Climate in the Campaign. Bring it On.
April 27, 2012
Bottom line: Climate denial wins the “Obama was born in Kenya” crowd. Nobody else.
Does Obama’s recent reference to climate as a campaign issue mean he’s getting it too?
The Yale-George Mason University poll being released Thursday found that 76% of Americans support regulating carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas pollutant and that two-thirds believe the U.S. should pursue policies to reduce its carbon footprint.
A large majority of Americans believe that global warming made several high profile extreme weather events worse, including the unusually warm winter of December 2011 and January 2012 (72%), record high summer temperatures in the U.S. in 2011 (70%), the drought in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 (69%), record snowfall in the U.S. in 2010 and 2011 (61%), the Mississippi River floods in the spring of 2011 (63%), and Hurricane Irene (59%).
A poll .. shows that a large majority of Americans believe that this year’s unusually warm winter, last year’s blistering summer and some other weather disasters were probably made worse by global warming. And by a 2-to-1 margin, the public says the weather has been getting worse, rather than better, in recent years.
The survey, the most detailed to date on the public response to weather extremes, comes atop other polling showing a recent uptick in concern about climate change. Read together, the polls suggest that direct experience of erratic weather may be convincing some people that the problem is no longer just a vague and distant threat.
I know you’ve heard the established wisdom: The climate bill failed in large part because it lacked public support.
That was never true, as over a dozen polls we reported on in the last 3 years make clear (see them here and below). But that myth became popular because it suited the narrative of both the deniers and do-little centrist crowd and their enablers in the media.
What’s amazing is that even though essentially none of the major national “influencers” in the public arena — the President, Congress, media and so on — has been using their bully pulpit to talk about mandatory controls on carbon dioxide pollution for almost two years now, the public still supports it overwhelmingly. A full 65% of Americans support “imposing mandatory controls on carbon dioxide emissions/other greenhouse gases.”
In order to secure the nomination, Mitt Romney, who once supported cap and trade, has reversed his position and now says that
My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.
This is demonstrably false, and what’s more, the American public believe it’s false. Obama has an opportunity to use it as a significant wedge issue to shave votes away from Romney among moderate Republicans and Independents who believe science is the best basis for public policy. Romney appears to be trapped in Obama’s message box on it: if he vascillates again he will alienate far right supporters who believe climate change is all a vast hoax, and will be easily labeled a flip-flop-flipper. If he doesn’t, he stands to lose mainstream centrist voters to Obama.
It is probably not a coincidence that the Koch brothers, owners of petro-giant Koch Industries, the second largest privately held company in America, have pledged $60 million to defeat Obama. This signals that climate disinformation is likely to become a major part of the Republican-aligned presidential effort in the months to come. The Koch brothers have frequently been cited as donors to climate denial propaganda outfits like the Heartland Institute.
This means we will be likely to see more efforts like the recent attacks on NASA and the EPA as an agenda of deep environmental deregulation becomes a central campaign battleground.
“American voters, both Democrats and Republicans, are unified in backing prompt EPA action on the clean air rules,” said Ceres president Mindy Lubber. “Regardless of affiliation, voters want a healthy environment and an end to foot-dragging to upgrade dirty power plants. Despite the rhetoric in Washington, clean air is not a partisan issue among Americans, and Congress would do well to take notice.”
“Although some in Congress oppose these rules, the level of support from Republican voters is surprisingly strong,” said Greg Strimple of GS Strategy Group, a Republican pollster who jointly conducted the research. “The research clearly demonstrates Republican voters are willing to support new rules to reduce harmful emissions in order to improve public health. Republicans like clean air, too.”