7 – United States Political History

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Why has climate policy traditionally been so politically divisive?

We are about to dive into the divisive history of climate science, and how we got to where we are today.


Environmentalism’s Racist History

See first two optional resources for more context

“Madison Grant (Yale College 1887, Columbia Law School) liked to be photographed with a fedora, or just his dauntingly long head, tilted about thirty degrees to the right. He belonged, like his political ally Teddy Roosevelt, to a Manhattan aristocracy defined by bloodline and money…” 

August 13, 2015 • The New Yorker

Timeline of key events in environmental movement WWII-1990

June 30, 1948: The Postwar Period. The first piece of legislation to lay down federal regulation of water quality, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, is passed by Congress…” 

Accessed August 2020 • PBS

America Misled

“How the fossil fuel industry deliberately misled Americans about climate change…” 

Accessed August 2020 • George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication

Patriot Act: America’s Modern Political Parties

Suburbia and the Environmental Movement

A Podcast

Organization of American Historians

Timeline: The Politics of Climate Change | Climate of Doubt | FRONTLINE

“1979 February: First World Climate Conference. The conference is considered the first major global recognition of man’s role in climate change…”

October 23, 2012 • PBS Frontline

Losing Earth: The Decade We
Almost Stopped Climate Change

Read the Epilogue

“Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif., has a habit of asking new graduate students to…” 

August 1, 2018 • New York Times

How G.O.P. Leaders Came to View Climate Change as Fake Science

“WASHINGTON — The campaign ad appeared during the presidential contest of 2008. Rapid-fire images of belching smokestacks and melting ice…” 

June 3, 2017 • New York Times


Americans are worried about climate change — but don’t want to pay much to fix it

“The rhetoric around climate change is shifting, but it’s not leading to action…”

January 28, 2019 • Vox

Conservatives don’t hate climate science. They hate the left’s climate solutions

“In the past half decade, a small cottage industry has arisen among communications researchers, political scientists, and political psychologists, all of whom have sought…”

November 10, 2014 • Washington Post

What liberals get wrong about climate change

“Democrats and environmental groups too often let their ideological agendas get in the way of addressing climate change…”

August 21, 2017 • Axios

Biden’s Climate Plan

“Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden unveiled a $2 trillion clean economy jobs program Tuesday that marked a significant expansion in his plan for tackling climate change, with jobs-creation and environmental justice as its pillars…”

July 15, 2020 • InsideClimate News

Some Young Republicans Embrace a Slower, Gentler Brand of Climate Activism

“Bucking GOP elders, they’ve drafted the American Climate Contract as the right’s response to the Green New Deal…”

May 8, 2020 • Inside Climate News

The Political Perceptions of Climate Change in the United States

“Polarized views about climate issues stretch from the causes and cures for climate change to trust in climate scientists and their research. But most Americans support…”

October 4, 2016 • Pew Research Center

What’s in Republicans’ new climate-change push

“Trees, plastics and favorable tax policy are at the core of House Republicans’ new push…”

January 21, 2020 • Axios

What critics of Bernie Sanders’ climate plan are missing

“Bernie Sander’s $16 trillion climate plan, which he calls the Green New Deal, would transition the electricity and transportation sectors to…”

November 15, 2019 • Grist

Tackling Climate Change? Governor Jay Inslee Has a Plan for That

“Jay Inslee is often called the “climate change candidate.” The two-term governor of Washington state launched…”

May 30, 2019 • Yale Environment 360

Politics of Climate Change | Years of Living Dangerously

Perspectives on Climate Change & Development

Dominant views of ‘development’ and their relations to capitalism

See page 34, Table 2.2

Published 2006 • Routledge

The Green New Deal, explained

An Open Letter to Green New Dealers

“I write this as a friend who wants your movement to succeed. Your cause is just and, due to decades worth of political inaction…”

March 31, 2019 • Niskanen Center

Introduction to Degrowth

The term ‘décroissance’ (French for degrowth) was used for the rst time by French intellectual André Gorz in 1972. Gorz posed a question that remains at the cen- tre of today’s degrowth debate…”

Read pages 3-15

2015 • Routledge

Types of alternative community economies

Our first strategy uses a language of the diverse economy to expand the scope for economic action and legitimate economic politics across a broad front. Language (in textual and visual forms) plays a crucial role in generating new ways of seeing and acting...”

