“The full impact of the greenhouse gases that we’ve already added to the system today won’t be felt for 20 or 30 years,” said Bill Chameides, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and co-author of a recent National Academy of Sciences report, “America’s Climate Choices.”
When Chameides and his colleagues began their research in 2008, they assumed they’d have to rush to finish before the government took action on climate change. Instead, they watched the political landscape change as “Climategate” and other controversies incited public doubts about climate science. They delayed their report to take a fresh look at the research in its totality.
The Washington Post's Anqoinette Crosby sits down with reporter Juliet Eilperin to discuss the politics of global warming.
GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry told New Hampshire voters Wednesday that he does not believe in manmade global warming, calling it a scientific theory that has not been proven. (Aug. 17)
Their conclusion is stated in the report’s first sentence: “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.”
There are dissenting scientists, but they’re a small minority within the climate-science community. A 2010 study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences surveyed 1,372 climate scientists and found that 97 to 98 percent agreed that humans are contributing to global warming.
The general public is far more divided. A Pew Research Center poll published in October 2010 showed that over the previous four years, the number of respondents believing there is “solid evidence” that the Earth is warming dropped from 79 percent to 59 percent. There was a striking divide along partisan lines: Some 79 percent of Democrats believed in global warming, compared with 38 percent of Republicans.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll in November 2009 found conservative Republicans were least likely to believe global warming was occurring, with 45 percent saying it was happening. That represented a 20 percentage-point drop from the previous year.
Influential conservatives have pushed climate science to the fore of Republican politics. When Romney endorsed the consensus scientific view, talk-radio titan Rush Limbaugh immediately declared: “Bye-bye, nomination. Another one down.”
Climate change, said Marc Morano, publisher and editor of the skeptical Web site Climate Depot, is “a litmus test, pure and simple, for the presidential race.”