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Climate Change and the Politics of Scientific Inquiry

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The continued politicisation of what is supposed to be a science issue — climate change or “global warming” — can be seen cleary in some recent research into the opinions of Americans, conducted in early April, 2017 by the ReportLinker group.

According to the research, ReportLinker found that three-fourths of American adults are now keenly aware of climate change and believe that mankind is the main driver of it (perceived, overall, to be a negative phenomenon). However, political orientation matters in this perception. Among the 26% of American Respondents who “strongly agree” that human beings are the main drivers of climate change, 39% of those are Democrats.

Tellingly, the respondents had a very hard time actually coming up with a negative consequence of human-driven climate change. Replies to the question, “What main consequence of climate change first comes to your mind?” were quite varied and, some would say, scattered. 16% said they were concerned about higher average temperatures, 12% spoke of perceived worsening air quality, and 8% worried about rising sea levels. There were other points of concern, too, but 16% of respondents were simply unsure of what troubles them about climate change in the first place.

A question was posed to respondents about their perception of the future world that we are leaving to our children and grandchildren, from an environmental perspective. Once again, political views weighed heavily in responses.

57% of respondents had a pessimistic view of our (environmental) future. Meanwhile, 43% had an overall optimistic view. Among these, 36% said they had a “somewhat positive” view of our future. And among those respondents, 51% were Republicans.

When it came to the issue of President Donald Trump and his plans to revive the American coal industry through executive orders and the undoing of the previous administration’s regulations, the political divide was thrown into bold relief. Among these respondents, 32% “strongly disagree” with Trump’s agenda, and among those 53% were Democrats. Meanwhile, all supporters of Trump’s coal industry revival plan were Republicans.

The political divide was strongest amongst Americans with regard to the Clean Power Act. 82% of respondents knew exactly what the CPA is, and two-thirds were opposed to President Trump’s plans to undo it. Of the 45% who were “strongly opposed” to Trump’s plans, 70% were Democrats. Meanwhile, all of the one-third who supported Trump’s plan to attack the CPA were Republicans.

As we can see, politics isn’t removing itself from science any time soon.

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Climate Change and the Politics of Scientific Inquiry


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