Majority of Republicans now recognize reality of climate change: Poll

A clear majority of Republicans now acknowledge that climate change is happening, although they disagree with Democrats over its severity, a new poll found.

The latest Monmouth University Poll published Thursday found that a growing number of Americans recognize that the Earth is warming and that a majority consider it a major problem. It found that most Americans think there’s still time to change course and prevent the more catastrophic consequences of global warming, but that they doubt the government will do anything substantive to address the issue.

Nearly 8 in 10 Americans recognize that global climate change is causing extreme weather and sea-level rise, which is up from 7 in 10 of those surveyed in 2015, the last time this poll was taken. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans — 64 percent — acknowledged that the world’s climate is changing — a large jump from 49 percent three years ago.

The Trump administration’s release of the National Climate Assessment last week led to fierce debates over climate action. (Photo: Anton Petrus/Moment RF/Getty Images)
The Trump administration’s release of the National Climate Assessment last week led to fierce debates over climate action. (Photo: Anton Petrus/Moment RF/Getty Images)

When asked about the poll, Tiernan Sittenfeld, the senior vice president for government affairs for the League of Conservation Voters, said it’s clear that climate change denialism is steadily becoming an even more marginalized position.

“As the devastating impacts of climate change are being felt by more and more people, denying climate change is becoming more extreme and unusual than ever before. And as the recent elections show, elected officials who deny climate change or refuse to act do so at their peril. Trump should take note,” Sittenfeld told Yahoo News.

This survey comes amid fierce debate over climate change spurred by the Trump administration’s release — and subsequent ridicule by the president himself — of the fourth National Climate Assessment last week. The White House was legally required to publish the comprehensive report by researchers from 13 federal agencies, which concluded that climate change will have devastating effects on the U.S. economy and public health. But the recommendations of federal scientists conflict with President Trump’s deregulatory agenda.

“The president has cast doubt on the existence of climate change, even though a majority of his fellow Republicans now acknowledge it as a reality,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement. “Of course, the poll was conducted earlier this month, so it is entirely possible that some of his supporters have changed their minds again now that Trump has weighed in. That’s just the nature of American public opinion today.”

According to the poll, 54 percent of all Americans say that climate change is a “very serious” problem, which is a significant increase over the 41 percent reported in 2015. More than 82 percent of Democrats called it a “very serious problem,” whereas only 25 percent of Republicans share that perspective.

There has long been a contingent of conservatives dedicated to advancing environmentalist principles, regardless of the view espoused by Republican leadership. Groups like republicEn, founded by former Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C., promote free-market solutions to the climate crisis, such as eliminating government subsidies for oil and gas and imposing a revenue-neutral, border-adjustable carbon tax.

Inglis lost his seat in 2010 to a tea party challenger, in part over his position on climate change.

Liberals and conservatives can reasonably debate proposals for dealing with the threat of man-made climate change, but a growing number of Americans are coming around to the view that it is impossible to deny its existence. Scientists who study climate are virtually unanimous in saying that global warming over the past century has been driven by human actions and poses an intensifying threat.

National representatives from members of the 2015 Paris Agreement are meeting in Katowice, Poland, on Dec. 2-14 for COP24, a highly anticipated, major climate change conference. Participants will try to adopt a “Paris Rulebook,” which would establish the standards that nations would have to meet to fulfill their commitments of three years ago. The administration has announced its intention of pulling out of the Paris Agreement.


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