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Yale Poll Finds Climate Change Action Is A Political Winner

By Joe Romm  

"Yale Poll Finds Climate Change Action Is A Political Winner"

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Climate change is a political winner, recent polls make clear (see links below). It is a wedge issue that divides Tea Party extremists from Democrats, independents, and even moderate/liberal Rebuplicans.

As one of the leading experts on public opinion analysis in this area, Stanford’s Jon Krosnick, explained in October, candidates “may actually enhance turnout as well as attract voters over to their side by discussing climate change.”

Providing further support for that view is a new analysis of by The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. They found:

  • Concern about the effects of climate change is high across political groups, with majorities of Democrats and Independents expressing concern about global warming and its potential harm for themselves and future generations.
  • Across party lines, there is support for taking action to reduce global warming, with pluralities of all groups favoring medium-scale efforts. Even among Republicans, a sizeable majority support making some effort to address global warming.
  • Independents more closely resemble Democrats in their attitudes and beliefs about global warming, and like Democrats, most support efforts to address the problem. Thus, the issue of global warming is a political opportunity to connect with most Independents.

  • A majority of registered voters (58%) say they will consider candidates’ position on global warming when deciding how to vote.
  • Policies to promote renewable energy are favored by the majority of voters across party lines. Majorities support eliminating federal subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, but oppose ending subsidies to the renewable energy industry. Instead, solid majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans support funding more research into renewable energy sources.
  • Registered voters support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. They are also willing to support a candidate who promotes a carbon tax but this depends on how the money is used. Candidates garner greater support when the money is used to create jobs, decrease pollution, or pay down the national debt compared to giving a tax refund to American families.
  • Democratic and Independent majorities want Congress and President Obama to do more to address global warming, as do increasing numbers of Republicans.

And that was all pre-Sandy polling!

Discovery News notes in its piece about the poll that global warming was a political winner for Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA):

Among the politicians probably benefiting from public opinion is Governor Jay Inslee of Washington. Inslee was elected while being conspicuously vocal about climate change and even coauthoring a book on the promise of clean energy.

“Every ton of coal that is burned anywhere on the planet Earth ends up in Puget Sound,” said Gov. Inslee at a recent meeting with the press in Olympia, Wash. When asked about the negative effects of ocean acidification — caused by the burning of fossil fuels worldwide — to the state’s shellfish industry, he said, “This is not only about the polar bears. It is about business opportunities in our state that are today being damaged.”

The Yale poll makes clear that a lot of swing voters will vote based on their concern about global warming — whereas few will vote based on their denial.

Again, countless recent polls have come up with similar findings:

  • Study (10/11): Democrats Taking “Green” Positions on Climate Change “Won Much More Often” Than Those Remaining Silent
  • Poll (12/11): Independents, Other Republicans Split With Tea-Party Extremists on Global Warming
  • Poll (4/12): Clean Energy Is A Political Wedge Among Republicans
  • Gallup (4/12): 65% of Americans Have More Guts Than Obama, Support ‘Imposing Mandatory Controls On CO2 Emissions’
  • Poll (4/12): Large Majority Of Americans Understand Global Warming Made Several Major Extreme Weather Events Worse
  • Yale Poll (10/12): “Large And Growing Majority Of Americans” Say “Global Warming Is Affecting Weather In The United States”
  • Poll (4/12): 75 Percent of Americans Support Regulating CO2 As A Pollutant, 60 Percent Support Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax

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23 Responses to Yale Poll Finds Climate Change Action Is A Political Winner

  1. Superman1 says:

    The Garden of Eden parable is the right perspective from which to interpret climate change and its resolution. The GoE was the environment in which all species evolved. For each species, the GoE contained the climate appropriate to its survival without the need for clothing, the proper food, etc. Living in the GoE produced a minimal resource/energy footprint, and insured sustainability. The Original Sin was leaving the climate best suited for humanity, and moving to other climates that required additional energy sources for survival. Part of the Original Sin was the desire for expansion, and the need for weapons et al to achieve this. All the other energy intensive activities followed. In addition, for each species, every day was a struggle to survive. A good day for an individual was that they could sleep without being attacked, go through the day without being attacked, find some food and maybe some sex. The day that the fastest lion could outrun the slowest gazelle, the latter was toast. There was no room in the grand design for luxury or comfort. We humans believe that somehow we can live beyond the grand design, and use unlimited resources for luxury and comfort well beyond the struggle to survive. If we are lucky, we will survive to return to the original design.

    • Very poetic, Superman1. I like it.

      Perhaps I’m too much a creature of the world I was born into, but I think there’s a middle path. But oddly enough it relates to religious ideas as well.

