Interesting phenomenon, climate change: Most people agree that it’s happening, but as soon as you get past that basic consensus and start talking about what the hell we should be doing about the problem, people revert to their usual partisan ways. This causes roughly half the population to behave like frightened ostriches.
As plenty of local media outlets have noted, the Miller Center released its new study of Virginians’ attitudes toward climate change on October 21. The finding that headlines the study: Three out of four Virginians believe that climate change is, in fact, occurring. (What tipped them off, you might ask? Well, how about "warmer local temperatures/personal experience"? A quarter of respondents cited this as a factor driving their belief in global warming, more than any other factor.)
So most people are on board with the basic fact that the planet, our home, is getting uncomfortably warm. O.K. Then you get to the questions about specific policy ideas that might address the problem. And it turns out that only 49 percent of people in our commonwealth think it would be a good idea to increase fuel-efficiency standards for cars. Ten percent actively oppose this idea.
It gets worse: Only 30 percent of Virginians think vehicles should be required to emit fewer greenhouse gases, and a full 14 percent "strongly oppose" such a requirement. So that means that when you’re in a traffic jam on a hot summer day, and you have to keep your windows up and your air-conditioning on (thereby making your already-mediocre gas mileage even worse) to avoid breathing the fumes from all the cars around you, you can look around at your fellow drivers and be comforted by the knowledge that 14 percent are actually enjoying that parfum de tailpipe.
Who are these blockheads? Well, I think some of them might be Republicans. Go back to the basic question—Is the Earth getting warmer?—and look at the demographic breakdown. Turns out, 88 percent of Democrats believe climate change is happening, compared to 57 percent of Republicans.
I’m pointing this out not to fan the flames of partisanship, but because I think it’s actually an illustration of how one’s party affiliation can lead one to behave more like a football fan than a thinking citizen. No doubt, some of those Dems are mindlessly signing on to party positions too. And if people of any party feel skeptical about believing in climate change just because Al Gore and every newspaper in existence says it’s so, that is their right. But "strongly opposing" cars that work better—that smell better!—is just moronic. It’s like wearing a button that says Stand Up For Litterbugs.
Can I get a witness?