Across the Political Spectrum, Americans Agree: Act on the Climate Crisis

Evan Manvel

Whichever party a candidate is, promoting action on climate is in line with her base while being much more likely to appeal to independent and moderate voters than promoting inaction.

This Monday, Oregonian readers saw the story from Scott Learn about a survey commissioned by Oregon’s Global Warming Commission:

When it comes to views on global warming, Oregonians are living in "separate realities" based on political ideology, a new online survey indicates...

The survey wasn't scientific, and likely garnered people with stronger views than a random survey would have. Survey designers recruited participants from 40 Oregon-based groups, including business and environmental organizations.

As the article noted, even in this self-selected, skewed sample, there are consensus actions we can take to tackle the climate crisis. Large majorities of liberals, moderates, and conservatives believe we should increase renewable generation and increase energy conservation. Even 41% of self-described conservatives want to tighten emission standards for utilities, and over a third of the conservatives passionate enough to fill out the survey support a carbon tax.

Perhaps most critically, the report notes: “moderates aligned decidedly more with acting on climate than doing nothing."

That gives one a glimmer of hope. More interestingly, what do more scientific studies show about the views of the full population?

The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication did a nationwide scientific poll this spring, which found:

What to make of this?

First, the news media have failed to inform Americans about the clear scientific and public opinion consensus to act on this issue. The corporate effort to spend tens and hundreds of millions of dollars to sow doubt has worked, often hand-in-glove with the media's need to sell conflict and controversy.

Second, entrenched corporate polluters have significant lobbying power, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to local organizations like the Association of Oregon Industries who fight Oregon laws that promote moving forward on climate.

Third, the Republican presidential candidates, save Jon Huntsman, are pandering to a sliver of their base, and are deeply out of touch with most Americans.

Fourth, Oregon political candidates across the spectrum should promote action to combat global warming. Whichever party a candidate is, promoting action is in line with her base, while being much more likely to appeal to independent and moderate voters than promoting inaction.

Lastly, many policies that help battle the climate crisis are popular even among Tea Partiers.

The Oregon Global Warming Commission and Oregon Legislature should take the unscientific survey with a big grain of salt. Instead, they should look to scientific polling and natural science, which just this week reported two huge ice shelves in Canada have shrunk dramatically, one nearly disappearing.

Whatever their party, voters agree: the time to act on climate is now.

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    Yes, encouraging to see the numbers of the majorities across the spectrum who believe in science.

    But when it comes down to brass tacks, as in when tough decisions need to be made, there are majorities of elected pols from both major parties who will favor political expediency over the (near) future of the Earth.

    Witness the current public input hearings as regards the Keystone XL pipeline. The hearings are being run by a private contractor who was brought in by TransCanada, which will get the contract to build the pipeline itself. Obama's State Dept. is apparently okay with this- the fix is in.

    Dr. James Hansen, David Suzuki and other prominent environmentalists say this is the biggest test Obama faces on the issue of climate change.

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    Not to mention Shell just being granted drilling rights for the Arctic Ocean. And, last year, vast new coal leases in Wyoming- much of the coal from these is to go to export (from the Pac NW?).

    So where is anything near opinion or rhetoric as regards action?

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    "Sadly, only 14% of Americans (and only 18% of Democrats) know at least 80% of climate scientists think global warming is happening (the actual number is 98% of climate scientists agree, or one in fifty disagrees)."

    The important percentage (deliberately?) left out of that statementis how many believe that global warming is anthropogenic. That percentage is much lower. There has also been a clear attempt to ignore dissent and label questioners as apostates.

    That being said; I believe in science. That includes the law of conservation of matter and energy. Electricity demand is not going to decrease significantly. Eliminating coal-fired power plants cannot be replaced with solar panels or wind. So that means hydroelectric and/or nuclear. It is already established that hydroelectric is anathema to the left. But self-labeled environmentalists who don't support nuclear energy as a replacement for coal are either hypocrites or Luddites. Q.E.D.

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      I'm not going to get into the science debate - I think that serves (deliberately?) to distract us from the basic fact: there are a huge number of policies the vast majority of Americans agree we should adopt that would have substantial climate benefits.

      When it comes to solutions, I'm not convinced energy demand isn't going to decrease significantly. After all, energy demand is a cost, and markets work to reduce costs. Since most of America's fossil fuel use goes to buildings and transport, both of those can be made significantly more efficient, saving money and energy.

      That said, I agree not all our immediate national energy demand will be met with wind, solar, and energy conservation (though longer term that may become feasible). However, there are many models out there from energy experts (for example this one) that don't use nuclear or hydro as a major source. Though if the choice actually ended up being between the climate crisis and nuclear energy, I'd choose the latter.

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    @Ken Ray: The current National Geographic has a story about what has happened in past eons due to spikes in GHG (the difference now is that the current spike is happening more quickly).

    And the current spike correlates exactly to the Industrial Revolution.

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    And Dr. Harold Lewis has pointed out the same data indicates carbon as a lagging indicator, not a leading one.

    Look, I am not opining on whether global warming is or isn't anthropogenic. My problem is with anyone labeling the science as "settled" or the "debate is over." Those kind of statements sound alarm bells in my head.

    It is extremely rare in science that anything is "settled." Even Gravity is still a theory. In 1929 Dr. Paul Dirac found gravity as a declining value, not the constant it was assumed to be for hundreds of years.

    If you believe in anthropogenic global warming and use statements like "the preponderance of the evidence" or some other similar term, I will never call that into question.

    But when people claim the debate is over or try to shun or discredit anyone who disagrees with the prevailing theory, then that person has crossed the line between science-based to religious-based belief.

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      Science is always open to new evidence. Still, scientists get out of the way of speeding trains, even though they realize the principle of conservation of momentum is open to scientific challenge. Prudent earthlings will approach climate change as seriously.

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    Example of a religious-based belief:

    "But self-labeled environmentalists who don't support nuclear energy as a replacement for coal are either hypocrites or Luddites."

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    It is increasingly difficult for me to distinguish between those with genuine concern for our environment and those who want to stick their corporate noses into the trough of public subsidies.

    Here in Vancouver, WA we have a proposal by Clark County to put a biomass burner into the middle of downtown Vancouver. The sole Democrat on our County Commission is voting "no" and the two very conservative Republicans - neither of whom have ever shown one iota of concern about the environment - are voting yes. And our mayor, who has decent "green" credentials himself, is also opposing the project.

    So many environmental projects involve such huge subsidies that it is really hard to tell what is going on.

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