Though America's carbon emissions are back to 1994 levels, the carbon plunge has nothing to do with any explicit Congressional action on climate change. Congress will not soon enact a carbon cap and trade program or carbon tax, though current policies do promote energy efficiency, nuclear power, renewable energy that all reduce carbon emissions.
Congressional paralysis on addressing climate change directly is rooted in the partisan polarization of the climate change issue between Democrats and Republicans. And so the prospects of action on climate rise or fall with the opinion of Republicans. What Republicans think about climate change holds the key.
But 3 recent polls seemingly conflict on what Republicans are thinking on climate change. A George Mason University and Yale University poll of registered Republicans and Republican leaning independents paints a portrait of Republican voters ready to act and frustrated by their elected leaders inaction. The poll finds that 52% of Republicans believe climate change is happening and just 26% do not. The poll further finds that only 33% of Republicans support their party's position on climate change. See the following link:
In sharp contrast to the George Mason Poll stands the recent Public Policy Polling survey.
PPP finds that 58% of Republicans believe global warming is a hoax. Ouch!
The third poll measuring Republican opinion about climate comes from Pew, and it has more numbers.
http://www.people-press.org/2013/04/02/keystone-xl-pipeline-draws-broad-support/. Pew finds that
50% of Republicans do not believe evidence supports the conclusion that the earth is warming, while 44% believe there is solid evidence of warming.
So what to make of the current state of Republican voters views on climate? Which poll is the outlier?
Unfortunately, the PPP and Pew polls are more similar with each other and contradict the George Mason poll. In essence, Pew and PPP find that between 50% and 58% of Republican voters do not even believe that the world is warming, while George Mason finds the reverse or that 52% believe that climate change is happening. Perhaps, the almost diametrically opposed findings can be explained by the inclusion in the George Mason poll of Independents who lean Republican, while Pew and PPP survey only registered Republicans.
My conclusion from these 3 polls is that a slight majority of Republican voters do not accept the main findings of climate science and that the paralysis on climate policy will continue until that changes. The current Republican orthodoxy opposed to climate science is also one reason that the GOP is losing badly among voters less than 35 years old. Hopefully, political self-interest and climate science will forge sooner rather than later a new majority within the Republican party in favor of addressing climate change.