People all over the world are beginning to take manmade climate disruption very seriously. The Pew Research Center found last year that three out of four Brazilians and Koreans say that climate change is “a major threat” their countries. More than 70 percent of Japanese and Argentinians agree. So do two-thirds of Italians and Spaniards, plus a solid majority of Germans, French, Australians, Canadians and Mexicans. And that’s only the developed world. We’ve found that developing countries are generally much more highly alarmed at the unfolding consequences of climate change as they experience them.
Americans? Not so much. The same Pew study found that only 4 in 10 of us felt that climate change is a major threat. So what’s up with that? What do we know that the rest of the world doesn’t? Or vice versa?
Well, the Pew organization has completed another study that gives us new insights into American attitudes toward climate change. The bottom line is this: political affiliation makes all the difference about what you think about climate in America. I recognize that Beloved Planet readers come from across the political spectrum, but Pew has detailed some fundamental realities that should be interesting to people of all persuasions.
When it comes to climate change, Democrats and Independents generally believe just about the same things that people from the rest of the developed world believe. Republicans, on the other hand, are mostly unconcerned, and many of them don’t even think it’s happening at all. And within the GOP, Tea Party adherents overwhelmingly deny the existence or importance of climate change, while non-Tea Party Republicans are a bit closer to everyone else.
How could this be, you ask? Political philosophy can’t determine my views on scientific topics, can it? We’ll get to that, but first, let’s look at what Pew discovered.
For starters, only 25 percent of self-identified Republicans said they considered global climate change to be a major threat. The only countries in the world who expressed that little concern are Egypt and Pakistan. But on a much more basic scientific question – “is there solid evidence that the earth is warming?” – only 46% of Republicans said Yes. More importantly, of those 46%, just less than half (19%) said that it’s happening because of “natural patterns.” A person who takes this position will never favor policies to mitigate human climate pollution, because according to this narrative, we’re not the reason it’s happening.
Wide gap on climate science between GOP and Democrats
So practically speaking, those 19% (“it’s-happening-but-we’re-not-to-blame”) should be added to the other 46% of self-identified Republicans who say that there’s “no solid evidence” of climate change in the first place. That makes 65% of GOP voters who will oppose climate action, either because it’s not real, or because it’s the result of natural factors beyond our control.