GOP Climate Change Denial is Making More People Believe in Climate Change


Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr/CC BY

According to a new poll, a lot more Americans believe in climate change right now than they did a year ago. Surprise! 83% of Americans said they believed that global warming was happening, and 72% even said that humans were to blame. So what's causing the spike in belief? As Mat pointed out in his post today, it's probably a combination of things. Extreme weather events, hotter-than-usual temps, and one slightly more peculiar factor: All that conspiratorial-sounding climate denial spewing out of the GOP presidential candidates' claptraps. Or, to put it more scientifically, let's turn to the poll itself, from Reuters (via Climate Progress):

More Americans than last year believe the world is warming and the change is likely influenced by the Republican presidential debates, a Reuters/Ipsos poll said on Thursday. As Americans watch Republicans debate the issue, they are forced to mull over what they think about global warming, said Jon Krosnick, a political science professor at Stanford University....

"That is exactly the kind of situation that will provoke the public to think about the issue in a way that they haven't before," Krosnick said about news reports on the Republicans denying climate change science.

It's important to remember that as much as we bemoan the climate change deniers (guilty!), the truth is that the folks who actually think that scientists are manipulating data and that the whole thing is a hoax belong to what's essentially a far-right, blogospheric lunatic fringe. Poll after poll shows that these kind of skeptics -- the true naysayers and deniers -- represent a mere fraction of the public.

Most people don't have passionate views about climate change one way or the other -- they kinda sort of probably think it's happening, and I don't know, we should probably do more solar or something.

It just so happens that extreme brand of climate change denial is appealing to Fox News and conservative pundits, because it makes for sensational storytelling. And while Fox and co. are often quite good at setting the agenda for conservatives, they don't always hit the mark -- and they certainly don't always represent the views of the majority of conservative voters. The network has a large audience, by cable television standards -- but it's still only a few million people, a small percentage of Americans. But you could understand how political operatives and candidates could think it was a good idea to peddle the same kind of climate change denying nonsense on a larger stage, as Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann have done, and expect a positive response.

Turns out, however, that beyond the ultra-conservative echo chamber, denying a well-established body of science just makes you look kind of crazy to well-heeled American observers. So crazy, in fact, that it causes people to reassess their previously skeptical views of climate science in favor of logic and sanity.

Love, love, love the irony here.

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