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March 26 2012

12:44

How Do You Build a Scientific Republican?

It’s widely known that Republicans, far more than Democrats, reject modern climate science. And more and more, it has become apparent that this is at least partly because Republicans have a deep distrust of scientists in general, or at least environmental scientists.

But there are many other causes for this rejection as well. These include Republicans’ strongly individualistic system of values—basically, a go-it-alone sense that government is the problem, and markets the solution—and even, perhaps, some aspects of their personalities or psychologies. This is something that I’ve argued in my new book.

There is also, of course, the huge role of Fox News in all of this: Watching it causes conservatives to have more false beliefs than they would otherwise, about issues like climate change. We’ve written about this extensively on DeSmogBlog; and I’ve highlighted a new video on the “Fox misinformation effect” here and below.

Such are some of the factors that seem to build an anti-science Republican; but now, researchers at George Mason, American University, and Yale have swooped in to ask the reverse question. Given that this is so, how do you make a pro-science one? Or in other words, what attributes or beliefs predict being an outlier Republican who actually believes that global warming is real and caused by humans?

The researchers call such Republicans “counter-normative.” That’s academic speak for “out in the cold” in their party right now.

read more

June 15 2011

18:52

Report: Broad Bipartisan Support For Action On Climate Change

A new report by George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication shows that voters in America are concerned about global climate change, and would support broad action by the federal government to prevent future disaster. The report shows that voters from both major political parties are at odds with most Republicans in Washington, who have made it clear that they are not concerned with climate change and their voting records reflect that lack of concern.

The focus that most Congressional Republicans have had involving climate change revolves around U.S. energy policy. They believe that the only solution to America’s energy crisis and high gas prices is to drill in every available square inch of American soil or American waters. And while the report shows that 66% of Americans are in favor of more domestic oil drilling, it is likely because they are unaware that any new oil produced in the United States would have no impact on energy prices.
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Here are some of the key findings from George Mason University’s report:

71 percent of Americans say global warming should be a very high (13%), high (27%), or medium (31%) priority for the president and Congress, including 50 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Independents and 88 percent of Democrats.

91 percent of Americans say developing sources of clean energy should be a very high (32%), high (35%), or medium (24%) priority for the president and Congress, including 85 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Independents, and 97 percent of Democrats.

Majorities of Americans want more action to address global warming from corporations (65%), citizens themselves (63%), the U.S. Congress (57%), President Obama (54%), as well as their own state and local officials.

Despite ongoing concerns about the economy, 67 percent of Americans say the U.S. should undertake a large (29%) or medium-scale effort (38%) to reduce global warming, even if it has large or moderate economic costs.

82 percent of Americans (including 76% of Republicans, 74% of Independents, and 94% of Democrats) say that protecting the environment either improves economic growth and provides new jobs (56%), or has no effect (26%). Only 18 percent say environmental protection reduces economic growth and costs jobs.

Large majorities (including Republicans, Independents, and Democrats) say it is important for their own community to take steps to protect the following from global warming: public health (81%), thewater supply (80%), agriculture (79%), wildlife (77%), and forests (76%).

84 percent of Americans support funding more research into renewable energy sources, including 81 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of Independents, and 90 percent of Democrats.

68 percent of Americans support requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from renewable energy sources, even if it costs the average household an extra $100 a year, including 58 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Independents, and 82 percent of Democrats.

Josh Nelson at EnviroKnow created some charts to help illustrate the findings:

Again, as these numbers from May 2011 show, both Republicans and Democrats support efforts to reduce climate change, and yet the Republican majority in Congress is doing everything in their power to prevent any climate action. This year alone, Republicans have voted 7 times to continue giving billions of dollars worth of subsidies to oil companies every year. They cut almost $900 million from the federal budget for research into renewable energy. They stripped $6 billion worth of ethanol subsidies. And filibustered a bill amendment put forth by Democratic Senator Max Baucus (MT) that would have provided the following:

Tax credits for heavy hybrid and natural gas vehicles and a 30% investment tax credit for alternative fuel refueling stations.

