Climate Skepticism Grows as Emissions Fall

Climate Skepticism Grows as Emissions Fall

Image CC licensed by Flickr user suburbanbloke

Following a scandal over stolen emails and the discovery of errors in a prominent research report, the number of Americans in doubt over climate change has grown, particularly along ideological lines.

A Gallup poll published last week found that overall, more Americans feel the media exaggerates the seriousness of climate change today than they did two years ago. Women, liberals and young adults are more likely to believe the effects of climate change are already happening.

Only 30 percent of conservative respondents in the poll said climate change impacts are already taking place, compared to 60 percent of moderates and 74 percent of liberals. Two-thirds of conservatives say its seriousness is overblown, up from half in 2008.

"Global warming attitudes have become more politically divided over time, and while the shifts toward diminished worry are evident among all party groups, ideological liberals' views have been more stable than conservatives' or moderates' views," according to Gallup. "Given that conservatives outnumber liberals in the U.S. population by roughly 2 to 1, any significant change in the former group's attitudes toward global warming is enough to move the needle on global warming attitudes among all Americans."

The shift is also evident on the political landscape, where Republican politicians who once supported climate change legislation are now in this election year backpedaling and expressing doubt over the underlying science. A recent Chicago Tribune story suggested climate change is becoming the latest litmus test for conservatives.

Despite the growing skepticism, emissions are falling. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its latest draft greenhouse gas inventory last week, which found emissions dropped nearly 3 percent in 2008, largely due to high fuel prices and cooler weather. The decline will likely be even greater in 2009; in the latest State of Green Business Report, estimated total greenhouse emissions could fall by as much as 6 percent in 2009.

Meanwhile, two Australian research bodies have concluded that climate change is responsible for the country now experiencing more extremely hot days and fewer cold ones, with warming in every region and in every season. Since 1960, the country's mean temperature has increased by roughly 0.7 degrees Celsius, with some regions seeing a 2 degree increase over the last 50 years.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user suburbanbloke.