Monday, August 08, 2011

RP Jr. says strength of climate denialism in the US "not a limiting factor" in US politics

Roger Pielke Jr. on To the Point, which previously had done a good job in picking speakers (speaking around minute 24):

I would say the evidence suggests pretty strongly that public opinion is not a limiting factor in taking effective action on climate change.

All right then. If public opinion is not a limiting factor then you hypothetically could increase public opinion from what it is so that it matches the opinion of climatologists publishing on climate change, 97% of whom accept human effects on climate, and we still wouldn't have passed a climate bill in Congress in '09 or '10. Sounds a little loony to me.

This isn't Roger "The Battle for US Public Opinion on Climate Change is Over" Jr's first attempt to dismiss denialism while demanding people not talk about it. He also concluded that the claim that 57 US Senators accepted climate reality in 2007 was not a problematically low figure. My math places 57 as less than 60, not even taking account the climate realists who bow to lobbyist pressure and the lost potential votes among the 43 who are unlikely to vote to address a problem they doubt exists.

This isn't to say that the forces of denial are going to win in the long run, just that RPJr's dismissal of their influence doesn't sound like sound political science.

Now hidden in his drive to be contrarian is an interesting nugget - back to To the Point:

Public has at least for 20 years been strongly behind climate science and the idea that action needs to be taken. What we have seen is a big partisan divide....It's become part of the culture wars of the United assumption that many scientists and experts carry with them that if only the public understood the science as they understand the science, the public would come to share their values....As a political scientist I look at issues like the debt ceiling or the war in Iraq or the TARP program and when you look at what public opinion was when action was taken on these controversial topics you find out that the strength of public opinion on climate change is at or exceeding the levels for which action was taken for the other issues. So I would say the evidence suggests pretty strongly that public opinion is not a limiting factor in taking effective action on climate change.

The stuff that's not bolded is either wrong or obvious. The bolded stuff, that legislative solutions with equal public support don't get passed at an equal rate suggest there's more to look at. RPJr goes on to say its the voters choosing the economy over their potential long term interest in climate, an Iron Law that's not so irony in practice. I'd suggest that the Iron Law doesn't exist, but that powerful economic interest tied into ideological backwardness can really screw things up in our democracy, especially when the 60 vote requirement in the Senate isn't very democratic.