Sunday, May 20, 2007

Public and Republican presidential candidates think global warming is a problem

Remember those polls on public attitudes toward global warming? Christian Science Monitor staff writer Brad Knickerbocker wrote about them for Earth Day:
"The last six months have been the most rapid period of change in public awareness and attitudes on climate change that I've ever seen," says William Moomaw, a Tufts University climate expert and coauthor of the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN-sponsored group of scientists.

Demand for climate-change briefings he's delivered for the past five years have jumped in the past year, says Dr. Moomaw. Audiences who were once polite are now actively engaged.


More evidence of a shift in acceptance of reality is that responding to climate change, and not denying it, is something even Republican presidential candidates are doing as mentioned in this Reuters story by Deborah Zabarenko:
[John] McCain is hardly alone in his party. Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney have also staked out positions on this topic, generally pushing for alternative energy and more efficient technologies to stall the globe's warming trend.

One reason for this sea change is former Vice President Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" laying out the science behind global warming, said Eileen Claussen of the non-profit Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

This new Republican openness to discussing ways to tackle climate change may also be an indirect result of recent changes in how the White House has talked about the problem, said political scientist Cal Jillson of Southern Methodist University in Dallas said.

"Once President George W. Bush acknowledged that global warming was a problem, other Republicans were freer not to have to support the administration stance - that the science was incomplete - but now they could say on the campaign trail, 'Here's what I propose to do.'"

This shift has occurred in the last year or so, Jillson said.

More analysis along these lines appeared in MarketWatch, a business news outfit owned by Dow Jones (the same guys that own the Wall Street Journal:
Al Gore isn't running for president, but in some sense he's already won.
All the major Democratic candidates for president -- and a fair number of the Republicans, as well -- have embraced Gore's signature issue: global warming. In sharp contrast to the current occupant of the Oval Office, most of the candidates say climate change is a major challenge that the next president will have to address.

Most of the major candidates say the scientific debate is over. They agree that human activity is a major cause of the increased temperatures already seen around the globe and that immediate steps are needed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
But the policy debate is just beginning. It's one thing to diagnose the illness; it's another to prescribe the right economic and political incentives to wean the global economy away from carbon.

The article has a summary of where the candidates are on things like fuel efficiency and future emission targets.


Tony said...

I don't mean to get all Debbie Downer, but one thing that deniers have done is delay the onset of sophisticated polling on climate change.

Polls by now should have gone past the "Is it happening?" stage to deeper questions:

* "Should we have a carbon tax?"

* "Should aviation be taxed or regulated in some way?"

* "Should more money be spent on R&D?"

* "I am prepared to make sacrifices in my daily life"

* "I am prepared to drive less if there is a fuel tax"

* "I am prepared to install solar panels if there are government subsidies for such"

* "I'm not earning enough to make cutbacks to my lifestyle."

* And so on.

This is where the real battle is: for the hearts and minds of the people.

Great blog, by the way.

Rob said...

Hi Tony,

Thanks for the comment. Sorry it took so long to reply. Some of the polls I covered in this post did tackle those questions and the results are encouraging.

I tend to focus on the "is it happening" question because there's still some question in the climate blogosphere about weather or not the deniers are having an effect. They certainly can stir things up online but I think the general public has tuned them out.