May 21, 2019

The big climate-change disconnect

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

More people around the world say they’re worried about climate change — but that concern is not translating into a willingness to pay more for energy or vote for candidates supporting aggressive action on the issue.

Driving the news: At least 3 recent developments show this stark disconnect: In Australia, Washington state and France.

  • Australians voted against politicians campaigning on addressing climate change in their national elections last weekend. This is despite polling showing desire for immediate action at 61%, a near record high and close to where it was a decade ago.
  • In the 2018 midterm elections, Washington state voters rejected — for the second time — a proposal to price carbon emissions. Washington is one of America’s most liberal states and polling shows a record-high 45% of Americans say climate change is a serious problem and supports immediate action.
  • Protests in Paris over high gasoline and diesel costs compelled the French government to scrap increases that were part of its climate agenda. This is despite 83% of the French population saying climate change is a threat to their country, up from 54% in 2013.

My thought bubble: Expressed concern doesn’t necessarily equate to action. Just ask someone worried about eating right and exercising enough — but who doesn’t actually make it to the gym or opt for salad over fries.

  • The magnitude of these problems are different, but the basic issues — prioritizing short-term preference for certain things over long-term improvement of other things — are the same.

What we’re hearing: “Instinct and adrenaline have been propelling humanity through acute danger for millennia, but we tend to normalize and ultimately ignore chronic danger,” says Kevin Book, managing director of the nonpartisan research firm ClearView Energy Partners.

  • Be smart: That’s climate change — and your diet and exercise regime!

But, but, but: Exceptions exist to this rule, just like there are a minority of people who exercise regularly and eat healthy.

  • Australia’s former prime minister Tony Abbott, who doesn’t acknowledge the scientific consensus on climate change, lost his race in a wealthy Sydney suburb where people did appear to vote their concern about climate change.
  • Some U.S. state legislatures are addressing the issue, such as Washington that recently passed a clean-electricity bill after its carbon tax proposal failed.
  • California is one of the few economies in the world tackling the climate impacts of a broad swath of its economy.

What we’re watching: Whether this disconnect just needs more time to, well, connect, as warming’s impacts worsen and the cost of addressing the problem drops more as clean-energy technologies become ever more affordable.

What’s next: To what extent this year’s reelection campaign of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is shaped by that nation’s debate about climate change and its newly installed carbon tax.

Go deeper

Situational awareness

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Catch up on today's biggest news:

  1. Warren supporters form super PAC
  2. We may be on "the brink" of coronavirus pandemic
  3. Pentagon policy chief resigns
  4. National polls show Bernie in control ahead of Nevada
  5. How a Chinese think tank rates all 50 U.S. governors
  6. Sanders and Bloomberg battle over heart health

Trump has declared war on sanctuary cities

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Armed with subpoenas, lawsuits and immigration SWAT teams, the Trump administration has declared war on sanctuary cities.

The big picture: President Trump and his administration have used every available tool to try to crack down on local governments that refuse to hold immigrants in criminal custody, block immigration agents from working in county jails or deny federal authorities access to immigrants' records.

Peter Thiel's Founders Fund isn't really Peter Thiel's Founders Fund

Illustration: Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Charles Eshelman, Steve Jennings, and Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Founders Fund has raised $3 billion for a pair of new funds, so expect a slew of headlines about how "Peter Thiel's venture capital firm" is now flush with cash.

Behind the scenes: Thiel is essential to Founders Fund, but he's not autocratic. Instead, Axios has learned that he's one of three people with veto power over most FF investments, and is unable to do a deal without approval of the other two.