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Climate Hustle

Republicans and Democrats alike want more clean energy

Posted on 20 December 2016 by John Abraham

It’s almost an accepted dogma that in the United States (and in several other countries), liberals are much more in favor of taking actions to curb climate change whereas conservatives block such actions. That’s certainly true within the halls of power. For instance, in the United States, it has become a litmus test for Republication candidates to deny humans are causing climate change, to try to claim that it isn’t important, in many cases to demonize the messengers (the scientists), and to work to halt climate science so we won’t know how bad the problem is.

Conventional wisdom – and in fact the seemingly obvious message from this past election – is that this denial is good politics. If you want to get elected as a conservative, you have got to be anti-science. 

But perhaps what we thought was so just isn’t. A fascinating study was just released by Yale and George Mason Universities that involved a national survey of American opinions. What this survey found was astonishing. Almost 70% of registered voters in the U.S. believe that their country should participate in international agreements to limit global warming. Only 1 in 8 registered voters believe the U.S. should not participate in such agreements. Similarly, 70% of respondents support limits on carbon dioxide, the most important human-emitted heat trapping gas. 

Moreover, they agree to limits even if that means electricity costs will increase (although they won’t). What this means is that 7 in 10 registered voters agree with President Obama’s signature climate accomplishment, the Clean Power Plan. When considered by party affiliation, the responses were 85% for Democrats, 62% for Independents, and 52% for Republicans. Yes, even among Republicans, whose elected officials systematically mock science, the majority of voters are in agreement about the importance of taking climate change seriously.

Amongst the respondents, more than 80% agreed that if a carbon tax is imposed, the revenues should be used to improve U.S. infrastructure, and large majorities support using the funds to help displaced fossil fuel workers or reducing the national debt.

A deeper dive into the results reveals that American voters are more knowledgeable about energy and the energy economy than is the president elect. They recognize the connection between the new clean energy economy and their own country’s economic vitality. 

More than half of voters understand that transitioning to newer and cleaner fuels will improve economic growth and create new jobs – something we are already seeing. A small minority believe that transitioning to a clean-energy system will hurt the economy. Furthermore, a majority support exploring clean and renewable energy on public lands by a very large margin compared with those who support more fossil fuel extraction on those same lands.

The architects of this survey are the best of the best in this business. Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz and Dr. Ed Maibach are very well known in this area. They were joined by a talented team of colleagues from George Mason University and Yale University. I wrote to the authors and they responded:

A large majority of Americans want our nation to step up and do its part to limit climate change, and nearly all Americans understand that a clean energy economy is our destiny.

The single most surprising thing we learned in this survey was that 8 out of 10 Americans want our nation to limit global warming pollution by regulating it, taxing it, or both, while only 1 out of ten prefer for the United States to take neither action.

It’s interesting that over the past eight years, we have seen enormous drops in the cost of renewable energy, particularly wind and solar.

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Comments

Comments 1 to 7:

  1. American voters are more knowledgeable about energy and the energy economy than is the president elect.

    That's an understatement. In general, every citizen enrolled in 6th grade of school knows more about almost all aspects of life, than the president elect who did not pass that level, starting from the richness of their everyday vocabulary because they can use more than 200 different words.

    It follows that virtually everything 6th grader knows eclipses president elect's knowledge (maybe excluding the physical appearance of Apprentice show female members), including energy economics. That incudes everyone eligible for voting. Why they knowingly decided to elect such a parody of a man (the studiesI linked above were known before the election) ? I'm not going to speculate because my logic does not apply here: in a post-truth world, the elections results are simply irrational.

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  2. The whole thing is a frustrating, absurd sort of situation. I have also seen various polls indicating the majority of Americans take climate change seriously, and think something should be done. But they get ignored by politicians of all persuasions, although more so the republicans.

    Why are the views of the majority of Americans so out of step with politicians, and so ignored by congress, or the senate? I just think the main reason is we have politicians (of all persuasions) afraid of upsetting the fossil fuel lobby, who presumably make big campaign donations.

    Politicans are also acutely worried about votes, and the votes of the climate sceptical minority would be a concern. Politicans worry about every single vote.

    We also have political parties being more concerned about branding themselves over the climate issue than the public at large would be, and the Republicans have taken a very definite sceptical brand. It then becomes a question of loyalty to the brand, no matter how absurd this is.

    One solution would be to reduce the funding of elections by the private sector. You could have public funding of elections out of taxation, but I admit the chances of this happening in America would not be large given their general ideological leanings as a society. However the Democrats tried to put limits on campaign donations about 10 years ago, but this bill was struck down by the courts as 'unconstitutional'. Its hard to see an answer to the situation.

    The best way of getting through to Trump may be mainly to promote that renewable energy is just good business, and a smart deal. He might relate to this.

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  3. Chriskoz @1, good comment.  Maybe politicians are more sceptical of climate science than some other groups because they are more in the older age group, and so haven't had much if any formal education on it. I'm absolutely sure I have seen decent quality public polling finding young people are generally less sceptical about climate change presumably due to the education they get.

    Trump's grammar isn't too good and he is very plainly spoken. I wonder if this is deliberate, to connect with blue collar workers. Remember he is a property developer, so deals a lot with builders.

    Trump comes out with the most absurd statements and policy ideas, but I just cant believe he is unintelligent. He has a degree from a top ranking university and holds a business empire together (just). However the combination of intelligence and crazy ideas and absurd claims is if anything particularly concerning, as it just doesn't make sense, and suggests some sort of personality issue and a serious disregard for honesty.

