Washington climate circles are abuzz over a National Journal poll released last weekend suggesting that concern over climate change is waning among Republican House members just as public alarm is mounting.
The Journal, a highly respected print and e-magazine covering politics from Washington, DC, asked Members of Congress, "Do you think it’s been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Earth is warming because of man-made problems?" While the number of Democratic members answering No was a gratifyingly low 2%, the same as last April, the share of Republican naysayers rose to 84%, from 77% in April.
Though the Dem-Rep split is noteworthy, the absolute percentages should be viewed with caution. For one thing, the response rates were low: 1 in 7 Republicans, 1 in 8 Democrats. (Hmm, could it be that the more "extreme" Senators and Representatives from either party were more apt to respond, skewing the divisions between the parties?) Second, the poll predated the Feb. 2 release of the IPCC-4 report. The Journal’s questionnaire was sent out Jan. 29 and the answers were received Jan. 29 – Feb. 1, too early to reflect the sobering findings from the report and the extensive media coverage.
The second (and last) poll question concerned solutions: "Which of these actions to reduce global warming could you possibly support?" Respondents could vote Yes or No to six choices, which included measures such as higher CAFE standards and greater spending on alternative fuels.
A carbon cap-and-trade program far outpolled a carbon tax, by 83% to 50% among Democrats and 42% to 3% among Republicans. We regard this, at least in part, as a reflection of the active promotion recently of cap-and-trade and the relative silence from carbon-tax supporters. In addition to the poll’s unfortunate timing, we wonder if the wording ("A ‘cap-and-trade’ carbon dioxide emissions-reduction program" and "A carbon tax", respectively) inadvertently tilted responses toward cap-and-trade. Perhaps next time National Journal can ask about "An emission-reducing carbon tax" or "A revenue-neutral carbon tax".
We also expect that Congressional understanding of the merits of carbon taxing will increase as a result of efforts by carbon tax supporters who can now benefit from the information on this site.