Ignorance and Political Blinders Shift American Support for Climate Change Action

A new Stanford-led survey has found that American support for governmental action to address global warming has dropped over the past two years, primarily amongst those who identify themselves as Republicans.

A significant downward shift

According to the report, political rhetoric and the fact that 2011 was tied for the coolest year on record over the past 11 years (never mind that it was the hottest La Niña year on record) helped to influence the shift, a shift that registered as 5 percentage points per year between 2010 and 2012.

In 2010, Stanford found that more than three-quarters of respondents they surveyed expressed support for mandating more efficient and less-polluting cars, appliances, homes, offices, and power plants. That number now hovers around the 60 percent mark.

Nearly 90 percent of respondents favoured federal tax breaks to spur companies to produce more electricity from water, wind, and solar energy. That figure is down to just above 70 percent.

On average, 72 percent of respondents supported government action on climate change in 2010, but by 2012, that support had dropped to 62 percent.

Ignorance and Political Blinders

According to the study, the percentage drop was attributed mainly to Americans who already distrust climate scientists, even more so among those who identify themselves as Republicans. These respondents increased their distrust of climate science as a result of the cooler then average weather (due to La Niña), once again pointing to a significant lack of education in those who are allowed places of authority and their supporters.

The survey directed by Jon Krosnick, a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, noted that during the most recent Republican nomination campaign, all but one of the candidates expressed doubt about global warming, and some went so far as to express a desire to take no government action whatsoever.

Rick Santorum described belief in climate change as a “pseudo-religion,” while Ron Paul called it a “hoax.” Mitt Romney, the apparent Republican nominee, has said, “I can tell you the right course for America with regard to energy policy is to focus on job creation and not global warming.”

These law-makers who have found themselves in such positions of authority are affecting the public opinion on scientific issues based solely on their campaign support and their own “pseudo-religious” attitudes.

The study — led by Stanford researchers with support from Ipsos Public Affairs — found that there was no evidence that the decline in public support for government action to tackle global warming was concentrated among respondents living in states struggling financially.

Thankfully, the study did find that the majority of Americans still support many government actions designed to mitigate the effect of global warming, but were still opposed to consumer taxes intended to decrease public use of electricity and gasoline.

Source: Stanford University
Image Source: Nathan Rupert

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