      Climate disruption is the sum expression of our intemperance, of our inability to be satisfied and to come to terms with our limits. Christianity has its seven deadly sins which, if you look at them, are all sins of intemperance, of wanting too much. Christianity has many hypocrisies, but also wisdoms. This is one of them. It’s wrong to want too much, even when too much is available. To use some decidedly non-religious vernacular, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Selfishness is punished, even when we don’t recognize it as selfishness.

      This is a core lesson of other religions, too. Karma, for example.

      These ideas relate to hubris, the big sin of Greek religious thought. To think that one can transcend the natural without incurring some kind of consequence.

      Another piece of wisdom in these legends and fables is that the consequences are often not meted out to the original sinners, but to their descendents. The GoE story punishes both the parents and the children, forever.

      These allegories are not about obeying a specific god. They are about having a conscience and a sense of humility.

      So I think we could manage back to a world we could live in, using our fossil-fueled technology as an endowment. We know know it can’t go on. But we could leverage what we have into a transition. It’s a total fantasy, I suppose. But I cling to it. Otherwise, I don’t get through the day.

      • Superman1 says:

        Accepting the possibility of of the extinction of civilization in this century is very difficult. Many of the posts on this and other climate blogs are variants of denying this reality. What it means in practice is that very small children today will have low probability of reaching old age, due to the impacts from climate change.

        I believe the guiding principle behind the biosphere is sustainability. This translates into minimal resource footprint. Anything beyond this threshold level detracts from sustainability. Energy appears to be the first main critical path resource, but if energy hadn’t come along first, other critical resources such as water would have served the purpose. We are orders of magnitude above the design point of sustainability, despite what the technophiles would have us believe (this coming from a person who has spent more than fifty years in science and technology). The bills are coming due, far faster than we had imagined five years ago.

        • David Goldstein says:

          Superman- In addition to being a climate change activist, a baseball fanatic and an S.A.T instructor, I am also a practicing Buddhist. The following quote is by Thich Nath Hanh- a Vietnamese buddhist teacher. He is also an activist from way back – he was exiled from his homeland for protesting the war. This quote helps me come to terms with our not unlikely trajectory as I continue to work for mitigation: “Without collective awakening the environmental catastrophe will come. Civilizations have been destroyed many times and this civilization is no different. If you meditate on that you will not go crazy. You accept that this civilization could be abolished and life will begin later, because that is something that has happened in the history of this planet. When you have peace in yourself and accept then you are calm enough to do something, but if you are carried by despair there is no hope.” Whew. He is NOT advocating passive acceptance, only the incredibly challenging psychological task of looking reality and possible consequences in the eye without averting our gaze.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        All the religions and philosophies worthy of the name identified greed as one of the prime evils of human nature. That is until capitalism crawled out of the pit, and declared greed the highest good, and the rest is, as they say, history, and so are we.

    • SecularAnimist says:

      Superman1 wrote: “There was no room in the grand design for luxury or comfort. We humans believe that somehow we can live beyond the grand design … If we are lucky, we will survive to return to the original design.”

      Oh, so now it’s Intelligent Design, is it? Right.

      Well, I hate to break it to you, but the Earth is not 6,000 years old, it’s actually several billion years old, and the “original design” was not the idyllic and innocent Garden of Eden described in Genesis, it was a super-heated rock on which anything resembling human life was impossible, where rudimentary bacteria struggled to survive in a hellish and hostile environment.

      Is that the “original design” you hope to be “lucky” enough to “return to”?

      • Superman1 says:

        I use the Garden of Eden as a parable, but for your own purposes you of course take it as a literal. At some point in ‘our’ evolution, we were in climates that were appropriate for our structure and metabolism, and we didn’t require all these externalities to live. We could live locally using a minimal resource footprint with no problems; that to me is sustainability. We developed some technology to provide for defense, some increased ‘comfort’, and some expansion. This was the inital tradeoff against sustainability, but we were such a small fraction of the planet’s drain on resources that we stayed under the radar screen. At some point in our expansion of population and per capita use of resources, that ‘insignificant drain’ changed, and now the pendulum has swung in the other direction. We are well on the other side of sustainability, and I do not confine my comments to energy.

        Your posts tend to be brochures for instituting renewables, especially solar. They never address the fossil fuels required to do this conversion, the fossil fuels required to run the economy in this interim period, nor the continual drain on resources in a renewables-based economy. Further, they beg the obvious question. If solar is as inexpensive as you continually claim, why is there not a stampede to instituting new solar facilities as rapidly as needed, especially to replace retiring or planned fossil fuel facilities? I used to deal with the utility execs; they’re not wedded to fossil. They want stability and reliability in a cost-competitive source. They want something trouble-free, so that they can get a steady healthy rate of return on their capital base. Why aren’t they rushing to replace expiring fossil facilities with solar? Why do the Chines and Indians alone have over 1000 coal plants in thir plans; according to your sales pitches, solar could do an equally good job, and far cleaner? When, if ever, will your posts link to the requirements we need for surviving the transition period?

