The only compelling motivator for public opinion on climate science is partisanship. Simply put, the Republican Party has multiple compelling interests in denying the reality of climate change. If climate change is real, it's almost certainly a problem that requires preventative global governmental intervention rather than post facto free market corrections. Acting on climate change would also directly impact the bottom lines of traditionally Republican fossil fuel economy donors. They stand to lose a lot of money.
The Republican base is made up mostly of older white men. The big money donors and their conspiracy theorist mouthpieces on talk radio and Fox News have spent countless hours and billions of dollars convincing the Republican base that climate change isn't real, much in the same cynical way that they've persuaded their base that giving more money to billionaires will create jobs. So older white men tend to disbelieve in climate change. If Fox News and Rush Limbaugh started telling them that the sun revolved around the earth, their base would start believing that, too.
It also appears that the number of people in both the acceptance and denialist camps is increasing, and the number of people in the middle is decreasing. That's another sign of the power of partisanship in this debate:
But, of course, not all partisanship is created equal, nor is it necessarily a bad thing. If one side of the country passionately believes that 2+2=4 and the other side just as passionately believes that 2+2=5, then the problem isn't that the country is bitterly divided. The problem is that there is a corruption in the system that allows so many people to be deluded into believing patently and obviously wrong things. Nor would a reasonable person be inclined to fault the passions of those who accept the science of arithmetic, or question the legitimacy of their political intensity.
We know that climate change is real and manmade. This is not a subject for serious dispute among knowledgeable people. The only reason it has become such a contentious issue is that the Republican Party and its media machinery have chosen to betray the trust of their loyal demographic constituencies for raw financial and ideological gain. They have turned the world's most pressing and consequential problem into just another tribal marker in the endless partisan war.
That goes beyond petty politics and the perpetual fight over resource allocation. That comes perilously close to a crime against humanity.
Cross-posted from Digby's Hullabaloo
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