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Poll: Partisan Divide Over Climate Change Grows Wider

Politics
Poll: Partisan Divide Over Climate Change Grows Wider

A new Gallup poll offers some hope in the face of unrelenting climate change. Overall, 45 percent of those surveyed said global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetime—the highest percentage recorded since the question was first asked in 1997.

As a whole, Americans' concerns about climate change "are not much different from the record-high levels they were at a year ago," Gallup said.


But here's the bad news. The issue has become more politically polarized than ever, and it's likely because of Donald Trump.

After a year of President Trump—who thinks global warming is a "hoax," dropped climate change from a list of top national security threats, and made it known that America is at odds with the rest of the world by withdrawing from the 2015 Paris agreement—Republicans have become more skeptical than ever about climate change, the Gallup poll suggests.

Only a third of Republicans said they worry about climate change or even acknowledge that it has already begun. Seven in 10 Republicans think the seriousness of global warming is exaggerated in the news. The percentage of Republicans who affirm the scientific consensus of global warming is down 11 percentage points since last year.

Independents have also become less convinced about climate change and its impacts. Independents who believe global warming is caused by human activities dropped to 62 percent from 70 percent the year before.

Still, there's a silver lining. Democrats are more unnerved about the issue than ever because of Trump.

Earlier surveys have already shown that the majority of Dems are concerned about climate change and believe it is caused by human activities. This year's poll found that 82 percent of Democrats agree that the effects of climate change have already begun, up from 73 percent a year earlier.

"With Trump reversing many of his predecessors' policies aimed at curbing global warming, Democrats are feeling a greater sense of urgency about the issue," Gallup said.

Of course, the devastating effects of climate change are already being felt—and the U.S. government knows it. 2017, one of the hottest years in modern history, was also an extremely costly year. According to a report from the National Centers for Environmental Information, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), "the U.S. experienced 16 weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion, with total costs of approximately $306 billion—a new U.S. annual record."

Trump and his climate-denying cabinet members are ignoring the vast scientific consensus of human-caused climate change.

Peter Gleick, the president-emeritus of the Pacific Institute and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Science tweeted Wednesday, "If you deny the reality of human-caused climate change, you are making a political statement that is scientifically wrong. Don't pretend the problem is the science. The problem is you're afraid if you admit the science you won't like the policies we have to pursue."

The Gallup survey was based on interviews with 1,041 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia from March 1-8. The margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Colette Pichon Battle, attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy. Colette Pichon Battle

By Karen L. Smith-Janssen

Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.

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