From Climate Majority NY Times Op-Ed by Jon Krosnick
Busy week. We’re in middle of a six day teacher professional development workshop called ICEE (Inspiring Climate Education Excellence,) which is time consuming but totally worthwhile.
Meanwhile, on the public and political front, attempts to kill the ability of EPA to regulate greenhouse gases were scuttled , though the New York Times now reports that capping greenhouse gases will likely not be included in the current energy bill in front of Congress.
Earlier this week, Stanford’s Jon Krosnick summarized their new analysis (PDF) of public attitudes about global warming in a New York Times Op-Ed entitled Climate Majority, which notes that most American adults do, in the long term, take climate change and environmental issues very seriously, contrary to surveys that emphasize gains those dismissive of climate science would lead us to believe.
Global warming has attracted what political scientists dub an “issue public”: millions of Americans who are passionate about this subject and put pressure on government to follow their wishes. For over a decade, this group has been of typical issue-public size, about 15 percent of American adults.
Although issue publics usually divide about equally on opposing sides — think of abortion or immigration — 88 percent of the climate change issue public in our survey believed that global warming has been happening; 88 percent attributed responsibility for it to human action; 92 percent wanted the federal government to limit the amount of greenhouse gases that businesses can emit. Put simply, the people whose votes are most powerfully shaped by this issue are sending a nearly unanimous signal to their elected representatives.
All this makes global warming a singular issue in American politics. Even as we are told that Americans are about equally divided into red and blue, a huge majority shares a common vision of climate change.
Could it be that the public isn’t as easily swayed by misinformation and misperceptions of the danger of environmental damage in general and climate change in particular as we are led to believe? Perhaps. But our collective understanding of basic climate science, which seems essential for developing effective policies and solutions, is not as robust as is should be.
On a related topic, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in their Global Warming Deniers and Their Proven Strategy of Doubt article suggest that those who attempt to muddy the waters about climate science are indeed having an impact by sowing seeds of doubt, as has been done with tobacco, DDT, the ozone hole and other areas were environmental regulation run counter to free market agendas:
These opponents of science are free-market fundamentalists, unwilling to accept that global warming and many other pollution-induced ills are market failures, and that government action of some kind will be needed to address it. Market fundamentalists believe that free markets are the solution to social problems and government intervention can only do harm. The reality, however, amply demonstrated by experience, is that pollution is external to the market system — there’s no cost to dumping waste into the air and water. And as Lord Nicholas Stern has recently noted, global warming is the biggest market failure of them all. But this is yet another truth that the free market fundamentalists prefer to ignore.
Meanwhile, the contrarians’ campaigns continue, and with significant success: Many Americans accept the deniers’ allegations as true, or at least are confused by them, and therefore do not know what to think or whom to trust. Science has been effectively undermined, which has eroded public support for the decisive action needed to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
What will it take for the nation to reach a critical mass of opinion, leadership and understanding of the science? The clock is ticking….