Sarah Phillips

American politics can act as a critical barrier to a wide range of possibilities for environmental action; thus, addressing this issue might bring us closer to the root of the environmental crisis.

Public resistance to real changes is undoubtedly influencing our policymakers’ decisions – and vice versa.  While the few Americans that deny the existence of dangers such as climate change are certainly part of the problem, many more feel that it is simply too late, and any efforts to heal our environment would be futile (Kamarck).  This viewpoint is so crippling to environmental protection movements not only because, to some extent, it is true – there is some damage that can never be undone – but also because it is difficult to argue against it when questions that “were once primarily scientific and technocratic in nature…are now almost exclusively problems of politics” (Turin). 

When opinions against environmental action are made public by some of our leaders, they can very effectively sow doubt in those leaders’ supporters across the country.  Thus, individual politicians’ possibly biased views concerning pro-environmental changes have a disproportionate impact on what ordinary citizens believe. 

That might be why Democrats and Republicans of all walks of life differ greatly in their stances regarding environmental action.  Though most support the involvement of climate scientists in climate policy, for instance, a large number of conservative Republicans believe that portrayals of those scientists’ findings are exaggerated (“The Politics”).  In one 2016 study, it was found that only 11% of far-right participants agreed with the claim that “Climate scientists understand very well the causes of climate change” (“The Politics”).  Yet, it is important to note that nearly half of the participants at the other end of the political spectrum (liberal Democrats) also held this view.

In recent years, environmental issues have begun to gain more politicians’ attention, largely thanks to the grassroots environmental advocates working to spur on this belated wave of concern (“Environmental”).  Yet, it is not enough: Just a short time ago, in 2017, a year in which there were “16 different billion-dollar natural disasters”, more than one-third of participants in poll expressed the view that researchers’ claims about the environmental crisis were dramatized (Kamarck).  Far more confidence in our scientific community must be instilled in the public if sufficient environmental action is to ever occur; for that to happen, we need our leaders to express that confidence first.


Kamarck, Elaine . “The Challenging Politics of Climate Change.” Brookings, 23 Sept. 2019,

“The Politics of Climate.” Pew Research Center Science & Society, 4 Oct. 2016,

“Environmental Protection Rises on the Public’s Policy Agenda as Economic Concerns Recede.” Pew Research Center – U.S. Politics & Policy, 13 Feb. 2020,

Turin, Dustin R. “Environmental Problems and American Politics: Why Is Protecting the Environment so Difficult?” Inquiries Journal, vol. 6, no. 11, 2014,