“You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”

When attempting to elevate climate change awareness in the United States, this time-weathered sage advice metaphorically represents the agonizing sentiments of climate scientists worldwide.

After the International Panel on Climate Change released its initial climate change impact assessment report in 1994, 97% of the nations worldwide have agreed to perceive anthropogenic climate change as real and have taken legislative action by ratifying the international Kyoto Protocol.

Yet, regardless of the overwhelming consciousness of the global scientific community that human-induced greenhouse gas emissions have been the primary instigator of global warming in the modern era, the United States only ranks 55 out of the top 56 industrialized nations for implementing a mandated federal climate change policy that complies with international standards. Do the United States, Afghanistan, and the Vatican City know something the rest of the world doesn’t? Or has their perception, tinted by the lenses through which they view the world, facilitated justifying their choice to ignore empirical evidence.

Unfortunately, the American perception of climate change reality has been tinted by misinformation from climate deniers in the media, by networks such as Fox News, conservative organizations such as the Heartland Foundation, and some religious organizations. The motives for their efforts to dilute the truth range from a biased view that the implementation of climate change policies will place an economic burden on business and undercut the United States’ ability to compete with other countries to fears that an acceptance of climate science contradicts some rigid personal religious theology.

Sadly, instead of facing the facts and leading the world to address climate change, political gridlock has disabled our ability to take action. Consequently, we are wallowing in our own self-inflicted carbon quagmire as hurricane Sandy dreadfully killed over 110 Americans and left more than 1.3 million people without power a week after the storm.

According New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the extensive damage caused by Sandy will cost their states approximately $41.9 billion and $29.4 billion respectively.

On the brighter side, in every dark cloud there is a silver lining. As horrific as the Sandy event was to witness, it has fostered a positive shift in Americans’ perception of climate change reality. Based on collaborative research conducted by Yale and George Washington University, currently 74% of Americans, up five points since March 2012, say “global warming is affecting weather.” In particular, there have been especially large shifts in perspective in the Northeast and Midwest, which indicated increases of +12 and +15 points, respectively.

Consequently, as a realist-optimist, I believe the changing tide of American politics and media, influenced by direct experiences, appears to be trending towards a redistribution of interest that will eventually foster the implementation of mandated climate change legislation. In turn, this will allow our country to develop global symbiotic relationships and lead the world in the direction of a sustainable future.

Fingers crossed.

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