Evidence of rationality on US climate policy

Given the daily diet of extremism and irrationality demonstrated in US politics it is re-assuring to see research that, on the issue of global warming at least, the majority of Americans understand the problems and are supportive of action.

The latest report from the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication shows that 57% of US registered voters would prefer to vote for a candidate who supports action on global warning.

But before we get completely carried away there is – as in Australia – a clear political division. 95% of liberal Democrats and 86% of moderate/conservative Democrats would   support candidates promising action but only 46% of liberal/moderate Republicans and 13% of conservative Republicans would.

More than half of registered voters think global warming should be a high or very high priority for the President and Congress and two thirds think developing sources of clean energy should be a high or very high priority.

While they consider it a high priority many are nevertheless unaware of Biden’s massive environmental policy – the cutely named Inflation Reduction Act. A case of too clever by half branding perhaps?

From two thirds of respondents to 85% of respondents support various policies to reduce the pollution that causes global warming. These policies include helping farmers to protect and restore soils to help absorb and store more carbon; tax rebates for energy efficient vehicles and solar panels; taxes on fossil fuel companies which can be used to reduce other taxes; a US economy transition from fossil fuels to 100% clean energy by 2050; and, requiring  electricity generators to produce 100% of their output from renewable energy sources by 2035.

Yet seemingly paradoxically 52% support expanding drilling for oil and natural gas off the US coast and 49% support drilling and mining fossil fuels on US public land. At the same time 78% think generating renewable energy on public land is good too. One can only imagined how crowded and counterproductive things could get with both.

There are also clear majorities in favour of solar farms, wind farms, electric vehicle charging stations and high-voltage power lines to distribute clean energy in their own local area. Of course, the problem with support for such policies, is whether it can be sustained in the face of the inevitable disinformation campaigns conducted against them.

Nuclear power plants get only 31% support. Probably any nuclear plants in Australia – as advocated by Peter Dutton – would attract similar or lower support even before they were informed about how expensive and improbable technologically, they are here.

The US respondents are slightly less than majority convinced that promoting clean energy will damage the economy but 53% think clean energy industry will create more jobs than fossil fuel industries.

The respondents are also quite realistic about who is most responsible for action on the problem. They list in order from most to least corporations and industry, the Republican Party, Congress, local government, the Democrat Party, the media, their governor, the President and themselves.

Fossil fuel companies may be very influential in Congress but not so influential among the public. Only 18% of registered voters trust fossil fuel companies to act in the public’s best interest and70% say the companies have too much influence on government decisions.  Renewable energy companies do better at 35% trust – but not that much better.

Only 19% think fossil fuel companies should receive financial support from the government and that figure would probably be even lower if they knew all the ways they milk government and evade taxation.

Sadly, attitudes are not being translated into action and a mere 2% say they are currently participating in a campaign to convince elected officials to take action to reduce global warming but a few more are at least considering the possibility – perhaps prompted by the previous question.

A quarter say they have rewarded companies that are taking steps to reduce global warming by buying their products and 29% say they don’t buy products from companies that oppose steps to reduce global warming.

Three quarters believe schools should teach children about the causes and consequences of global warming and potential solutions. That won’t happen, of course, in places such as Florida until perhaps much of the State’s coast starts to go underwater.

Before we laugh we ought to consider what might happen on teaching about global warming in Australia if was subject to approval by John Howard or Tony Abbott.

Nevertheless, if Florida going underwater also results in Mar-a-Largo being submerged much of the rest of the world would be celebrating.

…and speaking of Florida and the culture wars. If all the ‘anti-woke’ brigade’s crusaders silenced the woke and the woke campaigners silenced the anti-woke would the world be as quiet as a Trappist monastery?