Read pages 10-19

2017 • Next System Project

What Kind of Local and Regional Development and for Whom?

Read pages 1259-1264

“In common with the preceding discussion about definitions, no singular meaning exists amongst the different kinds of local and regional development...”

September 21, 2010 • Regional Studies

Democrats’ Green New Deal Becomes The CLEAN Future Act

“The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, chaired by Frank Pallone, Jr (D-NJ), released an ambitious new climate plan ...”

January 15, 2020 • Forbes

An Ecomodernist Manifesto

To say that the Earth is a human planet becomes truer every day. Humans are made from the Earth, and the Earth is remade by human hands. Many earth scientists express this by stating that the Earth has entered a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans...”

April 2015 • Ecomodernist Manifesto

A Degrowth Response to an Ecomodernist Manifesto

“A group known as the “ecomodernists,” which includes prominent environmental thinkers and development specialists such as...”

May 6, 2015 • Resilience

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Optional Resources

Wilderness and American Identity

See modules under title Wilderness and American Identity

“Most obviously, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and the Hudson River School helped shape an emerging national identity…”

Accessed August 2020 • National Humanities Center

PBS Frontline Documentary – Climate of Doubt 

“Four years ago, climate change was a hot issue and politicians from both sides seemed poised to act. Today public opinion on the climate issue has cooled considerably…”

October 23, 2012 • PBS Frontline

Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV): It’s time to act on climate change — responsibly

“The two of us have more in common than might meet the eye. We come from different parties, but we are both avid outdoorsmen and represent states that take great pride in the resources we provide to the nation and to friends and allies around the world…”

March 8, 2019 • Washington Post

A Call to Look Past Sustainable Development

“The average citizen of Nepal consumes about 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity in a year. Cambodians make do with 160. Bangladeshis are better off…”

April 14, 2015 • New York Times

How a Ruling on Gay and Transgender Rights May Help the Climate

“Did the Supreme Court just give a boost to climate lawsuits? This month, the court declared that a major piece of civil rights legislation protects gay and transgender people from discrimination at work…”

June 24, 2020 • New York Times

Global Warming Timeline

“Here are gathered in chronological sequence the most important events in the history of climate change science…”

January 2020 • American Institute of Physics

Sierra Club Grapples With Founder John Muir’s Racism

“The organization calls out Muir’s racist statements and pledges to diversify leadership and deepen environmental justice initiatives…”

July 24, 2020 • Smithsonian Magazine

How they made us doubt everything

Episode 1. Big Oil’s Big Crisis

“From climate change to smoking and cancer, this is the story of how to manufacture doubt. How would oil companies respond to the crisis posed by the long hot summer of 1988…”

June 27, 2020 • BBC

Congress Climate History

“Congress has debated climate change for nearly 30 years with varying results. Laws and congressionally approved funding have led to new programs to reduce emissions and incentives to speed the deployment of clean energy. Other efforts to address climate change more holistically, including by using market-based approaches, have not advanced…”

Accessed August 2020 • Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

Cut Carbon Through Innovation, Not Regulation

“People across the world are rejecting the idea that carbon taxes are the answer to lowering emissions….”

December 18, 2018 • New York Times

Vox: Watch the US stall on climate change

A Republican Climate Resolution

“Republican members of the House of Representatives have introduced the Republican Climate Resolution which supports the need to take action to address climate change…”

Accessed August 2020 • Citizens’ Climate Lobby