US public desire for climate action little dented by denialist sound and fury
The research, outlined by Jon A. Krosnick, Professor of communication, political science and psychology at Stanford in the International Herald Tribune today, found around three quarters of interviewees believed the earth had warmed, believed human behaviour was substantially responsible and wanted government to limit greenhouse gas emissions by businesses.
Professor Krosnick said the study had found “no decline in Americans’ trust in environmental scientists”. In 2010, the proportion trusting environmental scientists “a moderate amount, a lot, or completely” was 71 per cent, up from 70 per cent in 2009 and 68 per cent in 2008.
“We are very heartened to find that on climate, you apparently can’t fool many of the people much of the time,” said WWF International Director General James Leape.
More significantly, the research finds that climate change is a highly distinctive “issue public”. Among those who feel strongly about the issue nearly 90 percent believe it is primarily a result of human activity and more than 90 percent want the government to act.
Normally, issues which are strongly motivating exhibit roughly equivalent proportions of supporters and opponents.
Professor Krosnick noted that in both the US and the UK “a huge majority shares a common vision of climate change”. “This creates a unique opportunity for elected representatives to satisfy a lot of voters,” he concluded.
Mr Leape said it may take some time to fully appreciate the significance of the findings. “In Australia, we are finding for instance that the government is being punished in the polls after dropping its emissions trading system, which we were also told was deeply unpopular,” he said.
“Public responses to the issue of climate change are clearly much more complex than much of the analysis of them. Pronouncements that climate change is slipping off the international agenda may well turn out to be premature.”
Phil Dickie, WWF International News Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 79 7031952
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