Monday, October 26, 2009

On Global Warming Solutions, Focus on Americans' Aspirations, Not Their Views

Last week, a Pew Research Center poll came out, seeming to show that Americans have become more skeptical about global warming.

"Well, we're going into winter right now," I thought to myself.  "Ask these same questions during a mid-July heat-wave, and the answers would almost certainly be much different."

So the attention I paid to the poll was more to think about what it means for the prospects for passing climate and energy solutions legislation now, rather than how it really reflects the current blip in Americans' all-over-the-place views regarding global warming, in itself.

In the end, the coverage of the Pew poll that I decided to share with our readers was a piece on the subject by Grist's David Roberts, who notes that:

The temptation is to respond to a poll like Pew’s with lamentations about the state of science education—to imagine that the public, like scientists, can be swayed by the weight of empirical evidence. But the most important political takeaway is almost the opposite: popular belief in the science of climate change will follow popular support for clean energy, not the other way around. Make clean energy cheap, easily available, and desirable to the mainstream, and people will stop paying attention to industry-funded cranks and charlatans. There won’t be the same anxiety and loss aversion to exploit.

The poll also shows that 73% of people—22% more than believe there’s good evidence for anthropocentric climate change—believe it’s a serious or somewhat serious problem. Some 50% support cap-and-trade, yet only 24% even know that cap-and-trade is an environmental policy.

In these incoherent results there is another important lesson: quiz Americans on their knowledge and you get confusion; solicit their goals and aspirations and they are clear. Poll after poll has shown that the public supports clean energy, supports Obama, and wants legislative action. Those are the polls that matter.

Good analysis.  And right in line with what we've argued here time and again -- there is a broad-based, consensus among Americans of the need to transition to a clean energy economy.

Focus your call for supporting the Climate Bill on global warming, itself, and some people will agree with the solutions, some won't.  There are just too many people who can't "see" the impacts of invisible gases like CO2 on the entire planet's climate.  Not yet, at least...

Focus your call to action on the environmental, economic, health, security, and quality of life benefits of clean energy-related solutions, and far more people get how these policies will make their daily lives better.

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