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It's not necessarily a competition you should be particularly keen to win, but which country in the world has the most climate change “skeptics?”
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Most people would probably hazard a guess at the U.S., what with its preponderance of climate-science-denying think tanks, conservative television and radio hosts, and politicians who think it’s all a hoax.
But a new study that analyzed identical surveys carried out across 14 industrialized nations has found that when it comes to climate science denial, Australia tops the pile.
Published in the journal Global Environmental Change, the study found that 17 percent of Australians were “climate skeptics.”
Norwegians come in second at 15 percent, followed by New Zealanders at 13 percent and then Americans at 12 percent. The UK tied for fifth with Sweden and Finland, where 10 percent of people were skeptics. The lowest ranked country for climate skepticism was Spain, where only two percent of people were classified as climate skeptics.
"Climate skepticism persists despite overwhelming scientific evidence that anthropogenic climate change is occurring," say the authors. The study, authored by two scientists at the University of Tasmania, used data from surveys carried out in 14 countries in 2010 and 2011.
While the survey did not directly ask people if they accepted the science linking climate change to human activities, the respondents were asked how dangerous rising temperatures would be for the environment.
People who thought rising temperatures were “not very dangerous” or “not dangerous at all” and who also thought claims about environmental issues were exaggerated were classed as “climate skeptics.” While the authors accept in the paper that their approach was limited, they argue that the method enables them to do a valuable comparison of skepticism across countries.
Generally, the study found that climate skepticism tended to be associated with a lack of trust in governments and “positive attitudes” towards private enterprise. Skeptics also tended to be male and tended to vote conservative.
The researchers also tried to test the idea that climate skeptics tended to also be generally unconcerned about environmental issues, but found those two measures were only modestly linked with each other.
Across all countries, the authors wrote that only three factors—“political orientations (conservative), gender (male) and being unconcerned about environmental issues”—were “relatively consistent predictors” of climate change skepticism.
The findings tend to support other studies that have found that conservative ideologies and support for private enterprise are strong indicators of climate skepticism and denial. The authors of the Global Environmental Change study concluded:
Low levels of trust in ‘the people in government’ is associated with climate skepticism, as is valuing private enterprise to solve economic problems. Rejecting government intervention in the reduction of income inequality also reflects laissez-faire attitudes towards ‘big government’ among climate skeptics.
But the finding that Australians, Norwegians and New Zealanders are more skeptical than Americans is surprising.
Last year, a survey from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication found that only 66 percent of U.S. voters thought that climate change was happening.
Only 51 percent of registered voters thought that global warming was mostly caused by climate change. But like the Global Environmental Change study, the Yale survey also found that conservatives tended to reject the evidence of human-caused climate change. Among the most conservative Republicans, only 22 percent were willing to accept that climate change was mostly caused by human activities.
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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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