January 20, 2009
Americans will have two messages for Barack Obama at his inauguration today: We love you but don’t blame us for climate change.
In a national survey released on the eve of Obama’s inauguration by Rasmussen Reports, the U.S. polling company, a majority of Americans – 51% – now believe that humans are not the predominant cause of climate change. Only 41% blame humans and 9% aren’t sure. Just one month ago, the same pollster found that just 43% of Americans let us humans off the hook while 46% blamed humans and 11% were not sure. Last July, fully 50% blamed humans.
Of those who see natural causes at work in our ever-changing climate, the great majority see the Sun and other long-term planetary trends as the cause while a minority blame other natural factors, such as volcanic activity.
To make matters worse for the global warming doomsayers, the majority don’t view the global warming we have seen – whether its cause is natural or man-made – with great alarm, despite media depictions of rising oceans, melting polar caps, dying polar bears and accelerating hurricanes. One third dismiss global warming concerns altogether, saying they are not too serious or not at all serious, and another quarter find climate change only “somewhat serious.” Only four in 10 Americans do find climate change to be a “very serious” issue.
The Rasmussen Poll found Democrats to be isolated in their attitudes toward climate change. A decisive majority of both Republicans and independents absolve humans. Even among Democrats, however, only 59% still blame humans. Likewise, only 18% of Republicans and 33% of independents view global warming as a very serious problem while a majority of Democrats do.
The Rasmussen poll also provides guidance as to how a politically savvy President Obama will deal with climate change, given that he has put the current economic crisis at the top of his political agenda. In response to the question, “Is there a conflict between economic growth and environmental protection?,” 46% responded “yes” compared to only 32% who thought not. If President Obama is to get the broad-based support that he desires for the economic reforms that he will be proposing, he’ll need to respect the views of the large minority of Democrats, and the majority of Independents and Republicans that he now represents. His climate change agenda may need to wait, until the planets align themselves for him in a propitious manner.
Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute and author of The Deniers.