Believe it or not, politicians can mention the fact that the health of the planet is being slowly eroded due to carbon pollution and they won’t immediately be impeached.
Kind of a surprise, right? Especially if the only evidence you have at hand is how willing elected officials are to discuss climate change. From the available evidence, it seems that members of Congress would rather talk about their sympathy for Al Qaeda than suggest that maybe we should take common-sense steps toward not ruining the climate.
They don’t need to be so skittish. According to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, advocating for action on climate change is a net benefit for political candidates. Some toplines from a poll the group released today [PDF]:
- A majority of all registered voters (55%) say they will consider candidates’ views on global warming when deciding how to vote.
- Among these climate change issue voters, large majorities believe global warming is happening and support action by the U.S. to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs.
- Independents lean toward “climate action” and look more like Democrats than Republicans on the issue.
- A pro-climate action position wins votes among Democrats and Independents, and has little negative impact with Republican voters.
This is generally good news — but it seems hard to believe that this will inspire any Republican candidates to pick up the mantle, or encourage any Democrats to invoke the wrath of climate deniers. One of the missing factors in this poll (based on my read-through; happy to be corrected) is an assessment of the virulence of the belief. Climate deniers are far more vocal than proponents for action. This has been part of the problem: There’s a much higher political cost paid when opposing deniers than supporters, even though the latter are the majority.
Breaking out some specific data points:
Americans are worried about global warming. Except Republicans.
Republicans are more likely to express concern than I would have thought. And who are these 13 percent of people who think global warming will “harm future generations” but aren’t worried about it? Misanthropes? Are there that many misanthropes in America?
Voters want candidates to talk about global warming.
It’s remarkable to see data suggesting that more than half of Republicans think global warming should be a priority for the U.S., particularly when only a third of them are worried about it.
Voters want some action on climate, despite cost.
This is an amazing chart. Eighty percent of people who don’t think climate change is an important issue for presidential candidates nonetheless think the country should make some effort to address the problem.
People — even independents — don’t trust Romney on climate.
Voters think carbon dioxide should be regulated.
Even two-thirds of Republicans think that carbon dioxide should be regulated as a pollutant. Granted, another recent poll indicated that Americans are basically clueless about energy, so this should be taken with a grain of salt. Feel free to put the graph in front of your local congressmember, though.
They also think polluters should pay the cost of polluting.
See caveat above, but bring this chart to your next cap-and-trade rally.
Check out the full write-up from Yale [PDF], which includes data suggesting that even in swing states, climate isn’t a liability. As for the key takeaway: Polling shows that climate advocates should be winning handily. Too bad the only voice that’s heard in the public sphere is the one screaming “Climategate!”
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