What happens when Republicans start to understand climate change?

ShutterstockWhat happens when Republicans start to understand climate change?

Republican voters are told over and over by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and GOP leaders in Congress that climate change is a sham, a scare campaign orchestrated by scientists with liberal agendas. Ergo, Republicans are less likely than others to believe that fossil-fuel burning is changing the climate. It stands to reason, therefore, that they are less likely to support efforts to tackle the problem.

But once Republicans come to understand that the world is indeed imperiled by global warming, they begin to support government actions to try to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Climatic Change. Researchers analyzed the results of a 2012 Gallup poll that asked around 1,000 Americans about their climate change views. From a Michigan State University press release:

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U.S. residents who believe in the scientific consensus on global warming are more likely to support government action to curb emissions, regardless of whether they are Republican or Democrat, according to a study led by a Michigan State University sociologist.

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However, a political divide remains on the existence of climate change despite the fact that the vast majority of scientists believe it is real, said Aaron M. McCright, associate professor in Lyman Briggs College and the Department of Sociology.

The study, in the journal Climatic Change, is one of the first to examine the influence of political orientation on perceived scientific agreement and support for government action to reduce emissions.

“The more people believe scientists agree about climate change, the more willing they are to support government action, even when their party affiliation is taken into account,” McCright said. “But there is still a political split on levels of perceived scientific agreement, in that fewer Republicans and conservatives than Democrats and liberals believe there is a scientific consensus.”

The good news is that regular Republicans are starting to see through the lies of the fossil-fuel industry. About half of Republicans now agree that global warming is real, up from one-third in 2010, according to recent polling.

McCright’s research suggests that the burgeoning awareness of climate change among conservatives should translate to growing support for efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. If only it would happen more quickly.