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Climate change views shift

It’s been a pretty hot summer in most of the world. Many temperature records were broken in the Northeast in early July, followed by flooding later in the month. The dry hot weather sparked wildfires in California, and also in Europe and Japan. And temperatures in the Arctic, where average temperatures are rising at roughly twice the rate of the rest of the planet, have been unusually warm this year, with the thermometer reaching 90°F in a part of northern Siberia, which is some 40° above normal.

Climate scientists say the baking Arctic is at least part of the cause of the heat waves in lower latitudes by way of the slowed or stalled jet stream. It’s the difference in temperature between the Arctic and lower latitudes that keeps the jet stream flowing, and when that difference drops, so does the strength of the jet stream, which allows dry hot air to stay in place over the lower latitudes.

According to an article on Vox (tinyurl.com/yb6lvorr), the hot weather has consequences. The article says, “In Georgia, Miguel Angel Guzman Chavez, a 24-year-old farm worker, died of heatstroke while working the field last month when the heat index reached 105° F. Earlier this month, 52-year-old Cruz Urias-Beltran was found dead in a corn field in Nebraska after temperatures topped 100°F. Postal worker Peggy Frank died in her mail truck near Los Angeles on July 6, when the temperature reached 117°F. She was 63.”

The extreme weather events have been increasing over the years, and there is reason now to believe that American attitudes about it are changing. A new report was released from the National Surveys on Energy and Environment (NSEE) based on interviews performed in April and May.

The key findings are: “More Americans think that there is solid evidence of global warming than at any time since 2008, with 73% maintaining this view in the latest version of the NSEE conducted in late April and May of 2018.

“A record 60% of Americans now think that global warming is happening and that humans are at least partially responsible for the rising temperatures.

“While half of Republicans think that there is solid evidence of global warming, the divide between the 90% of Democrats that hold this view and the 50% of Republicans that maintain this position is as large as any time since 2008.

“The divide between Democrats and Republicans on the existence of anthropogenic induced global warming is also at record levels, with 78% of Democrats now holding the view that humans are at least partially responsible for warming on the planet compared to only 35% of Republicans.”

A Gallup poll conducted in March found the same growing ideological split between Democrats, Republicans and Independents. In its survey the number of Democrats who acknowledge the effects of climate change rose from 73% to 83% over the past year, while the number of Republicans who expressed that view dropped from 41% to 34%, and for Independents the drop was from 67% to 60%.

There are still too many climate deniers in the United States, and at least one researcher finds those deniers are more likely to be old, Republican and white compared to those who accept human-caused climate change as reality. That researcher Salil Benegal found that climate deniers are also more likely to have racist attitudes.

The abstract of the study (tinyurl.com/y8u367ch) says, “Public opinion data from Pew and American National Election Studies surveys are used to show that racial identification and prejudices are increasingly correlated with opinions about climate change during the Obama presidency. Results show that racial identification became a significant predictor of climate change concern following Obama’s election in 2008, and that high levels of racial resentment are strongly correlated with reduced agreement with the scientific consensus on climate change.”

Sierra, the national magazine of the Sierra Club, reported, “’I’m not trying to make a claim in the study that race is the single most important or necessarily a massive component of all environmental attitudes’ says Salil Benegal, the study’s author, who teaches political science at DePauw University. ‘But it’s a significant thing that we should be looking out for.’”

Meanwhile, several American cities have sued companies that produce and sell fossil fuels for creating climate change, and some of those have been dismissed. But one important case is moving forward. Twenty-one children who were younger than 18 when the lawsuit was initiated in 2015 have sued the federal government and various agencies for not taking action to stop climate change. The lawsuit argued that the lack of action, “violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.” An appeals court refused the Trump administration's motion to dismiss the suit on July 20.

 

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