Study Finds Even Climate 'Alarmed' Americans Don't Want Cap-and-Trade

Eighteen percent of Americans have been so “alarmed” by climate alarmists that they’d strongly support any and all policies that would reduce carbon emissions.  Any, that is, except cap-and-trade.  In fact, while the group as a whole truly believes that unchecked greenhouse gas emissions will trigger apocalyptic climate change of biblical destructive proportions – more among them strongly oppose than strongly support a national carbon trading scheme.

So found researchers at Yale and George Mason universities, who’ve just released the results of an autumn 2008 survey that categorized 2,129 adult Americans into six groups based upon their global warming beliefs, attitudes, fears and behaviors.  In addition to the segment appropriately labeled “Alarmed,” in descending order of climate anxiety, they classified the “Concerned,” the “Cautious,” the “Disengaged,” the “Doubtful” and finally, the inappropriately labeled “Dismissive,” hereinafter the “Realists.”

According to the report, Global Warming’s Six Americas 2009: An Audience Segmentation Analysis, each group represents 33, 19, 12, 11, and 7 percent of the population, respectively.   And a greater number within each group, from the most to the least climate concerned and every stratum in-between, strongly oppose than strongly support a national cap-and-trade market.

Here’s how each segment scored.

Of those considered Concerned, who represented the largest group and mostly consider global warming real and problematic, though less so than the Alarmed, 12% strongly support cap-and-trade while 15% strongly oppose it. And twice as many of the Cautious, who are only somewhat convinced that global warming is real and even less concerned about it than are the Concerned, strongly oppose (16%) than strongly support (8%).  Even those who say they neither know nor care much about the subject – the Disengaged – are more likely to strongly oppose (11%) than strongly support (9%).  Not surprisingly, 41% of the Doubtful -- many of whom are actually Realists -- who seriously question warming, its causes, its impact and its proposed remedies, strongly oppose, while a meager 4% strongly support.  And -- needless to say -- while absolutely no one in the Realists camp, which essentially rejects manmade global warming outright, strongly supports cap-and-trade, 64% strongly oppose it.

At the time of this survey, nearly twice the number of Americans strongly opposed cap-and-trade (23%) than strongly supported it (11%) -- and the total number in opposition was 47%.  But according to the 57% voicing contrariety in last month’s Zogby Poll, things have changed dramatically.  This implies the nearly eight-month-old figures are likely biased somewhat to the support side.  And last month’s Rasmussen poll reported that the lowest number of voters ever polled -- one-in-three -- believe that global warming is caused by human activity, a complete reversal from the prior year when that same ratio attributed long-term planetary trends.  As 28% of the Concerned, 60% of the Cautious and 72% of the Disengaged revealed they could easily change their minds, it’s logical to assume much of the shift came from within their ranks, further suggesting still stronger current contravention to cap-and-trade.

Still, while the ideological divides may have repositioned, the Yale paper provides great insight into just how broadly the opposition transcends them.

To be sure, whereas these disparate groups share a common distaste for cap-and-trade, their motives couldn’t be any further apart. The Alarmed likely adhere to NASA’s James Hansen’s concern that cap-and-trade is only “a minor tweak to business-as-usual” and will interfere with green dreams of wholesale wealth redistribution realized through centralized energy rationing.  After all, they “tend to be moderate to liberal Democrats” and 62% of them agreed that “the world would be a more peaceful place if its wealth were divided more equally among nations.”  Imagine that

Of course, we “Realist” types recognize it for what it is – a stealth carbon tax scheme that will have no impact whatsoever on climate, yet is sure to raise energy prices, drive American businesses overseas and further disrupt the economy – all at a time when we can least afford it.  Those belonging to the “in between” groups may oppose it for the same reasons as either extreme, or for any number of compelling reasons.  Perhaps simply because lacking any viable alternative energy sources, it’s likely to drive up consumer energy costs while having little or no impact on either utilities’ bottom lines or the tonnage of fossil-fuels burned annually.

Unfortunately, the cap-and-trade-heavy Waxman-Markey Bill (the 648-page American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009) passed the Democrat-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee last week, despite the pleas of virtually all Republicans and a pack of Blue Dog House Democrats to shelve it.  Hopefully, the absence of strong support from voters on either side of the global warming issue will play a significant role as the Bill moves forward through additional committees and perhaps an ultimate full floor vote.

And should it somehow survive the House, it will still require the support of 60 US Senators bold enough to ignore dwindling constituent approval, particularly in coal and energy-producing states and those in the Rust Belt.  And they’ll be forced to champion policies all but identical to those which have failed miserably overseas and rely heavily upon the cooperation of increasingly uncooperative developing nations.

And there’s no denying that economic realities are quickly trumping green fantasies abroad, where EU anti-pollution directives force coal-fired power plants to close in favor of unprepared (or non-existent) renewable alternatives.  Energy costs are skyrocketing, blackouts are becoming more prevalent and an uncertain green tax future is causing already cash-strapped companies to leave for non-greener pastures.

