Some good news – and a major lesson – from the US

While it seems at times there is little good news emanating from the land of Donald Trump there is some of significance – first on US attitudes to climate change and second on the countervailing forces in the country.

The George Mason University Centre for Climate Change Communication has been doing some analysis of its latest Climate Change in the American Mind survey which was undertaken after the election. In particular it found that: “About half of Trump voters (49%) think global warming is happening, while fewer than one in three (30%) think global warming is not happening. About half of Trump voters (47%) also say the U.S. should participate in the international agreement to limit global warming. By contrast, only 28% say the U.S. should not participate. More than six in ten Trump voters (62%) support taxing and/or regulating the pollution that causes global warming, with nearly one in three (31%) supporting both approaches. In contrast, only about one in five (21%) support doing neither.”

There are also some seemingly contradictory finds with around seven out of 10 Trump voters supporting solar and wind power on public land in the U.S and also supporting more drilling and mining for fossil fuels on the same sort of land. The same proportions support funding more research into clean energy and tax rebates for efficient vehicles and solar panel purchasers.

Just over half of Trump voters support eliminating all federal subsidies for the fossil fuel industry; nearly half support fossil fuel companies paying a carbon tax and using the money to reduce other taxes by an equal amount; and, almost half support setting strict carbon dioxide emissions limits on existing coal-fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public health, even if the cost of electricity to consumers and companies would likely increase. Sadly these figures are not reflected in the Trump Cabinet where 100% of its members support none of the above other than more mining on public land.

The attitudes of Trump voters on these issues, unlike those of the Trump Cabinet members, are also not that far out of line with their fellow Americans.

While Trump has described global warming variously as a hoax, and/or a conspiracy by the Chinese, “Americans are increasingly sure global warming is happening, according to our latest national survey conducted after the presidential election (Nov-Dec 2016),” the Centre says.

“The proportion of Americans who think global warming is happening remained steady at 70% in 2016 – nearly matching the highest level measured since November 2008 (71%). But Americans are now also more certain it is happening – the proportion who are “extremely” or “very” sure global warming is happening (45%) is at its highest level since 2008.”

The survey also indicates that a majority of Americans are (61%) are “very” or “somewhat” worried about the issue – nearly equal to the highest level last seen in 2008 (62%). Equally they see it as a threat to themselves, developing countries, their family and future generations. Michael Moore has often talked about how Americans have been kept worried and fearful about various issues – from the Irish immigrants of the 19th century to the Russians to the Cubans to terrorists to not having enough semi-automatic weapons in the house – so it is great to find they are finally worried about something which really is a threat.

A large majority (76%) support teaching children about global warming in school although that is already under threat in red states, along with dangerous ideas like evolution, and the new US Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, will do what she can to help them to ensure that students are able to demonstrate the same levels of educational ignorance she possesses.

Meanwhile that wonderful feisty organisation, the Centre for Media Democracy, continues its work to expose the machinations of people like the Koch brothers and the legislators and lobbyists they own. CMD also demonstrates that along with the usual institutional checks and balances in the US there are also significant countervailing forces.

The CMD has recently won a court case in the Oklahoma County Court which found Trump EPA nominee Scott Pruitt in violation of the state’s Open Records Act for “improperly withholding public records”. The case relates to thousands of documents which disclose Pruitt’s deep ties to fossil industry corporations. Pruitt was also a prime mover in legal actions against Obama Administration environmental laws and regulation.

Despite the court win the Senate, after Republicans resorted to suspending Committee rules to advance his nomination, confirmed Pruitt which will allow him to start dismantling key environmental protection policies and regulations, purging the organisation of climate change researchers and replacing them with denialists.

What the issue and the court case also say to the blog, however, is that demonstrations and marches against the Trump administration, his nominees and their policies are all well and good. But they are no long-term substitute for the time-honoured tactics –  research, recruiting, organising, litigating and voting.