Differing opinions on climate change

It is no secret that opinions on climate change around the world are all quite different. Countries, political parties, men and women all have differing views. Pew Research Center has conducted multiple studies regarding these differences with the most popular study being the difference between political parties.

Conducted in October 2016 by Cary Funk and Brian Kennedy, The Politics of Climate used several surveys to establish the divide between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans in categories such as trust in professional researchers and the information about climate change that they are producing. The study surveyed 1,534 American adults with a margin of error at four percentage points. In accordance with this study, Democrats have been shown to be more positive about the information presented by scientists, while Republicans are more doubtful. The chart below maps the differences.

PEW Research Center

Along with distrust, the study looks at other factors, listed below.

  • “Seven-in-ten liberal Democrats (70 percent) trust climate scientists a lot to give full and accurate information about the causes of climate change, compared with just 15 percent of conservative Republicans.
  • Some 54 percent of liberal Democrats say climate scientists understand the causes of climate change very well. This compares with only 11 percent among conservative Republicans and 19 percent among moderate/liberal Republicans.
  • Liberal Democrats, more than any other party/ideology group, perceive widespread consensus among climate scientists about the causes of warming. Only 16 percent of conservative Republicans say almost all scientists agree on this, compared with 55 percent of liberal Democrats.
  • The credibility of climate research is also closely tied with Americans’ political views. Some 55 percent of liberal Democrats say climate research reflects the best available evidence most of the time, 39 percent say some of the time. By contrast, 9 percent of conservative Republicans say this occurs most of the time, 54 percent say it occurs some of the time.
  • On the flip side, conservative Republicans are more inclined to say climate research findings are influenced by scientists’ desire to advance their careers (57 percent) or their own political leanings (54 percent) most of the time. Small minorities of liberal Democrats say either influence occurs most of the time (16 percent and 11 percent, respectively).”

The differences between political parties may be large on the above issues, however, most Americans, putting aside party affiliation, believe that climate scientists should have a say in policy decisions regarding climate change.

“69 percent among moderate or liberal Republicans and 48 percent of conservative Republicans say climate scientists should have a major role in policy decisions related to the climate,” Funk and Kennedy said.

A large portion of this study looks at the gap between republicans and democrats over what can be done to lessen the effect humans have on the climate.

  •             “Power plant emission restrictions − 76 percent of liberal Democrats say this can make a big difference, while 29 percent of conservative Republicans say the same, a difference of 47-percentage points.
  • An international agreement to limit carbon emissions − 71 percent of liberal Democrats and 27 percent of conservative Republicans say this can make a big difference, a gap of 44-percentage points.
  • Tougher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks − 67 percent of liberal Democrats and 27 percent of conservative Republicans say this can make a big difference, a 40-percentage-point divide.
  • Corporate tax incentives to encourage businesses to reduce the “carbon footprint” from their activities − 67 percent of liberal Democrats say this can make a big difference, while 23 percent of conservative Republicans agree for a difference of 44 percentage points.
  • More people driving hybrid and electric vehicles − 56 percent of liberal Democrats say this can make a big difference, while 23 percent of conservative Republicans do, a difference of 33-percentage points.
  • People’s individual efforts to reduce their “carbon footprints” as they go about daily life − 52 percent of liberal Democrats say this can make a big difference compared with 21 percent of conservative Republicans, a difference of 31 percentage points.”
PEW Research Center

Six out of 10 liberal Democrats believe that climate change will directly damage the environment while two in 10 conservative Republicans do not.

Funk and Kennedy also note that “scientific literacy” does not affect either party’s opinions on climate change. The entire study can be found here.

In another Pew Research Center study from 2015 by Jacob Poushter, Canadians are more concerned about climate change than Americans are.

According to a chart in the study, 84 percent of Canadians support limiting greenhouse gas emissions, while 69 percent of Americans support it. 73 percent of Canadians believe that people need to make lifestyle changes to help reduce human effects of climate change while 66 percent of Americans believe this. 56 percent of Canadians believe climate change is currently harming people while 41 percent of Americans believe this. 49 percent of Canadians believe that rich countries should do more to address climate change while 40 percent of Americans believe rich countries should do more. Perhaps the most important statistic in the chart is 51 percent of Canadians believe that climate change is a serious problem while only 45 percent of Americans believe that climate change is a serious problem. The low concern for climate change as a serious issue may prove alarming to some.

Poushter also notes in his study that “[d]espite the greater concern shown by Canadians on global warming, partisan divides on the issue follow a similar pattern in both countries.” The entire study can be found here.

Pew Research Center’s Richard Wike collected a series of data and charts showing the opinions of the world when it comes to climate change. One of the charts states that countries with higher levels of carbon emissions are less concerned with climate change.

In a less alarming chart, “Climate change is not seen as a distant threat. A global median of 51 percent say climate change is already harming people around the world, while another 28 percent believe it will do so in the next few years.” Latin America is the country that sees climate change as the biggest threat with 77 percent of people concerned about it effecting people today. Looking closer, 90 percent of Brazilians feel that climate change is currently harming people on Earth. The entire study can be found here.

In another study at Pew Research Center from December 2015 by Hani Zainulbhai, women are more concerned for climate change personally harming them than men. Women are also noted believing that climate change is a serious problem. In the U.S., women are 17 percent more likely to believe climate change is a serious problem. In Canada, women are 13 percent more likely to be concerned by climate change while in Australia, the gap is 12 percent.

As for climate change being personally harmful, “The gender disparity also occurs in views of personal harm caused by climate change. American women again differ the most from their male counterparts – 69 percent of women are concerned it will harm them personally, while fewer than half of men (48 percent) express this view. Women are more concerned than men in many of the other countries surveyed, including double-digit gender imbalances in Germany (+15 points) and Canada (+14),” Zainulbhai said. The entire study can be found here.

While all of these studies are different, they do hold one similar conclusion. Climate change is not being taken as seriously as it should be.