You might think that those who are skeptical (or downright intransigent) on a CO2 basis for global warming are bigger wasters of energy or greater polluters than those who accept climate science.
Not so. Skeptics are just as green. Their reasons may simply be different.
In 2008, Ed Maibach and colleagues did a survey (Who's 'Greener', Democrats Or Republicans?) and found that percentages of people concerned about our climate future to varying degrees were about what you would expect; on the fringes were outright deniers that pollution could be bad on one side and on the other side were people who believe anything advocacy groups like Union of Concerned Scientists tell them. In the middle were varying levels of skepticism and acceptance and that has likely gone up and down as issues like ClimateGate (and UN claims about 50 million people in a global warming Exodus by 2010) came to the fore or new studies showing melting ice came around.
So why wouldn't skeptics be less environmentally considerate? As discussed in Were Republicans Smart All Along? They Accept Climate Change But Not Global Warming disbelieving a CO2 basis for global warming does not mean lack of concern about the environment, it's more that climate scientists and journalists chose to become cheerleaders for global warming - and that was never going to win hearts and minds when it came to good policy decisions. Skeptics still care, they just aren't convinced the other side is caring about the right thing.
Stephanie Pappas at LiveScience recently caught up with Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale University Project on Climate Change, who helped with the 2008 survey, and he noted all of the groups, from outright skeptics to true believers, conserved energy at the same rates.
"The dismissive are conserving energy and saving energy as much as anyone else," Leiserowitz told LiveScience. "It's about thrift, conservation. These are core American values."
Why? To some, conserving energy is saving money, to some, it is dislike of OPEC dictators who control much of the oil supply. It doesn't matter why, the fact is they do it. Insisting that people not only act the right way but truly believe is religion, not public policy, so doing the right thing is good enough.
Environmental advocacy groups have shrilly insisted they are being outspent and that is why they have lost ground publicly. That was never true, not even close, but it brought in donations because activists wanted to believe it, much like they want to believe they're the only ones who conserve energy or care about nature. Matthew Nisbet, associate professor of communication at American University in Washington DC but more famous here for his staunch advocacy of framing science (cynical opposition to our belief that people out there are smart, they just don't like being deceived or manipulated) did a study and showed that not only were advocacy groups not outspent, even the more generous agreement to accept environmental group statements for how much they spent on global warming ad campaigns was well beyond what detractors were able to mobilize.
Instead of lamenting a money cause for skepticism, the onus is back on climate science to rein in silly kooks who think they are trying to help and become trusted guides for the public once again. But, no, the commentary on Nisbet's work from the usual suspects is that it wasn't peer-reviewed (it's an analysis of money spent - yet the Himalayas are melting passed IPCC 'peer review' just fine, even though it was a comment from a magazine article printed as fact) while Joseph Romm of ClimateProgress.org panics and claims opponents of climate legislation outspent environmentalists 8 to 1 and thinks that because other true believers also don't like Nisbet's analysis it must be flawed. Logical fallacies make lousy science.
I'm not a big fan of his framing stance but Nisbet is right on this one. Because climate change is an issue that impacts all of us, it has to be acted on by all of us. So why people use less energy or tackle charge is basically irrelevant - stopping terrorism, saving money, caring about Sierra Club - what is important is that they do.
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