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Global warming has been an issue that has been debated on and off many times. Some people believe that it is a man-made problem, while others believe there is not enough evidence to support it. It is an issue that is not always consistently being discussed, but instead comes and goes as events take place and the national mood changes. Global warming is not ranked high as an agenda item around government in the United States because of the amount of skepticism associated with it and the nature of the political stream. The issue of global warming is one that is somewhat based on political party. In addition, industries in the United States that contribute heavily to pollution have powerful interest groups that work to their advantage to keep their best interests at hand. The events needed to focus in on solving the problem are not always consistent. This leads to inconsistent and unpredictable policy windows. All of these things contribute to a controversial topic that is difficult to get much legislation passed on and is not ranked high as an agenda item.
One of the reasons why global warming is not ranked high as an agenda item is due to the fact that the issue has been confined to be seen in a particular way based on one’s political party affiliation. The events within government between political parties hampers progress being made in passing legislation when one party sticks to having one point of view and the other does the same. In the Republican party, many seem to agree that the science showing that global warming is a man-made issue “is not settled”. Meanwhile, Democrats such as Barack Obama advocated for the issue of global warming. The political interests of the president are hard to
achieve if the two political parties are split on their viewpoints. The level of skepticism associated with the topic of global warming between the political parties and their supporters make it hard for the issue to rise on the agenda. According to Kingdon, “the political stream’s consensus building is governed by bargaining”. If the Democrats have nothing to bargain with the Republicans with, then the Republicans viewpoint remains firm, and policies on global warming remain challenging to put into place. Therefore, it resulted in Barack Obama focusing on economic friendly jobs since it was something that could get passed, instead of directly addressing global warming.
Another reason why global warming is not ranked high as an agenda item in the United States is because of the impact of interest groups. America has a very powerful fossil-fuel industry. Interest groups within the fossil fuel industry do not want there to be any type of reform or legislation passed to assist in the curbing of global warming. It would drastically affect their profits and activities. Any legislation that would negatively affect these industries could cause a decrease in jobs. Interest groups put pressure on players in government and use their connections in government to sway the issue in their favor. They do everything in their power to inhibit changes from taking place, and they are very effective at what they do. When powerful interest groups are at work, politicians typically do not “raise an issue at all rather than see their energy and their capital squandered on a losing cause”. The impact that the interest groups have and their connections within government make them a very powerful force in swaying policies one way or another. It is much easier for politicians to forget about an issue due to the great impact that the interest groups have.
National mood is the way that the general public and mass population feel about an idea in government or about the government itself. The national mood allows actors in government to have a sense of which issues and policies have the ability to make it to the decision agenda and which do not. The national mood can change, and people within government have an ability to gauge the national mood based on a few factors. Based on feedback from large meetings, mail received, or even social media, actors in the government can sense how the national mood is changing and in which direction it is leaning towards. The change in national mood allows for certain policies to move forward and to increase in importance and serves to “restrain others from rising to prominence”. When the mass public feels a certain way about an issue, politicians do not try to pass legislation that goes against the national mood, as it would cause a decrease in supporters. Politicans try to “climb on the bandwagon” in their own self-interest. They want to be re-elected, so they always act according to how the general public feels. In the case of global warming, any policy affecting any particular industry can bring negative consequences to the economy. Job creation was already “a more pressing issue than the environment” which shows why global warming does not get ranked high as an agenda item. Compared in the light to other items, the other items receive more attention and are considered to be more important issues that need to be resolved.
Focusing events are events that occur that cause an issue to rise on the agenda and can cause a policy window to open. A policy window is a time frame where people from all 3 streams converge and interact with each other. Based on how their interaction goes, legislation may or may not get passed. Whenever policy windows present themselves, they “stay open for only short periods”. However, focusing events are not always consistent and are quite unpredictable when it comes to global warming. Focusing events include things such as hurricanes and periods of drought or excessive rainfall. These focusing events typically cause a change in national mood that promotes legislation on a specific issue. They have the ability to raise awareness of an issue that may not have previously been known to everyone. These unpredictable focusing events therefore leads to policy windows that are also unpredictable When Hurricane Sandy took place, the national mood changed for a while as the issue of global warming contributing to stronger storms was raised. However, as time passed, it did not remain a hot-issue, as interest in this dropped and as a result caused global warming to seemingly fade from the agenda. The window of opportunity for passing legislation was relatively small, and as with the occurrence of focusing events causes global warming not to remain on the agenda for very long. Another example of where an issue faded from attention is when Al Gore’s movie was released. At the time, the attention of the public was directed towards the effects of global warming. As time passed however, it was shown that “the number of Americans who believe the Earth is warming dropped to 59 percent last year from 70 percent in 2006”.
Many factors have caused global warming not to be consistently ranked high as an agenda item in the United States. The political stream’s division within 3 parts is a main factor of this. It consists of events that take place within government, political the impact that interest groups have, as well as the role that the national mood has on policies being passed and ideas that are being discussed. The problem of global warming has become a partisan issue where most Democrats feel a particular way, and Republicans feel another. In addition, interest groups for pollution producing industries work to prevent legislation from being passed that would hurt their respective industries. Furthermore, politicians gauge the national mood to see how receptive the public may be to a particular idea or policy. This causes ideas and policies to constantly move up and down based on focusing events as well as the level of attention it receives. Policy windows open up and sometimes decisions are made, while at other time they do not. In the case of global warming, decisions are hard to come by. The nature of the political stream, which tends to hinder policy change as well as the split perspectives and skepticism of the idea of global warming have all contributed to why global warming is not ranked high as an agenda item in and around government in the United States.
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