Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are responsible for global warming, the long-term worldwide average warming experienced since the industrial revolution. GHGs arise from human use of fossil fuels for energy. Major emitters of GHGs include both industrialized countries and, in recent decades, developing countries as well. Higher global temperatures cause the extremes of hot and cold, and wet and dry, weather of recent years. This blog examines global warming and its effects.
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This blog is expressly directed to readers who do not have strong training or backgrounds in science, with the intent of helping them grasp the underpinnings of this important issue. I'm going to present an ongoing series of posts that will develop various aspects of the science of global warming, its causes and possible methods for minimizing its advance and overcoming at least partially its detrimental effects.
Each post will begin with a capsule summary. It will then proceed with captioned sections to amplify and justify the statements and conclusions of the summary. I'll present images and tables where helpful to develop a point, since "a picture is worth a thousand words".
Reports showing that global warming and its worldwide effects on human
lives have become more common in recent months and years.Here, we summarize the results of some polls
of American public opinion on this subject.
Polls concerning the attitudes of the American public on global
warming have appeared recently.The results show that a majority of Americans, as represented by the
poll samples, are in favor of taking action to combat global warming.The data summarized in this section group the
polls together.They are presented more
fully, considering each poll separately, in the Details section at the end of
A significant majority of Americans thinks that global average
temperatures are rising.Of these, most think that human activity is giving rise to the warming
of the planet, while only a relatively small portion of this group thinks that
the warming originates from natural causes or processes.A majority of Americans favors action to
combat global warming, such as promoting development of renewable sources of
energy.The various polls pay differing
degrees of attention to the attitudes of their respondents based on political
or cultural typing (see Details).
The poll results cited here show that
the American public supports action on global warming.More than half
of Americans think that warming is a reality, which necessarily reflects the
results of objective scientific data as well as perceptions of its effects on
individuals’ lives.A majority of
Americans support regulation of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas (see Details
below).As an example of this approach,
a majority of Americans favor limiting emissions of carbon dioxide from
existing coal-fired power plants (see Details below).A majority also supports policies that would
promote development of renewable energy sources (see Details below).
These polls show that there is
majority support among the American public for action by the government to
combat global warming.The results
should be taken seriously by their elected representatives in Congress.It maybe inferred from these polls that the
American public would look favorably on their elected representatives if they
were to propose and support legislation to address global warming.According to the poll results this should
include substantive, effective measures to constrain further greenhouse gas
emission.It may be inferred that
actions should also include plans to construct infrastructure projects that
would increase the resilience of the nation against extreme weather and climate
States has never developed a
national policy to combat global warming by enactment of laws in
the Congress.The Kyoto Protocol,
negotiated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,
included only developed (i.e., already industrialized) countries of the
modest goals of reducing greenhouse gas emission rates for the covered nations;
it remained in effect until the end of 2012.Each covered nation had to ratify the Protocol in its national
legislature in order for that nation to be governed by its terms.Being a foreign treaty, it was considered
only in the U. S. Senate, which unanimously voted against ratification in 1997.
Within the U. S. national
legislation was first proposed as the Climate Stewardship Actby Senators McCain, Lieberman and others in
2003.It proposed a cap-and-trade
market-based system to lower greenhouse gases.It failed to gain passage.Later
versions, brought forth in 2005 and 2007, likewise did not pass Congress.
The American Clean Energy and Security Actwas put
forth by Representatives Waxman and Markey in 2009.It also envisioned market-based emission
limits based on a cap-and-trade system.It passed the House of Representatives, by 219-212, the first time any
global warming legislation was approved in either branch of Congress.The Act failed to gain approval in the
In reaction to the absence of enacted laws to address global
warming, President Obama has taken executive actions to implement important,
significant policies.He has acted to
double the average fuel efficiencyof motor vehicles in two stages, first increasing to 36.6 miles
per gallon (mpg) by 2017 and to 54.5 mpg by 2025.
More comprehensively, the President’s National Climate Plan of 2013lays out a comprehensive set of initiatives intending to
lower rates of emission of greenhouse gases, increase efficiency of energy
usage and develop projects that would strengthen the resilience of the U. S.
economy to the effects of extreme weather and climate events.
The PewResearchCenter (Pew)
is an established opinion research organization that gathers information on the
attitudes of the public on a wide range of issues.It professes to be nonpartisan and does not
engage in policy development.After
probing the political attitudes of a large number of Americans Pew typed
respondents into seven groups.These
range from Steadfast Conservatives (12% of the adult population) and Business
Conservatives (10%), both of which tend strongly to associate with Republicans,
to Solid Liberals (15%), associated with Democrats.Four groups in between these (each comprising
12-15% of the population have complex attitudes relating to political issues;
they are distributed relatively evenly between Republicans and Democrats.
