How Significant Is Climate Change? Depends On What Political Party The Person You're Asking Belongs To


One of the greatest debates going on in America right now is climate change, and as one might expect, a poll released Tuesday, Oct. 4 by the Pew Research Center has found that where many stand on various points within the issue is heavily influenced by what political party they identify with.

These findings start at the very top with the simple question: "How concerned are you about climate change?"

Of the 1,534 randomly selected Americans who participated in the survey, 33 percent said they had "some" concern about climate change and 36 percent said they cared about it "a great deal." Among those in the latter group, 72 percent were Democrats and 24 percent were Republicans.

As co-authors Cary Funk and Brian Kennedy note in the report, the divide only becomes more pronounced from there.

"The biggest gaps on climate policy and climate science are between those at the ends of the political spectrum," they wrote. "Across the board, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans see climate-related matters through vastly different lenses."

For example, the greatest difference in their viewpoints was observed when asked about whether they believed humans are responsible for climate change.

As far as Democrats are concerned, the consensus was that humans are indeed to blame. Among them, 79 percent of liberal Democrats said yes, while 63 percent of moderate Democrats shared the same viewpoint.

On the other hand, Republicans were quite the opposite, with them strongly opposing that climate change is the product of human interference. Specifically, the poll found that 85 percent of conservative Republicans did not think humans were to blame, with 66 percent of moderate Republicans having a similar mindset.

So if they believe humans aren't responsible, then what do they pin the blame on? Natural causes.

Almost 50 percent of all Republicans - regardless of specific inclination - said the recent warming was due to natural causes, and 36 percent of conservative Republicans said there was "no solid evidence" that climate change was even happening.

Regardless of what they believed was responsible for climate change, they all had ideas on how to confront it. Of course, just like before, the optimism displayed in that field was highly dependent on where they aligned:

• 76 percent of liberal Democrats thought restrictions on power plant emissions could "make a big difference" in stemming climate change, while 29 percent of conservative Republicans agreed.
• 71 percent of liberal Democrats thought international agreements to cap greenhouse gas emissions would be very useful, while 27 percent of conservative Republicans agreed.
• 67 percent of liberal Democrats said higher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks would help turn things around, 27 percent of conservative Republicans agreed.
• 67 percent of liberal Democrats favored tax incentives to get companies to reduce their carbon footprint, 23 percent of conservative Republicans agreed.

The poll even found that climate scientists aren't even trusted to be knowledgeable about the subject matter, with only 18 percent of conservative Republicans saying they felt that climate scientists had a good understanding of whether climate change was really happening, compared to the 68 percent of liberal Democrats who had a similar view. In a similar vein, only 11 percent of conservative Republicans said they believe climate scientists understand why the planet is getting warmer, as opposed to 54 liberal Democrats.

This, in fact, may stem from their perceptions on whether climate scientists can be trusted to relay "full and accurate" information about the causes of climate change. Among those surveyed, 70 percent of liberal Democrats had trust in climate scientists, while only 15 percent of conservative Republicans were willing to say the same.

So why is there such a large disparity in this subject? According to Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina who is trying to get fellow party members to accept climate change, the problem isn't the science - it's the language.

He notes that rather than framing climate change as a question of belief and emphasizing individual sacrifice, it would be wiser to argue that addressing climate change would result in "greater independence, more mobility and more freedom."

"When you say you're shivering or sweating in the dark to save the planet, conservatives don't cotton to it," he said.

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