Surveyors interviewed 1,010 adults from across the nation earlier this year, identifying them as Democrat, Republican, Independent, or Tea Party members. The latter made up 12 percent of respondents, while Democrats held the plurality at 39 percent.
The majority of the other three groups believe global warming is indeed happening, but Democrats are the only group with a majority — 62 percent — who name human activities as the culprit. Fifty-one percent of Tea Party respondents say they are not at all worried about global warming and believe it will never harm people in the United States or around the world. In contrast, 72 percent of Democrats worry about it, and 45 percent say it is already harming people.
Democrats and Tea Party members are clearly divided on most of the survey parameters, with Independents and Republicans usually ranking in between. Yet Republicans often lean toward Tea Party thinking. For example, 55 percent of Democrats think most scientists agree global warming is a reality, while both Republicans (56 percent) and Tea Partiers (69 percent) say there is much disagreement in the scientific community on the subject.
Majorities of all four groups agree on several points, however. They support federal funding of research to develop renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, as well as tax rebates for purchasing items like solar panels and energy-efficient vehicles. They would back efficiency requirements for new home construction and expansion of public transportation. They are also for expanding domestic offshore oil and natural-gas drilling.
In other areas, Tea Party members are clearly divided from the majority of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. While majorities from the latter three groups would like to see electric utilities saddled with renewable energy portfolio mandates, most Tea Partiers oppose the idea. They are also strongly against an international treaty to cut carbon dioxide emissions, in contrast to support of a treaty from majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Tea Party members are the only majority to favor building a nuclear power plant near their own homes, and they are the most likely to blame environmental protection policies for retarding economic growth and increasing unemployment.
So is global warming real? And can human activities have an effect on mean global temperatures? The answer is "yes," to both questions, according to James Taylor, managing editor of Environment & Climate News. In a Forbes op/ed this week, Taylor explained the world has indeed been heating up since the Little Ice Age of the early 1800s. "And it's a good thing" temperatures have risen, says Taylor. "Only the most zealous and delusional of global warming activists would argue the Little Ice Age brought about beneficial climate conditions."
As for the issue of human-caused global warming, Taylor accedes human activities can impact temperatures. Yet he postulates they account for "roughly 0.06 degrees Celsius of warming during the past century." He says those who call this a crisis are alarmists. "Nor does it necessarily follow that we must wreck our economy to fight it," opines Taylor.
Another survey published this week by Rasmussen Reports reveals the public's growing skepticism regarding global warming's poster child, Al Gore. Despite Gore's Nobel Prize and Academy Award, only 24 percent of respondents trust his expertise on the issue, and 91 percent have an unfavorable view of him. Interestingly, the survey found most Americans believe scientists are divided on the issue of global warming and that some go so far as to falsify data to gain support for their personal theories.