Tag Archives: American public opinion

An Appeal for Climate Realism to Candidate Trump

Sir, this will not end well for you. Or us, I’m afraid.

You may not even realize what you’re saying, but when the public figures it out – and many surely will – you will have lost all but the small fraction who still deny the most obvious facts — facts acknowledged by every country in the world.

Calling climate change “a hoax” in an even minimally-educated country is no way to become president.

We remember that last year you said that climate change was invented by the Chinese to make us non-competitive. It was silly, of course. But during the primary, who could keep track of all the silliness? We assumed you’d tack to something more credible if you ever became the actual nominee. But then last week you reiterated your view of climate science on Fox News. Sure, it was a little murky, but we got the gist. Here’s the transcript:

  • BILL O’REILLY: Did you ever call climate change a hoax?
  • DONALD TRUMP: Well, I might have because when I look at some of the things that are going on, in fact if you look at Europe where they had their big summit a couple of years ago, where people were sending out emails, scientists practically calling it a hoax and they were laughing at it. So, yeah, I probably did. I see what’s going on and you see what’s going on.

Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump and the climate “hoax”

Hmm. Let me see: You say it’s a hoax, because of, um, a summit, Europe, emails, scientists, and laughing. That can only refer to the “ClimateGate” conspiracy theory, right? It wasn’t a summit, and it wasn’t a couple of years ago (seven years, actually). But nothing else remotely captures the litany of other references. It’s not China anymore, but the lying scientists of “ClimateGate.”

Of course, the ClimateGate conspiracy theory has been thoroughly debunked (see FactCheck.org , Union of Concerned Scientists, and Politifact). Every investigation — from the National Science Foundation Inspector General, NOAA’s Inspector General, Penn State University, and the UK Parliament — reached the same conclusion: the hacked emails revealed nothing to compromise the overwhelming consensus of climate science.

But whatever you were referring to, one thing is clear: You have doubled down on accusing researchers of defrauding the whole world. Yes – you have confirmed – climate change IS a hoax. It means nothing that tens of thousands of scientists conduct peer-reviewed research — normally worthy of our trust. The planet is NOT warming; oceans are NOT acidifying; sea levels are NOT rising; and the rise in greenhouse gases is NOT coming from fossil fuel emissions. All a hoax.

This is no longer “I am not a scientist.” And it’s not “I’m still not convinced as to the causes.” It’s a full-throated charge: “They are all lying to us!” Like you said: “Scientists practically calling it a hoax” and “laughing at it.” It’s a massive fraud on the whole world.

Okay. We’ve heard enough to expect some pretty outlandish charges from you by now. But have you considered the electoral implications of this line of attack? Let me cite a few that might concern you:

  • Some of your supporters may doubt the truthfulness of climate scientists in particular. But none of them think ALL scientists are liars. Did you know that 31 scientific societies got together last month to write a letter to every U.S. legislator, telling them that “climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver…”? They spoke on behalf of every discipline, from geophysics and chemistry to geology and meteorology. Taken together, they represent essentially all of science, and we Americans are pretty proud of our sciences.
  • Gallup now tells us that 64% of Americans are worried about climate change. 59% believe its impacts are already visible. 65% percent of us agree that its causes are mainly pollution from human activities. Only one in ten of us thinks that it’s not real, and that its effects will never hit us.
  • And Yale University reports that 67% of Americans think global warming is happening, while only 16% think it’s not.

So, sir, you want to become our president, right? You want to make American great again? Well, how are you going to do that while vilifying the smartest American researchers from every field of science? By dismissing as a hoax what two-thirds of us are already worried about? And by standing with a tiny minority of Americans who dismiss this global threat?

Source: The Gallup Organization

Source: Gallup: US Concern About Global Warming at Eight-Year High

And how do you propose to be a world leader, when you have promised to kill the global climate agreement endorsed in Paris last year by virtually every country in the world?

Mr. Trump, there must be a smarter way to land American votes. Here’s an idea: You’ve bucked party orthodoxy in the past. Why not do it again regarding climate action? The days when anti-science front groups managed to paralyze us with doubt have come and gone. You’ve got the nomination. Party leaders are afraid to touch you no matter what you say. Why not use your power to improve your odds of winning with all of us climate realists?

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Source: Gallup: US Concern About Global Warming at Eight-Year High

Like every potential occupant of the Oval Office, you are faced with choices for great good or great evil. If you would just drop this hoax thing, and listen to the huge majority of your countrymen (and the scientists who inform us) you might have the chance to do something really good.

Think about it, sir. You could do something good.

U. of Texas Poll: Voters Want a President Who Will Act on Climate

We’ve been listening to the opinion surveys about climate change, and they’re mostly useful. We normally think of them as telling us whether Americans have broken free of oil industry doubt mongering (we mostly have). But there’s so much more to be learned. If done well, the surveys can help us frame the opportunities and obstacles we face in mobilizing responsible climate action.

One such survey is the University of Texas Energy Poll, produced twice per year since 2011. With around 200 categories of questions, I can’t recommend it for vacation reading. But for understanding those around us, it’s a treasure trove. Here are a few selected items, among many more that might interest you:

  • First things first: 73% of Americans accept that climate change is happening, and only 16% deny it. You would have thought that it was less lopsided, but that’s just the political blogosphere doing what it does.
  • Of those who acknowledge that climate change is happening, at least 73% agree that human activity contributes to it. That means that a majority of all respondents affirm that human activity contributes to climate change.
  • People rank deforestation, oil and coal as the top three reasons for climate change.
  • About half of respondents are personally concerned about climate change. Of those who acknowledge that the climate is changing, only 8% aren’t concerned. Of the concerned, 94% attribute climate change to human activity.
  • 64% of respondents think we should reduce carbon emissions; only 15% disagree (and most of these say they are motivated by fears of costs, or worry that it won’t do any good).
  • 58% of respondents are concerned about carbon emissions from energy production and consumption, and only 15% aren’t (even though more are concerned about checkbook issues like the cost of electricity).
  • When it comes to personal lifestyle changes, we’re probably susceptible to wishful thinking. For example, 54% of us are willing to buy a high-efficiency vehicle in principle; but in the next five years, only 34% think we will do so; to date, only 3% us have already done so; and the estimated mpg for our household vehicles hasn’t budged since 2011 (24.4 mpg 2011 v. 24.1 mpg 2016). Some work ahead here.
  • Political candidates aren’t the best ones to tell us what “Americans want.” In fact, 57% think the Federal government should do more to prepare us for future energy needs, and only 24% disagree. Specifically, 70% of us think that the Federal government should subsidize renewable technologies and energy efficiency, while only 34% think coal should get the same treatment.
  • As for presidential politics, 61% want a leader who will reduce our carbon emissions and fund research into new energy technology. A majority wants a president who will expand incentives for renewable technologies and require utilities to offer higher levels of electricity from renewable sources. Opposition to these goals are all in the single digits or teens.Picture1

Unfortunately, we don’t see a major change in beliefs or attitudes toward climate change over the 2011-2016 period. Even so, strong majorities recognize what is happening to the climate; most people recognize human responsibility; only small minorities deny these realities; and most want the government to be actively engaged in solutions. But over the last 5 years, opinion on these matters is not changing in significant ways.

On the bright side, you can now come off the defensive. The voices resisting climate action may be loud. They may rule the talk radio waves. And they may control Congress. But a HUGE majority of people around you know what’s happening to the earth, are concerned, and will support your efforts to call for serious action by our government and country.