Sunday, December 30, 2018


In The New York Times, Arlie and David Hochschild tell us that most Republicans believe climate change is real, which means there's reason to hope for bipartisan agreement on climate solutions. They're right about the former, but almost certainly wrong about the latter.
In March, ... the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication polled 1,067 registered voters on climate change. The study ... asked whether the United States should “set strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public heath,” even if “the cost of electricity to consumers and companies would likely increase.” Eighty-seven percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans said yes.

Should the United States require fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax and use the money to reduce other taxes (such as income tax) by an equal amount? Eighty-four percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans said yes.

Asked, “When there’s a conflict between environmental protection and economic growth, which do you think is more important?” 85 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans said that environmental protection should come first.

The survey also found that majorities in both parties think the government should fund research into solar and wind energy, offer tax rebates to those buying energy-efficient vehicles and solar panels, and encourage schools to teach children about the causes and consequences of global warming, and potential solutions. A majority of Democrats and Republicans believe the United States should participate in the Paris climate accord and reduce greenhouse gas emissions regardless of what other countries do.

A study conducted in June by Stanford, ABC News and Resources for the Future uncovered a similar trend. It found that 66 percent of Republicans believe the increase in temperature is “mostly or partly caused by humans.” Another poll, released last month by Monmouth University in New Jersey, found that most Republicans now support action on climate change.
That's good to know -- but it means that we're in the same place with regard to climate change that we are on the gun issue. In October, Pew told us this:
Overwhelming majorities of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and Democrats and Democratic leaners (89% each) say mentally ill people should be barred from buying guns. Nearly as many in both parties (86% of Democrats, 83% of Republicans) favor barring gun purchases by people on federal watch lists. And sizable majorities also favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks (91% of Democrats, 79% of Republicans).
But it doesn't matter. Pew also notes that there are big differences betweren the two parties on other gun proposals, therefore nearly every gun proposal is dead on arrival in red and purple states, and in Washington.

The Hochschilds understand the problem:
Studies by a University of Colorado psychologist, Leaf Van Boven, and two colleagues points to a “party over policy” effect, in which people’s views on a carbon tax depend less on the content of the proposal than on the party they believe proposed it.
But they're naive about what might solve the problem.
So maybe Republicans just need to hear from messengers they trust.

A talk by an evangelical climate scientist, one study shows, altered the views of climate skeptics studying at evangelical colleges. Similarly, we need to find ways of showing science-doubting Republican oil workers that the leaders of Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and BP have acknowledged the risk of climate change and that steps must be taken to address it. Republicans who greatly admire the military could learn about the ways the Pentagon has already acknowledged the risk of climate change as a security issue and has quietly set about installing renewable energy projects on bases across the country.
But we've seen how well the "messengers they trust" strategy has worked in the Trump era. Many respected conservatives denounced Trump from the moment he announced his candidacy in 2015 -- but because Trump strokes Republican voters' rage receptors more pleasurably than anyone else in America, those voters now regard the critics as pariahs. Similarly, "law and order" Republican voters used to respect the FBI, but now they've been told that the FBI is part of the evil Deep State, so they hate the Bureau now.

Republican politicians will always say that real action on climate change, like the enactment of gun regulations (even those that have bipartisan support), makes liberals happy. That's all it takes -- the GOP voting bloc will back candidates who maintain a hard line on guns or climate denialism, even if those candidates oppose policies the voters favor.

I don't see a way out of this except outvoting Republicans and electing more progressive candidates. I'd like to think it's possible to reach a bipartisan consensus on climate, but I can't imagine it.

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