Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bad climate policy? Yale study fingers public opinion, not political stonewalling, for many of the defects

Deniers have failed to persuade others, but continue to amp up their own convictions

The Yale Project on Climate Change Communications' recent survey had a lot of bad news for deniers -- most people believe climate change is real, and dangerous, and support an international treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But like their prior, "Six Americas" survey, the news is not all good.  People support measures to address global warming, but not the right ones.

All numbers that follow take combine the "strongly support" and "somewhat support" for the sum of those polled.

Make us virtuous

Q174. Sign an international treaty that requires the United States to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide 90% by the year 2050.

Support: 65%(!)

Regulation Ho!

Q125. Regulations requiring any new home to be more energy efficient. This would increase the initial cost by about $7,500, but save about $17,000 in utility bills over 30 years.

Support: 71%

Q127. Changing your county’s zoning rules to promote the construction of more energy-efficient
apartment buildings, instead of less efficient single-family homes.

Support: 52%

Q173. Require electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable energy sources, even if it cost the average household an extra $100 a year.

Support: 67%

Q128. Changing your county’s zoning rules to require that neighborhoods have a mix of housing, offices, industry, schools, and stores close together, to encourage walking and decrease the need for
a car.

Support: 58%

Complicate all the tax codes!

Q180. Provide tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels.

Support: 82%

More government spending!

Q131. Constructing bike paths and installing bike lanes on city streets.

Support: 78%

Q132. Increasing the availability of public transportation in your county.

Supoort: 82%

Q179. Fund more research into renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.

Support: 84%

But not yet

Q181. Increase taxes on gasoline by 25 cents per gallon and return the revenues to taxpayers by reducing the federal income tax.

Support: 32%

Q122. A $1.50 fee added to your monthly electric utility bill to fund local programs to save energy.

Support: 48%

Q124. A 10-cent fee added to each gallon of gasoline you buy, to fund local programs to improve public transportation.

Support: 28%

Q126. A $5-a-month increase in property taxes, to provide funding to help homeowners make energy-efficiency improvements to their homes (such as replacing old, inefficient furnaces, water heaters, air conditioners, and insulation).

Support: 49%

Q130. A $5-a-month increase in property taxes, to provide funding to homeowners that install solar panels.

Support: 43%

If you care about this issue, and don't want to rip your hair out in frustration at those numbers, you are already bald. People want 90% cuts in emissions, but they don't support an extra $1.50 a month on their gas bill to save energy. They are all for more spending on alternative energy, but all against  a $0.25/gallon gas tax completely refunded via income tax cuts. They reject an extra $5 a month in property taxes, but support a regulatory burden of $7,500 for every new home.

Regulations and government research grants are better than nothing but, as I've often argued here, they are far inferior to price signals via carbon taxes (I shudder to think the numbers a carbon taxes would have registered.) But clearly ten years of war, economic recession, spiraling debt, accelerating climate change, and the rise of the developing world have not changed the American public's "bread and circuses" approach -- we want everything, right now, and we don't want to pay anything for it.

We can needle Rick Perry all we want, but stupid policy comes ultimately not from stupid politicians, but from stupid voters. The main barrier to an effective climate change strategy is not deniers and not lukewarmers; it is the irrational, waffling, give-me-everything-and-charge-me-nothing public. In other words, it's us.


  1. Amazing. From the bottom chart, it appears that over 50% of tea baggers don't think you need any information to form an opinion. Well I already knew that, as it applies to them. But find it amusing that they agree.

    But the second chart shows that they think they are very well informed, far more so than the other groups. Well schooled in conspiracy theories, I would assume.

  2. I'll level with you: I used to think the Dunning-Kruger effect was a kind of psuedo-psychology brought up to make fun of deniers' ignorance, but it's really true: they don't know enough to know how little they know.

  3. You'll love this - has to be a candidate for idiot site of the decade :-)

  4. God. I can't enjoy that site. That guy needs medication, and not in a ha-ha, deranged-by-politics sort of way.

    Might do a post around this guy -- crazy (this guy) vs evil (Breivik).