That climate change is going to affect us in our lifetimes is a fact that scientists and just about everyone else in the U.S. can agree on — everyone, that is, except for conservative Republicans.
In polling conducted by Gallup over the past five years, 59 percent of self-identified conservative Republicans said they don’t believe that climate change is happening now, and 70 percent said they don’t believe humans are responsible for it. The results, which represent the aggregated responses from 2010 to 2015, show how out-of-step conservatives are with the rest of the nation when it comes to the science of climate change.
Notably, only 37 percent of conservative Republicans said they think they’re going to live to see the effects of climate change. In contrast, 64 percent of Republicans who identify as moderate/liberal and 66 percent of non-leaning independents said they believe climate change is either already happening or will begin to soon. (Eighty-nine percent of liberal Democrats and 78 percent of conservative/moderate Democrats said the same.)
“Conservative Republicans not only reject the notion that the effects of global warming will happen in this lifetime — a position in sharp contrast to all other political identities — but another 40 percent say global warming will never happen,” Gallup reports. “This is significantly higher than the percentages of moderate/liberal Republicans (16 percent), non-leaning independents (14 percent), conservative/moderate Democrats (5 percent) and liberal Democrats (3 percent) who say the same.”
What they’re missing, of course, is that the effects of climate are already being seen today. The world just lived through its hottest year on record, a new high in a long-term trend — if you were born after 1976, your entire lifetime has consisted only of warmer-than-average years. In fact, 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have all occurred in the new millennium. Bear in mind, there have only been 14 years in the new millennium.
What’s more, according to May 2014 governmental report, climate change is already affecting all areas of the United States — whether it’s the drought in California, the record-low snowpack in the Western mountains, flooding in Miami or heavy downpours in the Northeast and Midwest, the effects of climate change are already taking their toll on millions of Americans. In the coming decades, scientists predict that mega-droughts
Of course, this intensification of weather and climate extremes is only one of the many ways we are and will be affected by global warming. Even the conservative predictions of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warn that climate change will exacerbate everything from global conflicts, infectious disease, food prices and water availability within many of our lifetimes. There’s plenty of research to suggest that the world, by 2050, may be in many ways unrecognizable from the one we live in now. And warming, if emissions keep rising, will continue — in a worst-case scenario, a child born today could see temperatures rise as high as 6.3 degrees Celsius in her lifetime, well beyond the agreed-upon “safe limit” of 2 degrees.
Today, 97.1 percent of experts agree that climate change is real and man-made, a consensus reached by studying over 11,000 peer-reviewed articles between 1991 and 2011. Despite this overwhelming consensus, most conservative Republicans reject the idea that there is a link between pollution and rising temperatures. They are the only political group to have a majority not believe in the evidence-based connection, according to the Gallup data.
Leaders within the Republican party, including many 2016 presidential hopefuls, have also expressed denial about the science of climate change. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is running for the 2016 Republican ticket, has openly admitted that he does not believe in global warming, while fellow GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has said he doesn’t believe humans cause climate change. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a likely 2016 candidate, has said he doesn’t believe the science is settled and even pulled out the “I am not a scientist” line – a go-to GOP tactic used to dodge the evidence while avoiding flat-out denial.
In fact, according to analysis by Climate Progress, 53 percent (131 members) of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives and 70 percent (38 members) of Republicans on the Senate side deny the existence of anthropogenic (man-made) climate change. They deny what over 97 percent of scientists say is happening — current human activity creates the greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat within the atmosphere and cause climate change. And their constituents are paying the price, with Americans across the nation suffering 500 climate-related national disaster declarations since 2011.