The title in the Western Journalism article pretty much says it all: “Campaign 2016: Nobody Cares About Climate Change (And That’s Good!)”
The lede graph: “On February 11, Politico released survey results from “a bipartisan panel of respondents” who it claims are “Republican and Democratic insiders”…“activists, strategists and operatives in the four early nominating states” who answered the questions anonymously. The results? As one Republican respondent from South Carolina (SC) put it: “Climate change is simply not a front burner issue to most people.” A Nevada Democrat agreed: “I don’t believe this is a critical issue for many voters when compared to the economy and national security.”
Notable quotes from the story: “no “blue-collar swing voter” ever said: “I really like their jobs plan, but, boy, I don’t know about their position on climate change.”
“Energy is a second tier issue. Climate change is fifth tier. Nobody cares about it. It is always at the bottom.”
More from the story that echoes what I have been writing at this weblog for years: “The climate change agenda has been the most expensive and extensive public relations campaign in the history of the world. Gallup has been polling on this issue for 25 years. Despite the herculean effort, fewer people are worried about climate change today than 25 years ago. Pew Research Center has repeatedly found that when given a list of concerns regarding the public’s policy priorities, respondents put jobs and the economy at the top of the list, with climate change at the bottom. Polling done just before the UN climate conference in Paris found that only 3% of Americans believe that climate change is the most important issue facing America.
“Even Democrat Jane Kleeb, an outspoken opponent of the Keystone pipeline, acknowledged that climate change, as an issue, doesn’t move people to act.
“David Wilkins, a former U.S. Ambassador to Canada who has worked on issues such as energy, national security, and the environment, said that voters are “not going to let the environment trump the economy.” He believes there will be a reapplication for the Keystone pipeline and that eventually, it will be built. Another insider, Democrat Inez Tenenbaum, disagreed, saying: “people don’t want to be energy dependent.” To which Wilkins quipped: “All the more reason to get oil from our friends.”
“When it comes to energy, there are clearly differences between the parties; but strangely, both agree that climate change isn’t “a major issue for voters.””
The author doesn’t get around to explaining the ‘And That’s Good!’ part of her headline. I certainly don’t think it’s good.
Climate change deserves to be on the public agenda. Not at the top, but certainly not at the bottom. The globe has warmed, even if we haven’t suffered much in the way of consequences as a result. Should the warming continue, most climate scientists think it will pose problems. Not earth-shattering, crisis time, let’s drop everything to fix it problems, but problems that will cost money to fix (or hopefully prevent), problems that will slow down the development of the developing world and add to the mix of problems that will face a world with 10 billion people striving to get rich, eat rich and live rich simultaneously.
That Republican and Democratic political strategists have correctly assessed the political impact of climate change on the upcoming election is one thing. But that should not substitute for a more careful assessment of its impacts beyond the electoral horizon.