America (Almost) First In Climate Change Denial

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Donald Trump should be thrilled. According to a Guardian YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project survey completed recently, a higher percentage of Americans pooh pooh all the blather about climate change than citizens of virtually every other major nation with the exception of Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. Kinda makes you want to puff out your chest and wrap yourself in Old Glory, doesn’t it? Or watch the America, Fuck Yeah! video again.

“The YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project is a new survey conducted annually in 23 of the world’s biggest countries, exploring populism, globalisation and attitudes on topics ranging from food, travel and technology to immigration, cultural beliefs and the environment. The Guardian helped YouGov pollsters and University of Cambridge academics at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy to design the survey, and is exclusively releasing the findings,” reports the UK news organization.

Guardian climate change survey

“A total of 13% of Americans polled…..agreed with the statement that the climate is changing ‘but human activity is not responsible at all’. A further 5% said the climate was not changing. Only Saudi Arabia (16%) and Indonesia (18%) had a higher proportion of people doubtful of manmade climate change. Americans were also more likely than any other western country polled to say they did not know whether the climate was changing or people were responsible — a total of 13% said this,” The Guardian reports.

“But despite these views, the great majority of US citizens do accept the science of climate change, with nearly four in 10 saying human activity was at least partly responsible, potentially with other factors, and a further third taking the stronger view that human activity is the dominant cause.”

Margaret Klein Salamon, a clinical psychologist who founded the advocacy group Climate Mobilization, tells The Guardian, “The Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry have put billions of dollars into lying to the American public, even sending literature to science teachers in schools. They are so well organised and have managed to turn climate change into a controversial subject that gets shut down. It’s clearly working.

There is also the issue of American individualism, remnants of manifest destiny, that don’t set us up well for understanding that we are part of the web of life. The American dream is quite self-involved. We need a new American dream.” (emphasis added)

The survey also suggests that Americans are highly susceptible to climate related conspiracy theories. A total of 17% of those polled agreed that “the idea of manmade global warming is a hoax that was invented to deceive people.” A total of 52% of Americans who described themselves as “very right wing” insisted global warming was a hoax.

In Europe, fewer than one in 10 people across the major countries surveyed thought the climate was not changing or not changing owing to human activity, with only Poland showing a slightly higher number, with 12% taking one of these views.

Taking Individual Responsibility

The survey found many people have altered their daily behavior for environmental reasons. The data “shows a clear majority of people around the world think climate change is happening and that it is all or partly down to human actions.” Most agree it is “fairly or very important to buy ethical goods made in socially and environmentally responsible ways.

Wendel Trio, the director of Climate Action Network Europe, says “Poll after poll confirms that there is a large majority of citizens who recognise that climate change is happening and is manmade. Citizens expect governments to act and reduce our negative impact on the climate. Governments have the obligation to drastically increase emission reductions and protect their citizens from climate disasters.”

It is easy to say that those who snicker at climate change are stupid, but let’s examine the facts a little more closely. In experiment after experiment, psychologists have demonstrated that people — all people — tend to be influenced by the attitudes of those around them. Put an unsuspecting person in a theater filled with others who are paid to go along with the experiment then put an image of a red ball on the screen. Everyone in the theater says the ball is actually green. Within minutes, the unknowing volunteer starts to agree with the group.

The Koch Brothers and the fossil fuel companies appear to have deliberately utilized that aspect of human nature to convince people to ignore the risks associated with burning fossil fuels. If so, and if the result of their actions has been untold misery for humans due to poor health and early death, shouldn’t they be subject to criminal penalties for perpetrating the greatest crime against humanity in history?

Why shouldn’t the corporate officers and members of the boards of directors be incarcerated right next to Oliver Schmidt, the VW exec who helped plot the Dieselgate fiasco in America? What Schmidt did was bad. What the Kochs and the oil companies have done is a million times worse. Why shouldn’t those companies be liquidated and the proceeds used to build renewable energy generating facilities, energy storage systems, and transmission lines?

The idea that corporations shouldn’t be held criminally liable for their actions is an antiquated fiction, one that will need to be addressed soon as the world slides ever closer to the edge of extinction. And the sooner the better. Margaret Salamon is correct. We need a new American Dream if we are to survive the climate crisis.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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