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Colorado Republicans Are Out Of Step With Their Constituents On Climate Change

By Kiley Kroh  

"Colorado Republicans Are Out Of Step With Their Constituents On Climate Change"

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Smoke from a wildfire fills the sky near South Fork, Colo.

Smoke from a wildfire fills the sky near South Fork, Colo.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

Coloradans overwhelmingly believe in climate change and acknowledge its impact on drought, wildfires, and their lives, according to new research by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

Specifically, the report found that most Coloradans — 70 percent — believe global warming is happening. Relatively few — only 19 percent — believe it is not. Of the Coloradans polled, nearly half believe global warming is caused mostly by human activities and three in four say the issue of global warming is very or somewhat important to them personally.

While a large majority of Colorado residents recognize climate change is occurring, they’re less sure of the cause. The research revealed that while “virtually all climate scientists agree human-caused global warming is happening, many Coloradans, like most Americans, are unaware of this fact. Fully half (50 percent) believe that ‘there is a lot of disagreement among scientists’ about whether or not global warming is happening.”

There is essentially no disagreement among scientists, however — as 97 percent of climate scientists agree global warming is occurring and humans are the primary cause. Anthony Leiserowitz, lead investigator for the report, told the Boulder Daily Camera that “clever political opposition” has effectively created the confusion and “blamed a ‘strategic campaign’ by ‘certain institutions’ for convincing half of America that scientists don’t agree on the issue.”

Among the Coloradans who believe global warming is happening, 70 percent think it is currently contributing to increased droughts and decreased snowpack, and 66 percent believe it is exacerbating wildfires.

Climate change has certainly taken its toll on the state in recent years, with prolonged drought, intense wildfires, and diminished snowpack. As CBS-4 Denver reported, “exceptional drought conditions and untimely freezes that have left some southeast Colorado winter wheat fields with nothing to harvest also have limited the certified seed supply for next season.”

2012 was the worst wildfire season Colorado had ever seen, with 4,167 wildfires causing record losses of $538 million. And this year, the Black Forest Fire became the most destructive in Colorado history.

According to the Yale research, more than half of Coloradans say that more should be done about global warming at all levels of government. Two-thirds — 66 percent — said their local government should be better preparing for the impacts of climate change, and 61 percent said the same for the state level.

The state’s Republican politicians, on the other hand, are singing a very different tune. Last month, unsuccessful 2010 Senate candidate Ken Buck announced he would once again run for a U.S. Senate seat, this time against Sen. Mark Udall (D). Touring the state with climate denier Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Buck endorsed Inhofe’s conspiracy theory: “Sen. Inhofe was the first person to stand up and say this global warming is the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated. The evidence just keeps supporting his view, and more and more people’s view, of what’s going on.”

And Buck isn’t alone in his refusal to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus — and the opinion of Colorado voters — regarding climate change. All four of the state’s GOP Congressmen are on the record questioning the existence of climate change or whether or not human activity has any bearing. Rep. Mike Coffman in particular has come under fire from the League of Conservation Voters, with the group launching multiple ads against the Congressman for ignoring the scientific facts regarding climate change.

Buck is running against two state senators, Randy Baumgardner and Owen Hill, in the Republican Senate primary. Sen. Baumgardner was opposed to the recently-passed bill increasing Colorado’s renewable energy standard, telling the Colorado Statesman, “It’s a slap in the face of rural Colorado.”

“I know it’s been said that we need ‘all of the above’ [in terms of energy sources] but the prime agenda from Washington, D.C. seems to be that renewable is the answer to everything,” Baumgardner told the Daily Caller. “People don’t like to be mandated that they have to meet certain renewable standards which seems to be another push not only at the state level but at the federal level.”

In addition to working to slash the carbon pollution that fuels climate change, the state’s renewable energy laws have been effective economic drivers. Between 2005 and 2010, the clean technology sector in Colorado grew by 32.7 percent and the state now has over 1,600 clean technology companies employing over 19,000 workers — fourth nationwide.

As for Sen. Hill, earlier this year he co-sponsored a so-called ‘academic freedom’ bill that would have permitted the teaching of antievolution and climate change denial in schools. While the measure died in committee, DeSmog blog notes that the language in the bill closely matched model legislation pushed by the ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.

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