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  4. "A deeper dive into the results reveals that American voters are more knowledgeable about energy and the energy economy than is the president elect."

    However,the American voters are now not in control of the climate change policies of the US nor of its economy. Donald Trump, whether you like it or not, is.  Perhaps it is not the smartest approach to antagonise the President-elect.  

    NigelJ@3  "I'm absolutely sure I have seen decent quality public polling finding young people are generally less sceptical about climate change presumably due to the education they get.'  

    Perhaps young people are more naive and gullible than those somewhat older.

    "Trump's grammar isn't too good and he is very plainly spoken. I wonder if this is deliberate, to connect with blue collar workers. Remember he is a property developer, so deals a lot with builders".

    It is this elitism such as this that has been "blamed" for both the election of Trump and Brexit.  Personally I consider it has no place here or anywhere else.  Are builders some sub-class?

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  5. Haze @4, I dont think young people are automatically naive and gullible. In fact most teenagers go through a rebellious stage where they question all forms of so called conventional wisdom, and look at a wide variety of sources of information.

    However young people do get some basic information at school on the greenhouse effect, which is established science, and can probaly see that this science is settled and compelling.

    Their parents never had that level of education on climate change. Their parents may also get more narrow in their world view and entrenched into partisan political leanings, and the older people get the harder it is to escape these, as people get set in their ways.

    I didn't say builders are a subclass. But its a simple fact their education levels will not  as high as a doctor for example. Trump has probably got used to speaking their language.

    I deal in facts and honest observations. I used to be involved in the building industry for a couple of years at a very high professional level, and have a high regard for builders, and if anything some of them are under paid, although its probably small farmers and lower skilled occupations hurting most.

    Yes I would agree the "elite" have got some things wrong, with maybe excessive immigration numbers, and blue collar workers being left behind during the period of globalisation. I think there's legitimate blame on both Republicans and Democrats in that regard.

    This doesn't mean globalisation is wrong or should be reversed, it means certain things must be rectified, mitigated, and acknowledged by everyone. But in case you havent noticed, Trump is part of the very elite he criticises. He has made a lot of angry noises, maybe with some justification, but in my view his policies wont help his target audience, and need changing. People will eventually wake up to this.

    But like I said Trump is intelligent, and may see business sense in renewable energy, and presumably he wont want China to get ahead of America on this.

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  6. I've been a "member" of skep/sci.com for four, maybe five years, but it never occurred to me that "ya'll" had no exposure to the Yale/George Mason study showing, among other things, that 55% of Republicans believe the facts about climate change and about the same number support the EPA's efforts at greenhouse gas mitigation...so, mea culpa.  Here in central Virginia we have "Valley Grassroots" a group of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans (and everything in between) trying to get the word out about climate change while trying to defeat the gas pipeline projects that are just going to make everything worse.  We have a three hour power point presentation we present about every three/four months, free, to the public, about the facts of climate change.  Some of our material comes from skep/sci so we think the presentation is pretty good.  If any of you would like to "teach" this "course" we'll send you the PP presentation and you can do it from your "space".  It's mostly copyrighted, but you are welcome to it for free if you pledge not to charge the people who will want to see it.  Call me.

    Don Henke

    434-996-3257

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  7. swampfoxh@6,

    Like you, I have followed SkS for many years.

    A minor point about what has been posted on SkS regarding Republican voter support for action on climate change.

    I recall many postings on SkS mentioning facts similar to the Yale/George Mason study. Admittedly some may have been in articles listed in the Weekly Updates rather than as separate postings.

    A recent one (14Nov2016) was "On Trump and climate, America is split in two by these demographics" which includes a reference and link to the NY Times article "Most Republicans Say They Back Climate Action, Poll Finds".

    Other postings have been clearer about pointing out that nearly half of Republican voters accepting climate science and the need for action is a far lower percentage than among Democrat voters.

    It has also been pointed out that nearly half of the Republican voters continue to fight against having to accept the actual common sense understanding of what is going on regarding climate science.

    Several studies presented or referenced in SkS have clearly shown that far more than 90% of the people who dedicate their thoughts and efforts to the understanding of climate science have established a common sense understanding of what is going on. My version is:

    • human burning of fossil fuels is rapidly increasing CO2 levels
    • leading to a rapidly warming of the planet (and other impacts particularly in the oceans)
    • and rapid climate change (that is regionally very difficult to forecast - so it will be difficult for future generations to plan for and adapt successully to)
    • and the climate changes and the other damaging consequences of the efforts to most profitably exhaust the easiest to access buried hydrocarbon resources will not be beneficial to future generations of humanity (in addition to future generations have less access to resouces, riskier and more damaging is always cheaper and quicker - more profitable - if it can be gotten away with) .

    I understand the challenge of getting people to accept that 'developed perceptions of prosperity and opportunity for more personal benefit are undeserved if the actions Trumping-up those perceptions are not advancing humanity to a lasting better future for all'.

    Hopefully you are able to reach and disrupt the thinking of some of those who appear determined to be the type of people Nigel Farage infamously referred to when Brexit debate facts were presented contrary to his desired misleading messaging, people fed up with having experts/elites (the best of a group) explain the best understanding of what is actually going on.

    It would be good to see that recalcitrant half of Republican voters (the term deplorable could be applied to them but its use clearly rubbed people the wrong way) change their minds and better understand climate science, along with the smaller portion of Democrat voters who also deplorably choose to misunderstand the subject.

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