There was a time – a recent time – when concern about the environment was relatively bipartisan, not a cultural flashpoint.
A Republican, President Richard Nixon, established the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. In the 1980s and 1990s, bipartisan majorities voted to strengthen the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, led by a Republican – Rhode Island’s Sen. John Chafee.
Those days are gone, and today a wide range of misleading statements and outright lies about the reality of human-caused climate change circulate widely.
The sheer volume of misinformation can distort perceptions of how many people don’t believe the science that shows the Earth’s climate is changing because of human activity, said Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and professor at Texas Tech University.
“I call them ‘zombie arguments’ because you can explain that they’re not true but they still go stumbling around because they’re not about facts but excuses,” she said.
In truth, a small number of people actually believe these lies, she said. Surveys by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication in Connecticut have found 8% to 9% of Americans are totally dismissive of climate change, believing it is either not happening, not human-caused or not a threat. Many of these people also endorse conspiracy theories about global warming.
“They’re just 8% of the population. A loud 8%, and very present online, but only 8%. So I would rather answer from the perspective of everybody else,” said Hayhoe, who is also an evangelical Christian whose most recent book is “Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World.” [Continue reading…]