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Climate Change

Published on September 26th, 2012 | by Silvio Marcacci


Politicians & Their Professors: A Disconnect On Climate Change

September 26th, 2012 by  

Our choice of college often shapes our outlook toward life. After all, since it takes so long to complete and costs so much, we probably tend to believe (or at least respect) what our college professors teach us, right? Well, unfortunately, when it comes to politicians and their climate change professors, the answer is often “no.”

This discrepancy is highlighted in “Politicians and Their Professors,” a new report from the Massachusetts-based Better Future Project. The report compares politicians’ views on addressing climate change to the views of climate experts at their alma maters. The report analyzed the two Presidential candidates and 16 Congressional candidates from Massachusetts.

The bottom line isn’t promising – while 99.5 percent of the professors publishing climate change research at the politicians’ alma maters agree climate change is real and human-caused, only 55.5 percent of the federal candidates in question back the climate consensus.

For the purposes of this report, “climate consensus” is defined as the global scientific consensus that climate change is real and manmade, established in 2010 by a study of 1,372 climate researchers and their data, which found 97-98 percent support for anthropogenic climate change.

Once again, the stark differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are on display in this study. Obama agrees with 100 percent of the 54 publishing professors at his alma maters of Columbia, Occidental, and Harvard who believe in the climate change consensus.

Romney, on the other hand, has flip-flopped on the consensus, directly conflicting with the 97.6 percent of the 42 publishing professors at his alma maters of Harvard, Stanford, and Brigham Young who agree with the climate change consensus. It should be noted that all professors at Harvard and Stanford agreed with the consensus opinion, while 86 percent of those at Brigham Young agreed.

Of the 16 current Members of Congress and prospective candidates from Massachusetts, nine have issued statements supporting the climate change consensus, while seven have either denied or not taken a stand on the question – including both Republicans and Democrats.

In other words, of all the candidates running to represent one of the most educated and progressive states in the country, only 56.25 percent agree climate change is real and anthropogenic, despite the fact that 99.5 percent of professors at the colleges that educated them support the consensus.

While the report certainly isn’t scientific or exhaustive, it’s an interesting angle to take on this issue, and yet one more way to ask why our elected officials deny the reality of climate change, says the report’s author.

“We believed that politicians would find it harder to disregard the experts at the universities they trusted and valued enough to invest tens of thousands of dollars and spend years of their lives at to gain knowledge,” said Craig Altemose of Better Future. “If they aren’t convinced by the experts at their own alma maters, then who will they trust?”

Teacher in classroom image via Shutterstock

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.

  • It shows how Republican politicians especially are willing to sell their souls in order to get elected, and how Republicans represent business/capitalism which is only concerned about making the maximum amount of money for themselves regardless of the consequences for everyone else.

  • Silvio

    I agree that it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, and definitely not scientific, but it’s definitely an illustrative way of looking at how candidates make a scientific issue political.

  • While they don’t listen to the “climate experts at their alma maters”, they likely didn’t have a classes with them. I wonder what the law, econ, and political science professors think?

    • good point, and one i thought about every time i saw this story.

      but it’s still a good, clever study that i think is really worth promoting. the stark contrast between politicians and climate scientists at the top universities where they went to school is astounding.

      • Yes, and in my heart I’m hopeful that the non-climate expert profs at these school, get a better grade than our current politicians.

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