Donald Trump and the politics of climate change
Donald Trump’s that the snow-blasted US east coast would benefit from some global warming has reignited attention to his climate-change denial. But after a year of his presidency, it’s increasingly clear that, in terms of both public opinion and policy, rejection of climate science is a sideshow.
Having a in the White House might seem like a triumph for people who want to stop action against global warming. Trump’s plan to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement certainly gives the impression he’s winning that fight.
But in reality, Trump has only shown that climate denial is defunct. When he tried to topple the climate deal, the rest of the world . No other country has joined his planned defection – instead several have accelerated their timetables for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. And investors are giving up on climate denial. Major fund managers like BlackRock are now how emission cuts will affect their investments and are selling businesses that depend on fossil fuels.
And climate denial is a far weaker electoral force than it seems. Only of Americans firmly oppose climate action, with another 11% doubtful about it. While Trump won among both groups, most of his voters can’t be described as climate deniers. And in the rest of the world, vanishingly few people think climate change is a hoax. Recent data that at least 97% agree climate change is happening, in 19 of the 22 countries polled for the European Social Survey.
If anything, the evidence points to climate change being an untapped electoral opportunity for environmentally-conscious politicians. In most European counties are very or extremely worried about climate change.
In the UK, where 1 in 4 are very or extremely worried about climate change, it’s effectively been off the electoral battleground since Cameron’s husky-hugging Arctic trip. To most voters, it seemed there was a consensus among the major parties about the issue. But that could now change.
The Tories are hunting for ways to stop, and reverse, the loss of younger voters, put off them by values-driven concerns like foxes, Brexit and citizens of nowhere. Burnishing their approach to climate change might help the Tories: a UK YouGov for think tank Bright Blue found it’s the second-top subject that under–40s wants politicians to talk about more, ahead of education, housing and immigration.
Meanwhile, other parties may see an opportunity in hitting the government harder on climate change. The Lib Dems, in particular, might wonder if they can appeal to the voters looking for a party with a more robust message on climate change.
Most voters, though, are in the middle on climate change. Around half the public have little doubt it’s real and a threat, and want it dealt with, but don’t think about it much. Satisfying them, while meeting increasingly tough climate targets over the next couple of decades, will be a growing challenge.
Trump’s climate denial will get attention as long as he’s in power, but we shouldn’t let that fool us into thinking he’s doing any more than appealing to a section of his base. The rest of the world has moved on, and the risks are far greater to parties that drag their feet than those that set the pace.