Earlier this month, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd came down from his haughty high horse just long enough to announce the postponement of his country’s own costly emissions trading scheme, purportedly until the global economic slowdown has ended.  Of course, you can read that to mean until after the next parliamentary election.  The move divulged neither wisdom nor nobility, as acting otherwise would have amounted to political suicide – a lesson certainly not lost on our own power-hungry leaders.  After all, it being an honorable undertaking, how many of our Senators do you suppose possess the virtues requisite to occupational hara-kiri?

In a similar admission of green fiscal incongruity, Germany announced plans on Monday to prevent green-policy-driven runaway energy costs from driving energy-intensive companies out of the country by reimbursing them for the cost of cap-and-trade that utilities are pricing into their power bills.  Once again, the burden will be left to smaller businesses and individual households.  Exactly the problems Republicans have been predicting cap-and-trade would inflict on this side of the pond. 

Now, Liberals generally love waving European “success stories” in American’s faces, even when the “success” is actually anything but (can you say National Health Care?).  Yet these polls suggest that many in their ranks are finally absorbing the domestic ramifications of the European disaster story entitled cap-and-trade. Perhaps the specter of unavoidable energy inflation (even in the face of proposed “common man” rebates), especially in these hard times, has prompted all but the most ardent believers to question the efficacy balance of their sacrifice.  Particularly considering that developing nations have understandably made clear their intentions to continue industrial development, and thereby their greenhouse gas emission escalation.  That actuality recently prompted Berkshire Hathaway Inc. CEO Charlie Munger to call the very idea of instituting a subsequently futile national cap-and-trade "almost demented."

And he’s quite right -- China continues to demand that the “rich countries” supposedly responsible for current atmospheric CO2 levels shoulder the entire burden of “cleaning up the mess.”  I won’t even get into the blatantly false dilemma their position represents, but even among those who adamantly believe that mankind’s emissions remain in the atmosphere for centuries and that rising temperatures follow rising CO2 levels, the “If America takes the lead they will follow“ promise must ring hollow. 

Just last Thursday, China insisted those “rich countries” cut emissions a whopping 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels while contributing at least 0.5-1.0 per cent of their annual economic worth to greenhouse gas reduction and global warming adaptation schemes of poorer countries before Beijing will even consider taking any action of its own.  To give you an idea just how inane that demand is, the awful Waxman-Markey Bill would attempt to cut US carbon emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.  And that’s not nearly enough for the United Nations.

At December’s upcoming Battle of Copenhagen, greenies worldwide hope to hammer out a U.N. treaty to succeed the 2012 expiring Kyoto Protocol to cut carbon emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.  And China refuses to budge unless the world doubles even that ridiculously lofty goal.  Add the extortion money the Reds demand and it should be obvious to even the most naive that the rapidly developing (and now number one CO
2 emitting) China is merely raising the bar beyond the scope of achievement and has no intention of ever mitigating its emissions.

So while the Alarmed (and perhaps some of the Concerned) believe it’s insufficient sacrifice, most everyone else has figured out that it’s way too much sacrifice and for too little or no gain.  According to an MIT study, Waxman-Markey “could cost the average household more than $3,900 per year.” A similar Heritage Foundation study predicted “cumulative gross domestic product (GDP) losses of at least $1.7 trillion that could reach $4.8 trillion by 2030 (in inflation-adjusted 2006 dollars).”  Others predict between 3 million and 7 million manufacturing jobs either driven overseas or lost entirely.  And I’d certainly be remiss were I to neglect to add my usual reminder that it’s all for naught as warming stopped in 1998 and there’s absolutely no proof whatsoever that any actions of mankind might influence global temperatures 1°C -- in either direction.

Yale claims there are six unique audiences within the American public on the subject of global warming.  And 92% of one -- the Alarmed -- told researchers that they trust Al Gore as a source of information about global warming, compared to a surprisingly high 2% of another -- the Realists.  But the report also revealed many philosophical similarities within in each group extending far beyond their climate beliefs.  For instance, 53% of the Alarmed feel they’re more a citizen of the world than a citizen of a country.  Only 13% of the Realists share similar feelings.  And while 68% of the Realists strongly believe that people should be allowed to make as much money as they can, regardless of any inequity it may create, only 9% of the Alarmed agreed.  Fascinating.   
But perhaps of most significance is that while 100% of the Alarmed, 89% of the Concerned, 59% of the Cautious and 55% of the Disengaged want the U.S. Congress to do more to address global warming, only 14% of the Doubtful and not a single member of the Realists concurred.

And yet, there’s one thing they all agree they don’t want the U.S. Congress to do -- make carbon cap-and-trade the law of the land. 

Marc Sheppard is the editor of AT’s forthcoming Environment Thinker.

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