Study suggests far-reaching acceptance of climate change in traditionally Republican states such as Texas and Oklahoma
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
theguardian.com, Wednesday 13 November 2013 19.40 GMT
A cracked lake bed in Texas. Findings in this study are likely based on personal experiences of hot weather. Photograph: Tony Gutierrez/AP
A vast majority of red-state Americans believe climate change is real and at least two-thirds of those want the government to cut greenhouse gas emissions, new research revealed on Wednesday.
The research, by Stanford University social psychologist Jon Krosnick, confounds the conventional wisdom of climate denial as a central pillar of Republican politics, and practically an article of faith for Tea Party conservatives.
Instead, the findings suggest far-reaching acceptance that climate change is indeed occurring and is caused by human activities, even in such reliably red states as Texas and Oklahoma.
“To me, the most striking finding that is new today was that we could not find a single state in the country where climate scepticism was in the majority,” Krosnick said in an interview.
States that voted for Barack Obama, as expected, also believe climate change is occurring and support curbs on carbon pollution. Some 88% of Massachusetts residents believe climate change is real.
But Texas and Oklahoma are among the reddest of red states and are represented in Congress by Republicans who regularly dismiss the existence of climate change or its attendant risks.
Congressman Joe Barton of Texas and Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma stand out for their regular denials of climate change as a “hoax”, even among Republican ranks.
However, the research found 87% of Oklahomans and 84% of Texans accepted that climate change was occurring.
Seventy-six percent of Americans in both states also believed the government should step in to limit greenhouse gas emissions produced by industry.
In addition, the research indicated substantial support for Obama’s decision to use the Environmental Protection Agency to cut emissions from power plants. The polling found at least 62% of Americans in favour of action cutting greenhouse gas emissions from plants.
Once again, Texas was also solidly lined up with action, with 79% of voters supporting regulation of power plants.
The acceptance of climate change was not a result of outreach efforts by scientists, however, or by the experience of extreme events, such as hurricane Sandy, Krosnick said.
His research found no connection between Sandy and belief in climate change or support for climate action.
Instead, he said the findings suggest personal experiences of hot weather – especially in warm states in the south-west – persuaded Texans and others that the climate was indeed changing within their own lifetimes.
“Their experience with weather leaves people in most places on the green side in most of the questions we ask,” he said.
There was some small slippage in acceptance of climate change in north-western states such as Idaho and Utah and in the industrial heartland states of Ohio. But even then at a minimum, 75% believed climate change was occurring.
The findings, represented in a series of maps, were presented at a meeting of the bicameral task force on climate change which has been pushing Congress to try to move ahead on Obama’s green commitments. There was insufficient data to provide findings from a small number of states
Henry Waxman, the Democrat who co-chairs the taskforce, said in a statement the findings showed Americans were ready to take action to cut emissions that cause climate change.
“This new report is crystal clear,” said Waxman. “It shows that the vast majority of Americans – whether from red states or blue – understand that climate change is a growing danger. Americans recognise that we have a moral obligation to protect the environment and an economic opportunity to develop the clean energy technologies of the future. Americans are way ahead of Congress in listening to the scientists.”
Some 58% of Republicans in the current Congress deny the existence of climate change or oppose action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress.