A giant study by the United States government documented the many negative effects the country is already feeling from a changing climate, and forecast much worse to come. It probably won’t change many minds, other research suggests. On the other hand, voting this week suggests that may not matter so much.
The U.S. Global Change Research Program released a mandated assessment last week which warned that human activity was primarily responsible for climate changes that have amplified storms, contributed to record western wildfires, and may cause sea levels to rise by up to 2.4 metres this century, obliterating coastlines—and coastal cities—from Miami to San Francisco. The official report was little changed from a draft released in August.
“But there is little reason to think that yet another scientific report will fundamentally shift attitudes on global warming—either among policy-makers or the public at large,” writes the New York Times. “Researchers have found again and again” that in the United States, “attitudes about climate change are shaped far more profoundly by political ideology or by comfort with proposed solutions to global warming than they are by the science itself.”
“Few observers expect this new report to influence the Trump administration, which has pushed to repeal federal regulations on the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming, and whose officials have expressed doubt about the causes of a warming planet,” the Times adds.
Indeed, aides said Trump, was “barely aware” of his own scientists’ massive survey, the paper reported.
“Two things everyone seems to share,” said Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist and Trump administration adviser, “are a concern that climate sensitivity is overblown and a sturdy skepticism about any and all possible ‘remedies’ that have been proposed.”
“I don’t see where this report is going to alter either of those sentiments,” he said. “Nor do I think it should.”
The “everyone” in McKenna’s comments takes little account of the clear majority of Americans who voice support for the Paris Agreement and regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. And while the latest evidence of climate stability unravelling may have changed few doubter’s minds, it may have had a hand in the election of climate hawks to a clutch of governors’ mansions, statehouses and mayors’ chairs.