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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".

Monday, July 30, 2018

Republicans and Democrats Really Do Agree on Climate!

On July 29, 2018 an op-ed by the social psychologists Leaf Van Boven and David Sherman reported that majorities of both Republicans and Democrats agreed that “climate change is happening, threatens humans and is caused by human activity — and that reducing carbon emissions would mitigate the problem.”

They summarize the results of two national polls, in 2014 and 2016, that they administered (together with a third colleague; here we’re omitting some details of the way the experiments were carried out).  Important conclusions they present include:
·        “…most Republicans were in basic agreement with most Democrats and independents on this issue.”

·        Probably the “problem is not so much that Republicans are skeptical about climate change, but that Republicans are skeptical of Democrats — and that Democrats are skeptical of Republicans.”

·        In experiments with different input information, “Republicans supported climate policies that they [were told were] backed by Republicans and were neutral toward policies backed by Democrats. Democrats supported policies that they [were told were] backed by Democrats more than they supported policies backed by Republicans.”  This emphasizes that members of both parties succumbed to intensified tribalism on this issue.

·        “Among social psychology’s fundamental lessons is that people are profoundly affected by what other people think. In their desire to be upstanding members of their political tribe, people are pulled toward embracing the stances of their peers and loath to publicly disagree with them.”

·        The authors found “a consistent, if somewhat surprising, pattern: Political disagreement was substantially smaller when it came to Republican-backed policies.  In particular, there was very little distance between Republicans and Democrats when evaluating a Republican-proposed carbon tax.”
As a result, the authors surmise there may be bipartisan support for a plan proposed last year by six Republican economists and statesmen, former cabinet members and high-level officials in former Republican administrations.  This writer described this proposal in a previous post.  Its essence is a revenue-neutral carbon fee imposed on all fossil fuels (coal, petroleum and natural gas) in proportion to the amount of carbon dioxide each produces when burned.  It is revenue-neutral because all fee proceeds are distributed back to American taxpayers.   

A similar proposal has just been introduced in Congress by Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo.  The carbon fee is US$24/metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted, increasing with time.  The difference is that this proposal is not revenue-neutral, but uses the proceeds for highway construction, climate research and support to low income households.
The social psychology results described above are likely not outliers in public attitudes on climate change.  The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (working with George Mason University‘s  Center for Climate Change Communication, and other research organizations) has been surveying American public opinion on this subject for many years.  In a report on May 8, 2018 they found:

·        “Most registered voters (73%) think global warming is happening, including 95% of liberal Democrats, 88% of moderate/conservative Democrats and 68% of liberal/moderate Republicans, but only 40% of conservative Republicans.

·        A majority of registered voters (59%) think global warming is caused mostly by human activities, including 84% of liberal Democrats, 70% of moderate/conservative Democrats, and 55% of liberal/moderate Republicans…, but only 26% of conservative Republicans.

·        A majority of registered voters (63%) are worried about global warming, including 88% of liberal Democrats, 76% of moderate/conservative Democrats, and 58% of liberal/moderate Republicans, but only 30% of conservative Republicans.”

·        Most registered voters support policies that would reduce use of fossil fuels and promote investing in renewable energy to replace the lost conventional energy.

Tribalistic outlooks separating Republicans and Democrats concerning global warming and its effects may be resolving, in favor of collective action to address the issue.  It is indeed critical to embark on meaningful policies at the federal level as soon as possible, in order to minimize the continuing rise in the global average temperature.  Popular attitudes and Congressional approaches are coalescing to promote political action.
© 2018 Henry Auer

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