  2. Superman1 says:

    “Climate change is a political winner, recent polls make clear (see links below).”

    Right. That’s why all the major politicians are flocking to get on to the climate change bandwagon. We’re starting to go two steps beyond wishful thinking.

    • Ken Barrows says:

      It’s a political winner to say something. To do something, I don’t know. It probably depends on whether a series of cold fronts have invaded the nation’s midsection.

      • Superman1 says:

        I think the only way to get voluntary compliance with the stringent measures required to avoid the worst of climate change is a climate Pearl Harbor. However, we need to differentiate between a weather Pearl Harbor (Sandy) and a climate Pearl Harbor. The former tends to be singular events, and can always be argued away as having happened before. The latter is an integral event, and is probably unique to modern history (and perhaps well beyond). Hansen’s shifted distribution functions reflect a climate Pearl Harbor, but how many people understand that? How can they be made to understand that? If they were to understand that, the polls similar to Yale’s would have more meaning.

  3. Joan Savage says:

    Is this trend far enough along to get to a constructive policy discussion, like the one now emerging for immigration reform?

    The report broke down the support for regulation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant, as follows:

    “There is overwhelming support for regulation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant among Democrats (80%) and Independents (74%).

    Republicans are divided on the issue, with 50 percent supporting regulation and 50 percent opposing it.”

    That looks unfortunately like another stagnation in the House of Representatives, so it might be more pragmatic to move ahead where the GOP is getting a majority signal from its own constituency, like dealing with the subsidies, continuing research, and continuing tax rebates.

    • Joan Savage says:

      If the GOP hope to gain some voters in swing districts, legislation on CO2 regulation could move faster. I’d like to see some number crunching on what’s do-able in the 113th congress, with some optimism for what greater accomplishments might follow in the 114th congress.

      • Mark E says:

        There is little chance ANY congress will demonize economic growth but that is the real issue, long term.

        Pretend that the current annual cost to support 1000 people is $1 of “ecosystem services”.

        Pretend we deploy-deploy-deploy to reduce that to just 10 cents per 1000.

        BUT we continue to embrace capitalism, which requires nonstop – forever – economic growth, so to gratify that demand we continue -forever – to grow new consumers. In this ideal post-deployment green economy there is still a loss of 10 cents of ecosystem services per 1000 consumers, but there is a very large heap of new consumers.

        Thus, even at the ideal “green” loss of ecosystem services worth 10 cents per thousand people, eventually we will have grown so many new consumers that whatever we deploy-deploy-deploy will no longer make any real difference from where we are right now.

        There is little hope the 114th Congress will demonize economic growth. Nonetheless, that is the true enemy, not global warming per se.

        • Joan Savage says:

          I’d like to think I’m not the only one in our population to seek a “quality of life” sort of growth, not just the number churning of a GDP-type measure of economic growth.

          e.g. A coastal wetland that functions both as a recreation center and as flood control gives a quality of life payback as well as being a frugal use of flood control expenditures.

          • Mark E says:

            Well, I’m with you. However, under capitalism the value of a dollar is constantly reduced. Therefore, everyone who cares about dollars wants to see the economy grow, in order to offset that erosion of monetary value. In other words, (((just to tread net-worth water))) a capitalist economy must always grow, forever, and damned whatever gets in the way.

            Provided you are one of the “haves” this approach works just fine, until the day ecology says it doesn’t. And then we will all wish there had been a ban on assault weapons a long long time ago.

          • Joan: you are among the few who would be satisfied with being satisfied.

            Mark: I’m afraid you’re right.

          • Joan Savage says:

            MarkE and Change,

            I’m not as skeptical about the public – I think a lot of us have the “vine and fig tree” image of happiness that is as old as Isaiah, rather than one of a pile of possessions.

            Don’t we still have the necessity to teach about the tremendous economic value in what Mark calls
            “ecosystem services?”

            Several ecological economists might take issue with framing measures to limit climate change as a hypothetical $1 per 1000, without pointing out the cost of inaction.

            I expect that most of us here are prepared to argue that the replacement costs of ecosystem services are staggering.

            Fresh water? soil fertility? Stable crop growing conditions? As Jeremy Grantham pointed out, the world is running low on some kinds of fertilizer. These are not substitutable through industrial measures.

          • Mark E says:

            Of course I agree with all of that. So let’s assume we put on a real monetary value on all ecosystem services, and then trust the capitalist market to turn. Due to the erosion of value, everyone who cares about their net worth will want the economy to grow, just so they can offset the loss of value. That growth will come at the expense of the environment, and this is true whether we do B.A.U. or go totally green (though still capitalist).

