as a politically divisive issue to that of a moral issue, finding solutions becomes the humane thing to do. Conservatives solutions on the macro level, like carbon and pollutant reduction through proper waste management hold companies accountable for their actions while still maintaining economic growth. Others such as the support of renewable industries offer economic incentives like job security and increased employment. Solutions like these promote healthier communities which appeal to a lot Christian morals, as many conservatives hold them dearly. These good morals contribute to smaller solutions such as composting and being more aware of energy consumption and waste. These values help incite unity amongst disarray, as unfortunate disasters worsened by human driven climate change like the California wildfires and southern hurricanes brings people together in their times of need despite differing beliefs and backgrounds.

Sights like the hurricanes, storms, and fires should remind us that we are in this fight together and the impacts of climate change will affect all of us. This realization should encourage us to do more and put our differences aside for the greater good. As I have seen in my own household, people can break past their own biases and initial beliefs . I encourage you to be more open-minded in the future when it comes to discussing climate change, as there are steps that anyone can take to do their part. Families like mine are just the tip of the iceberg; as people start to look past their own initial beliefs and biases about climate change, Americans may be able to collectively agree on climate solutions in the near future. As climate conscious conservatives diversify opinions and solutions for solving climate change, a large group of people that were once seen as a threat to climate activism now becomes one of our greatest allies.

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Student at UCSD

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