Chris Mooney: Is Polarization On Global Warming A Good Thing?

Our guest blogger is Chris Mooney. This post is cross-posted from Mooney’s blog, The Intersection, which just moved to be part of Science Progress, the Center for American Progress’ science policy initiative.

Joe Romm is already on this, but I too note an important new poll from Stanford showing the public is shifting into the pro-global warming camp…or at least, the not-particularly-radical center of America seems to be moving that way. As Romm notes, “Interestingly, the polling shows that the biggest movement toward understanding the Earth has been warming occurred among independents, a 9.5% rise in those who believe the Earth has been warming.”

That’s great….except, the poll also shows that the denial flank is more sure of itself than ever:

— The percentage of Americans who are certain that warming has been happening has also climbed, from 45% to 53%.

— However, those who do not believe in global warming have become more resolute in their attitude (certainty from 35% in 2010 to 53% in 2011).

This gets us back to the “if they won’t join us, beat them” logic advanced by David Roberts a little while back. The idea is that you get together a strong enough coalition and you just drive over the opposition, since it is implacable anyway. And if the center is moving more towards accepting the science, then that’s a very good sign.

I support this argument in the following sense. I really do believe that if we could just come up with a national policy on climate change, the debate over the science would itself become far less intense–because we’d have put that question, essentially, behind us. It wouldn’t be as live an issue, people would fight over it less, and the current polarization would decrease accordingly. (Although many people would take the idea that global warming is “junk science” all the way to the grave.)

That said, I would really like to find a more sane way of resolving these kinds of problems. But if that isn’t possible…then damn the extremists, and full steam ahead.

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