WUOMFM

What's in a word? Politics of "climate change"

Oct 6, 2014

The subject of climate change has generated heated debate.
Credit User: Takver / Flickr

Say the words "climate change," and just watch the battle lines form.

On one side, we have those – including the scientific community – who say it is not only coming, it is here and we're going to be challenged by extreme weather as a consequence.

On the other side, we have those who doubt the grim warnings of climate scientists. They believe warming is just a part of nature's cycle.

The political minefields associated with those words "climate change" are causing local leaders to come up with a way to prepare for extreme weather without talking directly about the problem.

John Flesher is an environmental reporter for the Associated Press based in Traverse City. In a recent report, he looked at what some communities are doing to prepare for extreme weather and said this:

[Climate change] has become like Voldemort, the arch-enemy of the Harry Potter stories: It's the issue that cannot be named.

Flesher says he was struck by the number of times community leaders stepped around the word "climate change" or downplay the idea, because they didn't want to get bogged down in political debates.

"It's certainly a recurring theme in a lot of places, particularly in areas where the political atmosphere tends to be conservative and climate change is a very touchy subject," said Flesher.

Andy Hoffman is Director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan, where he is also the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise. He says companies are facing a similar dilemma.

"[Businesses] need to adapt their operations. But do they want to weigh in to what has become a nasty political issue, or do they just want to come out and say, this is an operational issue, and we're going to address it in a way that makes sense to our bottom line," said Hoffman.

* Listen to our conversation with John Flesher and Andy Hoffman above.