A $1-per-gallon production tax credit for biodiesel and biomass diesel and the small agri-biodiesel producer credit of 10 cents per gallon extended through 2011.

A 50-cent-per-gallon tax credit for biomass and other alternative fuels.

Tax credits for energy-efficient appliances and homes.

Adding $2.5 billion in funding for Section 48C the advanced energy manufacturing 30% tax credit for companies manufacturing advanced clean energy products and materials.

Reinstate the Research and Development tax credit for renewable energy.



The actions being taken by Congress are clearly not in line with the desires of the American public. However, with the economy still performing poorly, these issues will likely take a backseat to economic issues in the next general election.

January 28 2010

00:30

New Poll Results Reveal The Impact of Decades-Long Climate Confusion Campaign

A new report published jointly by Yale University and George Mason University finds that Americans are much less concerned about climate change than they were just a year ago.  Fifty-seven percent of Americans polled believe climate change is happening, compared with a figure of 71 percent in October 2008, a 14 point drop. 

The reason ought to be clear.  The climate confusion campaign - waged by the like of Americans for Prosperity, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Petroleum Institute and American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) - is alive and well, and obviously still inflicting damage.
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According to the study, only 47 percent of Americans think global warming is caused mostly by human activities, a 10 point drop.  Only 50 percent of Americans now say they are "somewhat" or "very worried" about global warming, a 13-point decrease.

The report, "Climate Change in the American Mind,"[PDF] reveals that Americans are increasingly distrustful of scientists, politicians and the media concerning climate change.  The public’s trust in scientists dropped nine points from 83 to 74 percent, while trust in the mainstream news media’s coverage of climate change fell from 47 percent in 2008 to 36 percent now.

Anthony Leiserowitz, principal investigator and director of the Yale Project on Climate Change, told CNN: "I'm not surprised by the direction of the results but I am surprised at the magnitude of them.  These are steep drop offs and this is despite the fact that, if anything, the climate science is getting stronger and more concerning over the past year."

Leiserowitz points to the damage caused by “Climategate” and “Glaciergate.”  He is partially right; those scandals did cause damage.  Unfortunately the damage was inflicted on climate scientists.

The real let-down was the media’s obsession with the mythology that scientists had somehow made up global warming by cooking the data.  Anyone who took the time to review the emails or the glacial records knows that assertion is patently false. 

The real damage caused by these scandals resulted from the lazy reporting done by most journalists on the subject.  The media failed to report the real story of “Climategate” - that a crime was committed by thieves who stole from a prestigious university in order to further an agenda of harassment against climate scientists.  And while “Glaciergate” was an embarrassing screw-up by the IPCC, it didn’t change the fact that glaciers are melting worldwide, causing sea level rise that is already affecting coastal communities. 

In both of these cases, and in general, the media should shoulder the bulk of the responsibility, failing to remind the public that the body of science proving human-caused climate change is vast and global, published in peer-reviewed journals, and validated by major scientific bodies the world over.

Readers of DeSmog Blog know well that these recent polling results have much more to do with the decades-long confusion campaign designed by polluting interests to keep the public in the dark about how serious climate change really is.  

"There is a real need for improved public education and communication on this critical issue. The science is getting stronger and public opinion is going in the opposite direction," Leiserowitz says

That’s an understatement. 

This research underscores my view that climate advocates are incompetent communicators.  With all the science in the world behind us, and a good deal of the public credibility, we still can't win a debate with people who have all the facts working against them.

Why do we bring a knife to the gunfight with the likes of CEI and the API?  As someone recently said, it’s like the Boy Scouts taking on the Mafia.

It’s time to change all that.  Advocates need to get their hands dirty and scientists need to get out of the office and communicate directly with the public about this urgent crisis.

Whether the American public believes it or not, climate change will continue to threaten American jobs, national security and health.  So we’d better all get better at explaining that reality. 

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