Sunday, September 18, 2011

Americans Increasingly Believe Global Warming: Will GOP?

It might surprise some since Congressional action to address directly global warming is dead but 83% of Americans now believe global warming is real, according to an AP/Ipsos poll released on friday.  Last year the poll found 75% believed global warming was real.

Why the rising numbers of Americans saying global warming is real, especially when Rush Limbaugh, Tea Party Republicans and movement conservatives have made denial of global warming a litmus test for the Republican Presidential nomination? And when other polling shows that only 25% of Republican primary voters believe global warming is real and caused by human activity?

Some would say the AP/Ipsos Poll is just wrong.  The poll had a big sample--over 1,000--and a small margin of error.  Its basic findings are also supported by other polling so the poll is likely close to the mark of where public opinion stands.

The AP/Ipsos poll also found that, of the 83% that believe global warming is real, 71% believe that human activity is responsible for the warming, while 27% believe natural variation explains the documented warming of 2 degrees.

That means that 65% of Americans believe global warming is both real and caused by man, while 35% believe that the warming is natural or not happening at all.

The increase in the number of Americans believing global warming is real most likely is a result of their daily weather.  A portion of the population's views on global warming seems impacted by what they experience.  Temperatures in 2010 and now in 2011 are among the highest ever. 

Texas for example has shattered all heat records and is in the grips of the worst drought in its history.  Regional global warming models predicted declining precipitation in Texas and that has become reality with a vengeance.

This year there have been 10 weather disasters that have inflicted $1 billion or more in damages in the USA.

The heat, droughts, floods are all likely convincing more Americans that global warming is real.  But will the GOP drop its denial of global warming?  Governor Huntsman is the only Republican Presidential candidate that direclty says he accepts climate science. 

Mitt Romney has done what?  Waffle. Flip. Flop. Pretzel. Who knows what he thinks because he does not know. The usual profile in leadership courage from Governor Romney. 

All the others have flat out denied climate science, something that George W. Bush and George Bush Senior did not do.

Why the movement against climate science in the GOP?  That is where the votes are within the GOP.  The 35% of the public that either deny the reality of global warming or say that the rising temperatures are natural variation are overwhelmingly Republicans.  The candidates are playing to the crowd, with the exception of Governor Huntsman.


  1. Americans and others in the world seem to have stronger belief in climate change where it is hot and there are strong hurricanes/tornados/rain storms and weaker belief when it is cold and there are major snowstorms.

    The polls track the weather. Of course weather is just the trees when the climate is the forest and the climate is what matters here. Very few people can see the forest through the trees because that takes sustained effort and faith in science.

    So when it gets cold, the polls will go down again.

    A great way to teach about this is to look at the numbers of record highs and record lows per decade over time.

    UCAR used 1800 weather stations in continuous operation and found that there were more record lows than record highs in the 1960s and 1970s, then in 1980s the ratio of record highs to record lows was 1.14:1, the 1990s it was 1.36:1, and in the 2000s it was 2.04:1. There were still record low temperatures set each of those decades - lots of them. But there were progressively more record highs until now more than two record highs are being set for every record low. That trend is continuing so far in the 2010s. So just because it gets cold -even record cold- it doesn't meant that GW isn't real. Weather isn't going to stop and we will still have winter, even when the average global temperature has risen by 5C. Most don't get this point though.

  2. "Why the movement against climate science in the GOP? That is where the votes are within the GOP."
    Typical liberal tactic, shout that you opponent's motive are tainted, while yours are pure. It could be said that the reason the Democrat party pushes global warming theory is because that is where "their" votes are already.
    The global warming crowd has been caught lying and suppressing any data that would go against their zealous position in the slightest detail to the point where nothing they say can believed.
    The global warming faithful exergerate man's effect on the climate while ignoring the sun's effect at the same time, just for the record they both have some influence, but solar activity's roll is more profound.
    Another doctrin of the GW crowd is that CO2 is a leading indicator of global tempature rise, but scientific evidence points to it being more of a laging indicator. That being as ocean tempature rise their is more CO2 in the atmosphere and as the waters cool they absorb more CO2.
    Steve Stamilio

  3. One question that neither poll appeared to ask is: if you believe global warming is real and manmade, what changes would you support to actually reverse the 2 degrees of temperature.

    John: You have to admit that to truly believe we can reverse 2 degrees of warming would require a significant negative change in the US lifestyle (if that is really what caused the 2-degree rise in the first place). So if China, India and Russia continue to consume, what would it take in terms of US conservation to reverse those 2-degrees.

    Specifically, what detailed changes to our everyday lives and at what economic cost? This issue is much more complex than whether you think AGW is real. If only 18% of utility customers in Palo Alto, CA (the highest adoption rate in the nation that last time I checked) were voluntary paying some 10-20% more for utilities to purchase "green" power, how would you expect the rest of the country to support the dramatic lifestyle changes necessary to actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the long-term.

    Or, maybe you would say that Palo Alto has 82% Republicans and only 18% Democrats or Independents? Unlikely.

  4. In the USA gas, energy efficiency, and renewables can get 50% plus reductions at low cost or no greater cost than current mix. Staying hooked to foreign oil will cause the biggest economic damage and negative lifestyle changes. Gas, electricity, biofuels, cafe are all cheaper and cleaner than $125 oil and we need to move aggressively to them for transportation for economic, national security, and environmental reasons.

    China and India are big problems. I am tired of allowing the Chinese to take us to the trade cleaners. More another time.

  5. Steve makes tired points that have long been debunked. His approach to this argument is almost exactly like the people who say "fracking pollutes groundwater with cancer-causing compounds, endocrin disrupters and neurotoxins." When it is pointed out that there is no evidence to support this and that all of the evidence points the other way they just go on to the next debunked point. For those interested in what the latest science has to say this is a really good website: It addresses all of Steve's points and many more.

    Global warming is real. The planet is definitely warming. The warming can't be explained by anything we are currently aware of without factoring in human activity. the increase in atmospheric CO2 (with lesser methane) appears to be the dominant driver especially since 1980.

    I think Carbon Black makes a good point however and has hit the nail on the head when he asks what actions people would support to fight global warming. Support softens significantly when people are asked to sacrifice. I'll bet that of the 65% of people that think global warming is real, less than half of them would support doing something that will cost them more than $200 per year or require some other personal sacrifice. That is a guess of course, but I think it is a really good question for the next pollster to ask.

    You switch from coal to gas and renewables because it is easy and won't require any personal sacrifice. And it makes a big impact. Switching from oil to natural gas and electricity (from gas or renewables) is also a winner.

    Most people aren't aware of it, but the livestock industry produces more GHGs than the entire transportation sector. Being a vegetarian probably would do more to reduce one's personal footprint than switching from a hummer to a hybrid. Most people would draw the line at meat and not be willing to give that up - even many ardent activists. Al Gore eats meat.

    Would people be willing to support gas drilling and fracking in their neighborhood if it led to a significant cut in GHG emissions? I imagine this would be a tough one for many who are worried about global warming to swallow.

    So as Carbon Black says, how far are people willing to go? - what are they willing to sacrifice? An excellent poll idea.