Posted by: greeningwashington | February 23, 2009

The Red and Blue Effect

 According to a recent Gallup poll, 58 percent of Americans believe that the recent warming of the globe is due more to human activity than it is to natural causes.

While many environmental issues have historically been nonpartisan, global warming has increasingly been filtered through a red or blue lens. For instance, Republicans’ belief in human-induced global warming has declined 10 percentage points from 2003 to 2008 from 52 percent to 42 percent while Democrats’ belief has risen slightly from 68 percent to 73 percent according to the Gallup poll.

Another interesting statistic according to Gallup, is the increase over the past decade in the percentage of Americans who agree that “most scientists believe that global warming is occurring,” from 48 percent in 1997 to 65 percent in 2008.

I find the approximate 31 point gap between Republicans and Democrats actually quite surprising given the amount of unbiased scientific evidence available. However, we must consider the several intervening causes that have an effect on these numbers.

First, and probably most important, is the politically bias media coverage this topic receives. Tune into Fox News or MSNBC, listen to Rush Limbaugh, or read the New York Times and you will find a whole array of media coverage on global warming. Many political issues live and die at the hands of the media and global warming may very well be its next casualty.

Beyond the media’s bias, non-reporting, and fragmentation of global warming, is the political battleground. As a student of political science, I understand agenda setting, partisan bickering and party platforms, but I also know that politicians are usually not scientists. This is a pitfall in our system especially when it comes to passing meaningful legislation that deals with human and environment interaction. Science can help guide meaningful and accurate legislation, but it can also confuse and complicate issues.

Additionally, the public is so used to being spoon-fed one-liners and sound clips from the media and politicians that a semi-complex scientific theory on global warming is usually replaced by short, empty double talk. We are selectively attentive and politicians certainly take advantage of this fact. Take the 2009 Economic Recovery Act rhetoric as an example — it has been reduced to simple partisan speak. Even “Wall Street” is complaining about the limited details available to the banking industry.

Don’t misunderstand my point; I never claimed science was completely unbiased or free from human judgments (in fact, a feminist or sociologist would argue science is inherently socialized), I just trust it more than politics.

Science has become such as dirty word hasn’t it? I hope over the next four years the collective mood will shift and we will begin trusting and funding medical and discovery science again.

My entry tonight was inspired by a debate I had with one of my friends (you know who you are) over whether or not global warming is human-induced. While I cannot be certain of anything, I tend to side with the majority of credible scientists as compared to political pundits who get their information from other political pundits. Yet, it is not just any “scientist” I trust; I tend to find scientists who actually participate in atmospheric or climate research inherently more credible. That has actually been a criticism aimed at bias media who disproportionately highlight the low amount of skeptic scientists — many of whom aren’t atmospheric, geophysical, or climate scientists.

Please find below some internet sources I found highlighting global warming and the impact of humans.


 Not surprisingly, many of the skeptics I found are funded by oil or energy companies or politicians.



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