Pew released a poll on global warmingand
many other political issues on June
26, 2014, based on results from 10,013 respondents.They found that 61% of those surveyed think
warming is occurring, while 35% think there is “no solid evidence of warming”
(percentages presented here and below may not total to 100% because of rounding
errors and omission of small groups).Among those thinking there is no solid evidence, those believing it
“just is not happening” and those believing they “don’t know enough yet” are
each 17% of all respondents.Among those
thinking warming is happening, 40% of the poll respondents think it is “caused
by human activity” and 18% think it is “caused by natural patterns”.
On deeper study of respondents to this question 75% and 71% of
the two conservative types identified by Pew think there is “no solid evidence
of warming”.Among the remaining types
between 61% and 91% of each type think warming is happening; with 91% of Solid
Liberals thinking so.78% of Solid
Liberals ascribe warming to human activity.
Pew examined attitudes concerning environmental policy and its
effect on jobs.For the poll population
at large, 56% believe “stricter enviro(nmental) laws are worth the cost, while
39% say “stricter enviro(nmental) laws cost too many jobs.85% of Steadfast Conservatives and 84% of
Business Conservatives believe laws are too costly, whereas among the remaining
types between 47% and 93% think stricter laws are worth the cost.For this question also the Solid Liberal type
is the one expressing the 93% result.
Pew further queried attitudes concerning development of fossil
fuel versus alternative energy sources.65% of all respondents want to “develop wind, solar, (and) hydrogen
alternatives”, whereas 28% want to “expand oil, coal and natural gas”.66% of Steadfast Conservatives and 64% of
Business Conservatives want to expand fossil fuel development, whereas 64-95%
of the remaining types preferred to develop alternative energy.Again, Solid Liberals were the type with the
highest percent, 95%.
The YaleUniversity Project
on Climate Change Communication and the GeorgeMasonUniversityCenter for
Climate Change Communication (here, CCC)
jointly produce polls surveying the public’s attitudes on global warming.In a report released Jan. 13, 2015, CCCcollated results from six surveys taken over three years, from March 2012 to
October 2014.Its conclusion is encapsulated in the title
of the report: “Not All Republicans Think Alike About Global Warming”.The six surveys provided 5,513 registered
voters, of whom 2,330 were Republicans or leaning toward the Republican party.
Almost two-thirds (66%) of registered voters think global
warming is happening; including 44% of the 2,330 Republicans.
Seven out of 10 (70%) of registered voters support, either
strongly or somewhat, a policy of regulating carbon dioxide, a principal
greenhouse gas that is produced when fossil fuels are burned, as a pollutant;
this position includes a majority (56%) of all Republicans.
Almost two-thirds (64%) of registered voters support, strongly
or somewhat, a policy of setting strict carbon dioxide emission limits on
existing coal-fired power plants in order to reduce global warming and improve
public health;slightly less than half
(44%) of all Republicans supported this position.
Three-quarters (75%) of registered voters, including almost
two-thirds (64%) of Republicans, supported, strongly or somewhat, providing tax
rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels.
Republicans surveyed by CCC
identified themselves as being in one of four groups: Liberal Republicans
(4.5%), Moderate Republicans (23%), Conservative Republicans (55%), and Tea
Party Republicans (18%; Tea Party Republicans are generally considered to be
far right-wing and/or libertarian in political outlook).Support for the four positions mentioned
above was highest, always more than half, among Liberal Republicans and
Moderate Republicans (variously ranging between about 60% and about
three-quarters) of each these two groups.Support by Conservative Republicans for these policies ranged between
38% and 63%; Tea Party Republican support ranged between 23% and 46%.
The New York Times, StanfordUniversity and
Resources for the Future (NSR)conducted a pollof
1,006 adults in the U. S. on
global warming, in the period January
7-22, 2015.The survey broke out results for the 103 Hispanic respondents, in view
of the perceived importance of this group of voters in the 2016 presidential
election.Hispanics (H) felt more
personally affected by harms brought about by global warming than the 738
non-Hispanic whites (NHW).A large
majority of Hispanics felt that the issue is highly important to them, and a
similar proportion believe the U. S.
government should take action to counter global warming.
The NSR poll found that more Hispanics identify themselves as
Democrats or Independents, compared to non-Hispanic whites.The Times report surmises that Hispanics feel
more personally affected by global warming than other groups because they are
poorer and live in areas adjacent to sources of greenhouse gas and other forms
of pollution.It notes that Gabriel
Sanchez, a political scientist at the University of New
Mexico believes “Latinos are actually among the most concerned about the
environment, particularly global warming….To ignore the environment [as an
issue important for Latinos] is to ignore something that a large section of the
Latino population sees as important.”
Because of the small sample size of the Hispanic (H) group in
the NSR poll, the margin of error for its answers is ±12%, while that for
Non-Hispanic Whites (NHW) is ±4%.
The poll found that if nothing is done to curb global warming,
50% of NHWs and 57% of Hs think it would hurt them personally either a great
deal, a lot, or a moderate amount.Global warming is considered to be either extremely important, very
important or somewhat important among 63% of NHWs and 79% of Hs.70% of NHWs and 78% of Hs think the U. S.
government should do either a great deal, a lot/quite a bit, or a moderate
amount/some about global warming.