Tonight, I'm going to hold another interesting conference about climate change...
Americans overwhelmingly believe that global warming is happening, and that carbon emissions should be scaled back. But fewer are sure that the changes will harm them personally. New data released by Yale researchers gives the most detailed view yet of public opinion on global warming.
Americans want to restrict carbon emissions from coal power plants. The White House and Congress may do the opposite.
A majority of adults in every congressional district in the nation support limiting carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. But many Republicans in Congress (and some Democrats) agree with President Trump, who this week may move to kill an Obama administration plan that would have scaled back the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Nationally, about seven in 10 Americans support regulating carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants – and 75 percent support regulating CO2 as a pollutant more generally. But lawmakers are unlikely to change direction soon.
Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina, warned that committed activists — like the Tea Party — can shape politicians’ approaches to issues like climate change. “Those are the ones who can take you out at the next primary,” he said. He lost his primary in 2010 to Trey Gowdy, a Tea Party candidate who attacked his climate views.
Most people know climate change is happening, and a majority agree it is harming people in the United States. But they don't believe it will harm them.
Part of this is the problem of risk perception.
Global warming is precisely the kind of threat humans are awful at dealing with: a problem with enormous consequences over the long term, but little that is sharply visible on a personal level in the short term. Humans are hard-wired for quick fight-or-flight reactions in the face of an imminent threat, but not highly motivated to act against slow-moving and somewhat abstract problems, even if the challenges that they pose are ultimately dire.