            RESULT: Forever-rising damages to ecosystem services. Which means that even the greenest form of growth addiction (aka capitalism) is, in the end, not green at all.

          • Merrelyn Emery says:

            You are undoubtedly correct and not alone. I have read articles about how many Americans yearn for a simpler quieter life away from the rat race and treadmill, chasing the dollar, that leads to inequality and violence. And international surveys using various forms of ‘happiness’ and QL indices show that for all the material wealth, the USA ranks low on these scales, ME

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          And economic growth, the credo of the cancer cell, is pursued, not to drag humanity up from suffering and want, but to further and further enrich a tiny, insatiably avaricious, elite. In fact poverty is growing like topsy, around the world and even within the West.

  4. Lewis Ceverdon says:

    Some of the titles of Joe’s posts start with ‘Bombshell!’ – and this one seems to me to warrant at least that strong a description.

    For a start it shows the scale of political opportunity that has been ignored over the last four years – particularly in the mid-term elections and then again in recent legislature and presidential elections. What is arguably the most sophisticated electoral machine on the planet had this information, and chose not to act on it but to totally exclude climate from Obama’s campaign program, while only the most committed of other Democrat candidates made any use of it.

    So why was it excluded by that electoral machine, to the obvious detriment of the Democratic party’s results in Congress and Senate ? The instruction to ignore the polls’ results has to have been agreed by the party hierarchy as well as the WH, so what sort of priority can override the basic goal of a political party of maximizing its number of representatives elected, in favour of a hamstrung senate majority and a minority share of congress seats ?

    Why would they rather forgo far better results than raise the climate issue to the priority it plainly warrants ?

    The party machine was way too good for this to be anything to do with incompetence, and the polls affirm that it had nothing to do with a fear of denialist bluster. – Petty cash corruption doesn’t get near explaining it either, since there are far larger corporate interests in resolving the climate threat than in prolonging fossil fuel usage, and they’d predictably have put up counter funding if it were that simple.

    What the instruction to ignore the wedge issue of climate has done is to ensure there is no encouragement of popular demand for action, and that Cheyney’s policy of a brinkmanship of inaction with China can continue towards its objective – of achieving the climatic destabilization of China’s govt and the end of of its threat to US global economic dominance via crop failures, food shortages and civil unrest. (That is the certain outcome of US inaction; it would seem pretty naive to assume that the US is only accidentally in the process of putting down a rival).

    The goal of maintaining US global economic dominance has been the paramount bipartisan priority in Washington since WW2, and as far as I know there is no other priority for which the Democratic Party would forgoe the opportunity to control both the senate and house of representatives.

    A second reason that the post warrants the strongest of titles is its implications for WH policy in Obama’s second term. He has the option of leading on climate as a wedge issue over the next two years to greatly raise its profile – with the help of Sandy, perhaps Sandy’s big sister, and whatever other elemental relatives show up. By doing so he could readly achieve outright democrat control of the senate and the house, ensuring the passage of a commensurate Climate Emergency Bill, as well as the ratification of the 2015 global climate treaty now under negotiation.

    This is what he could do by harnessing the wedge issue of climate, which is not to say that he will do so. Yet for all the US has no other effective countermeasure in hand to deflect China’s bid for global dominance, the policy of a brinkmanship of inaction was plainly based on badly flawed assumptions. Back in 2000 developing countries such as China were expected to be far harder hit by extreme weather events than developed nations like America, and America was expected to be far better able to afford the damage costs and food price rises than China. In reality, America has been getting hit much harder than any comparable area on the planet, and it plainly cannot afford even Sandy’s actual damage costs – let alone what’s in the pipeline for the next decade.

    In short, the policy of using climate to break a rival superpower is proving economically unsustainable and thus counterproductive to its primary objective. Analysts for the WH and for the US corporate sector (who’s profits are largely founded on US global dominance) have to be putting this message in front of the decision makers. Some, such as Bloomberg, are already ending the consensus of silence on climate.

    At some point Obama or his successor will follow suit, but just when that happens depends in my view on how soon progressives begin to denounce both the genocidal immorality and reckless incompetence of Cheyney’s policy.

    What Joe’s post does is to publicize the scale of the opportunity that Obama has been ignoring. Its importance is in encouraging those Americans who aren’t wedded to servile deference for the president to start asking – what the hell is going on ?

    Regards,

    Lewis

    • Superman1 says:

      “So why was it excluded by that electoral machine, to the obvious detriment of the Democratic party’s results in Congress and Senate?…..The party machine was way too good for this to be anything to do with incompetence, and the polls affirm that it had nothing to do with a fear of denialist bluster.”

      Because there’s a world of difference between what people will say on a poll, and what they will do. I think the global electorate has voted with its feet. It is willing to sacrifice its children’s future and longevity to pursuit of whatever gluttony remains in the here and now.