Do Republicans share Donald Trump's climate change skepticism?
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
"The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive," Donald Trump infamously tweeted in 2012.
While this statement came a few years before Trump decided to run for the White House, it is worrying that the man in charge of the country peddles untruths about climate change, a very dangerous reality for the United States and the rest of the world.
The president has changed his mind a number of times on climate change, according to Friends of the Earth. In 2009, the former businessman was part of a coalition that called for Barack Obama to act on the issue, with the group warning it is "scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet".
However, three years later, he was posting his conspiracy theory on Twitter that global warning was a Chinese hoax. By the time he was on the campaign trail in 2016, Trump threatened to pull out of all climate negotiations and treaties - something he did when he pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement in June last year.
He is surrounding himself with fellow skeptics in his administration, people who are at odds with the government's own climate researchers, Politico reports. He is filling the upper ranks of the Trump administration with appointees who share his disbelief in the scientific evidence for climate change. And perhaps more dangerously, he is giving them the chance to "impose their views on policies ranging from disaster planning to national security to housing standards".
According to a review of appointees by Politico, Trump has chosen at least 20 like-minded people to serve as agency leaders and advisers. They write: "Most famously, the president and his team have scrubbed mentions of climate change from government websites, kicked scientists off advisory boards, repudiated the Obama administration’s greenhouse gas regulations and made the US the only nation on Earth to reject the 2015 Paris agreement on global warming."
Trump is not alone with his climate change skepticism in the Republican party. As part of the annual Menino Survey of Mayors last year, 115 US mayors were asked about climate change. They overwhelmingly agreed that climate change was the result of human activities - only 16 per cent attributed rising global temperatures to “natural changes in the environment that are not due to human activities.”
But where it becomes interesting is the party split for the US mayors. Nearly all Democratic mayors (95 per cent) believed that climate change was a consequence of human activities, compared to 50 per cent of Republicans. Only a quarter of the GOP mayors believe that money should be spent to tackle and prepare for the effects of climate change - while 80 per cent believed that fiscal sacrifices should be made.
In the year after Trump won the presidential race, Republican opinion on climate change strayed even further from the scientific consensus. Despite the effects of climate change appearing before their eyes, with record-breaking hurricanes and wildfires, conservative voters’ understanding of climate science had nearly hit a new low, according to Grist.
However, despite the influence of Trump, the Republicans' view on climate change is slowly changing, largely thanks to millennials. Moderate Republicans are starting to come round to the idea of human-caused warming, rising 14 points since 2017.
The Pew Research Center found that many GOP millennials differ with older party members on climate change and energy issues. Over a third of Republican millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, say the Earth is warming mostly due to human activity, double the share of Republicans in the Baby Boomer or older generations. There is a growing number of young Republicans who believe the federal government is doing too little to combat the effects of climate change (60 per cent, versus 34 per cent of older Republicans).
While it is encouraging that younger Republicans are more clued up about climate change, it doesn't change the situation in the White House. Donald Trump is a climate change skeptic, and he is surrounding himself with fellow skeptics. The disbelief in scientific evidence is concerning on its own, but the Trump administration is acting on that disbelief in its policies.