Oct 16, 2018 - Energy & Environment

The immense partisan climate disconnect

Demonstrators walking, one holding a sign that reads "There is no planet B"

Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

As midterm elections get closer, the partisan divide over climate change is becoming increasingly clearer.

Driving the news: 72% of registered voters backing Democrats in the upcoming elections view climate change as a "very big" problem, compared to just 11% of GOP supporters, new Pew Research Center polling shows.

Why it matters: It demonstrates the persistence of the partisan gulf on climate change at a time when scientists are increasingly sounding the alarm about the dangers of a warming planet.

By the numbers: That 61-point gap is tied for the largest among 18 topics Pew asked about in the newly released survey that also addressed the economy, education, immigration and many other areas.

  • Pew conducted the survey just before the release of a major UN scientific report on the consequences if warming goes above 1.5°C, or 2.7°F, relative to preindustrial levels.
  • The 1.5°C threshold is one that the UN warns the planet is almost certain to cross absent extremely deep emissions cuts in coming years.

Quick take: The divide in Pew's poll, taken in concert with the sobering UN conclusions, is just one example of a wider political disconnect over climate change that's also apparent in policy circles.

  • For instance, ExxonMobil recently threw its lobbying weight behind a proposal for a $40-per-ton carbon tax that would be married to the repeal of climate regulations.
  • However, Exxon's move arrived just a day after the release of the UN analysis, which found that a vastly higher carbon price is needed to rein in emissions, unless combined with a "complementary mix of stringent policies."

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