Shocking, I know.
Denialism on the political right is becoming increasingly entrenched. When it comes to the basic issues of causation and general solutions there isn’t a “public acceptance” problem. There is a “right wing rejection of science incompatible with dominant conservative (anti-regulation, evangelical) ideologies” problem.
The solution is not to demonize the right wing, of course. But we can stop pretending that this is some sort of general failing of science communication and at least acknowledge where the problem audiences are. Moreover, once we all are willing to recognize this partisan divide for what it is, we need to reconsider the way we are going about seeking to change it. We can convince every “skeptic”, “lukewarmer”, what have you, and it won’t make a difference. I’ve been saying this for quite some time:
[The focus on winning them over on this narrow issue] misses the point… the short and sweet of it is that getting people to accept the mainstream… take on the science will do practically nothing to push the US (or Canada or Oz) towards meaningful policy action. This is due to the demographics of those who are unaccepting of the science, who they vote for, and the institutions that shape the type of politician these people vote for. Unless we can not only convince these people of the science and the necessity of mitigation and convince them that it’s important enough to be a top tier voting issue, such outreach is pointless.
Unfortunately being laughably wrong about science has no (or at least not nearly enough of a) social downside. Mainstream politicians can talk about literally believing in a talking snake or that the planet is “CO2 starved” and nothing bad happens to them.
… The idea that successful communication training and outreach by the scientific community will be sufficient to rollback these forces is… naive. As long as there are religious, political, and economic interests threatened by the conclusions of science, science will be under attack…
Convincing the people is not enough if the politicians they will vote for are persuaded to do nothing. Convincing politicians is not enough if they will be replaced by politicians who are persuaded to do nothing.
Even if you can overcome denialism in a constituency, that constituency may not convince their legislative representatives. Even if you convince the representatives, their larger intraparty dynamics may prevent them from acting on it. Even if these representatives are convinced to vote on it, they can and likely will still be challenged in primaries by Club for Growth, Koch Bros approved and funded candidates until they lose or change their position. There are significant institutional barriers to overcoming the partisan divide on climate at virtually every level of the political process.
And, bad news for the “breakthrough” boys and their journalistic cheerleaders, it applies to clean energy miracle funding as well:
Republican support for increased federal funding for wind, solar and hydrogen technology dropped 20 points from 2008, the survey found. There was a 13-point drop in the same time frame among GOP respondents favoring “better fuel efficiency” for vehicles.
Democratic views on the same questions changed little over the past two years, the poll found. Among independents, there was a decline, but less pronounced than with Republicans. The partisan difference likely is a result of increasing suspicion among Republicans about government spending, rather than disdain for renewable energy, said Christopher Borick of Muhlenberg College, who did not conduct the Pew poll. Carroll Doherty of the Pew Center echoed his comments about government funding.
“Anything that smacks of expansion of government budgets is unlikely to score very well with Republicans right now,” said Borick, who has studied public opinion on climate change.