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Saturday, April 21, 2007

New Poll Shows People are 'Getting' Climate Change

I don't know if I'm going to be around tomorrow. I'll probably be in the field, so here's my Earth Day post. Think of it as an Earth Day Weekend post.


A joint poll conducted by the Washington Post, ABC News, and Stanford University is one of those good news/bad news polls. The good news is that global warming has become the top environmental concern among americans. The bad news is that people don't have any idea what to do about it.

First, the good news. One third of americans rated global warming as their top environmental concern -- double what it was last year and more than any other concern. That's one hell of an increase. Seven in ten think the federal government should do more to curb warming, with half of all respondents saying that the government should do 'much more.'

I thought this was fun:

Washinngton Post:

By a 40-point margin, the public trusts congressional Democrats more than it trusts President Bush to handle global warming. More than nine in 10 Democrats in the poll said they trusted their party's leaders over Bush on the issue, as did 54 percent of independents and one in five Republicans.

In other words, a majority of everyone but Republicans think that dems own the issue. And, obviously, not all Republicans are flatearthers. WaPo cites one respondent who describes himself as 'a typical Republican banker who doesn't have a lot of faith in the administration where this issue is concerned.' The man, Tom Sheppard of Dalton, PA 'said he became concerned about climate change after seeing retreating glaciers in Alaska last year and reading about melting of the Greenland ice sheet.'

In other words, he bothered to pay attention and see what was happening around him.

On the bad news side of things, people aren't in agreement over what to do about climate change. This isn't really all that surprising, when you think about it. People have been very poorly served by the media on the issue. Although, in general, people seem to have a pretty good ideas about what to do.

One in five favors higher taxes on electricity to encourage conservation, and about a third support higher gasoline taxes. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed say the government should require power plants to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Forty-two percent think the government should require greater fuel efficiency for vehicles, something both the administration and Congress back, and 36 percent want to require manufacturers to produce more efficient air conditioners, refrigerators and other appliances.

I'm not so sure that regressive taxation is the way to go, either. For one, it encourages conservation, but not change -- we need to change our technology, not adjust it. For another, it makes consumption of energy just one more privilege of the wealthy. Tax incentives and rebates might be a better idea. Investing in mass transit would also be a good idea -- I've always said that if mass transit were as reliable as an elevator, everyone would use it.

The reason that people are kind of grasping for solutions is that they really haven't been offered any. The media has focused on the ginned up 'controversy' and pretty much ignored what we can do about climate change.

Think about the typical 'discussion' you see on CNN, MSNBC, or FOX. You've got two talking heads, one representing scientific consensus and another representing the warming denial industry. These two take turns contradicting each other and disagreeing and, once the segment is over, you're pretty much as ignorant as you were before you watched it.

This approach also gives you an unrealistic impression of the debate. The climate scientist -- who represents tens of thousands of scientists internationally -- and the flatearther -- who represents rich guys in the oil industry -- are given the same weight. To get an idea of how ridiculous this is, imagine that CNN digs up some guy who thinks the Sun orbits the Earth to debate a NASA scientist every time there's some space story. Suddenly, a heliocentric solar system is 'controversial,' despite the fact that people who dispute it are freakin' lunatics. A real world example would be the 'controversy' surrounding evolution.

As an atheist, I always say that I believe in people. This poll pretty much justifies that belief. Despite the irresponsible way the media has treated this issue, people are catching on -- and fast. To repeat, the number of people who consider global warming to be the top environmental concern has doubled in just a year and huge majorities think government should do more about it. That means a lot of people have been able to cut through the crap.

The time to tolerate this BS 'controversy' has passed and it's time to let the media know that. We deserve better.


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