A Tide Turning?

by Iain Murray on January 20, 2009

Very interesting new poll from Rasmussen that suggests a significant reversal in public opinion over the causes of global warming.

Forty-four percent (44%) of U.S. voters now say long-term planetary trends are the cause of global warming, compared to 41% who blame it on human activity.

Seven percent (7%) attribute global warming to some other reason, and nine percent (9%) are unsure in a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democrats blame global warming on human activity, compared to 21% percent of Republicans. Two-thirds of GOP voters (67%) see long-term planetary trends as the cause versus 23% of Democrats. Voters not affiliated with either party by eight points put the blame on planetary trends.

In July 2006, 46% of voters said global warming is caused primarily by human activities, while 35% said it is due to long-term planetary trends.

In April of last year, 47% of Americans blamed human activity versus 34% who viewed long-term planetary trends as the culprit. But the numbers have been moving in the direction of planetary trends since then.

I must put in the obligatory disclaimer here: I believe that the weight of the scientific evidence points towards human activity having an effect on climate. However, I also believe that this effect is minor and that it is likely to remain minor. Which means that I believe these 44% are wrong. But what is and isn’t true actually isn’t the case here.

The truth is that political action in a democracy depends on what people believe, not on what actually is fact. This significant reversal trend suggests that it will be much harder to justify significant costs – particularly at household level – to combat global warming.

The new Administration and Congress would therefore be wise to step away from expensive anti-energy measures and concentrate instead on improving the resiliency and adaptive capacity of those who are most vulnerable should global warming turn out to be a problem. Otherwise, they run the risk of the electorate reacting like Batman.

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