The New York Times made it a front-page story: “EPA Chief Doubts Consensus View of Climate Change.”
President Donald Trump’s appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, stated (again) that carbon dioxide was not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” He added, “We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”
For those who follow clean air and water issues to protect the health of our families, Pruitt’s statement was no surprise. (It defied logic that someone with his track record of suing the EPA, and emails to fossil fuel powers got confirmed in the first place.)
So where does that leave us?
The Trump environmental team may think that it’s okay to continually relitigate science. However, most Americans don’t.
The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication updated its Opinion Map this month (incorporating findings from 2014-2016). This interactive mapping of the country is remarkable. America can be broken down by states, Congressional districts, metro areas, and hyperlocal counties.
Currently, 70 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening. (Good thing that this research isn’t on a federal website. It would have been disappeared by now!) Looking at the breakdown, the bar in gray represents those who either “refused to answer the question or said ‘I don’t know.’”
The data can be cross-indexed with four categories of questions posed to respondents. They were: Beliefs, Risk Perceptions, Policy Support, and Behaviors. This allows for comparisons and drill-downs on disparities between locations.
For example, contrast these two different reactions to the statement: “Global warming will harm me personally”: In Florida, where rising sea level is a viable concern, 41 percent agreed, while in Wyoming, an inland state, only 29 percent concurred. (Wyoming, a coal state, and one of the most conservative in the country, is moving to green energy.)
In the nation as a whole:
- 53 percent believe global warming is caused mostly by human activities
- 71 percent “somewhat trust/strongly trust” climate scientists about global warming
- 70 percent believe global warming will harm future generations
When it comes to policy, Americans do not want rollbacks of regulations.
- 82 percent support funding research into renewable energy sources
- 75 percent want to see regulation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant
- 69 percent want strict carbon dioxide limits on existing coal-fired power plants
Looking at individual states, it is not surprising in New York, 79 percent of those polled wanted tough limits on coal-fired plants, while in Kentucky, 58 percent didn’t.
In the Washington, DC, and Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia area — home to many people who work in the military and defense sectors — concern about the climate was predictably high. For example, 86 percent of respondents in those areas supported funding research into renewable energy sources. Military leaders have long been vocal in pointing to climate change as a cause of international instability and terrorism.
I have written previously about the disconnect between elected representatives and the viewpoints of their constituents on environmental issues and fossil fuels. Once again, the big takeaway is, “Follow the money!”
The “Climate Denier 2016” Google doc lists the House and Senate members who don’t accept the science behind climate change, along with the contributions they have received from the coal, oil, and gas industries throughout their terms. The correlation is eye-opening.
Tsk-tsking at the outrageousness of those who don’t want to deal with the climate crisis is getting the public nowhere.
Scott Pruitt is not going to change his mind anytime soon. But senators and legislators who want to keep their jobs may. And if they don’t, they need to remember there is an election in 2018.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Moms Clean Air Force website.