Within moments of Donald Trump’s inauguration, the White House web page on climate change was purged, and on March 28 Trump ordered the dismantling of the Clean Power Plan which was designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. He’s also pledged to reinvigorate the sagging coal industry and to throw a wrench into the historic Paris climate agreement. Many members of Congress are also openly climate change skeptics or deniers.
In a representative democracy such as ours, one might conclude that most Americans don’t believe in or are unconcerned about climate change. Two recent polls reveal how wrong this is.
Seventy percent of Americans believe global warming is happening, according to a national survey of over 18,000 adults conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication from 2008 to 2016. Fully 75 percent of Americans favor regulating CO2 as a pollutant.
Consistent with this, 62 percent of Americans responded “no” when asked if President Trump should “remove specific regulation intended to combat climate change” in a nationwide poll released on March 8 by Quinnipiac University. Furthermore, a Yale Project post-election poll of Trump voters found that more than six in ten support taxing and/or regulating the pollution that causes global warming.
An obvious next question is whether these national averages are masking major state-to-state variations in public opinion. The answer is no. The Yale Project concluded that in all 50 states a solid majority of the public both believe global warming is happening (between 60 percent and 78 percent) and favor regulating CO2 as a pollutant (66 percent to 81 percent). Majorities in every state also believe global warming will harm future generations.
Clearly, Americans are concerned about climate change and want their government to take action. If majorities in Congress are hearing this, there’s little evidence.
In fact, the Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017 (H.R.637) introduced in January, with 121 signatories, is blatantly designed to block any national action on climate change. It amends the Clean Air Act to exclude CO2 from regulation and specifically nullifies any existing laws aimed at addressing global warming.
On the whole, Californians strongly believe global warming is happening (75 percent) and want CO2 regulated as a pollutant (77 percent). Furthermore, the Yale Project found that large majorities in all 53 of California’s congressional districts believe climate change is happening (67 percent to 86 percent) and want CO2 regulated as a pollutant (71 percent to 83 percent), and this includes 14 districts currently represented by a Republican. It should be surprising then to learn that some representatives have taken positions on climate change in direct opposition to the majority of their constituents.
For example, in historically conservative Orange County, Calif., Republican representatives of four of the six districts – Darrell Issa (49-R), Dana Rohrabacher (48-R), Ed Royce (39-R) and Mimi Walters (45-R) – all voted in the last Congress in favor of repealing the rule establishing limits on CO2 emissions from power plants as set by the Clean Power Plan (S.J. Res. 23&24). Walters is currently cosponsoring the Stopping EPA Overreach Act, and both she and Rohrabacher cosponsored an identical bill in the last Congress. Furthermore, none of these four were among the 17 co-sponsors of an all-Republican House resolution introduced on March 15 calling for action on climate change.
However, Issa, long an outspoken skeptic of governmental initiatives to slow global warming, might be shifting position following a razor thin win to retain his seat last November. He recently joined the Climate Solutions Caucus, a nascent and growing bipartisan coalition of 36 House members dedicated to solving climate change. He’s the only California Republican yet to join.
It’s deeply troubling that some of our representatives are so out of step with their constituents on climate change. Are they genuinely clueless about what their constituents think, or do they just not care? Either is unacceptable.
Visit the Yale Project’s user friendly interactive maps to learn how the people in your state and congressional district view issues about climate change.