Illustration: Jawahir Hassan Al-Naimi

The straw poll of Iowa Democrats conducted by CNN and the Des Moines Register last week yielded at least one surprising (to some) result — climate change is a very important issue to Democratic voters in the state — 80% said they wanted to hear it addressed by the candidates.  Nothing was more important to Iowans other than health care (with which it was basically tied) — not job creation, or impeachment, or race relations, or even immigration policy.  Interestingly, according to the Register, 70 percent of those who identified themselves as independents also see climate change as a threat, whereas only 48 percent of registered Republicans see it as a threat.  Overall the number of Iowans who see climate change as a threat is high, which is consistent with what the Yale Climate Opinion research for Iowa showed.  The CNN-Register poll found that:

  • 58% of all Iowans see climate change as a threat — major or minor.
  • 66% of millennials in Iowa think climate change is a major threat — they are the most concerned of any age group.
  • 71% of college-educated Iowans also think climate change is a threat.
  • 35% of Republicans in Iowa believe climate change poses no threat at all to the planet.

Meanwhile, two Senators of opposite parties are finding common ground on climate change — Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia urged Congress to take “responsible” action on climate change in a Washington Post op/ed over the weekend, saying “This is often portrayed as an issue with just two sides — those who support drastic, unattainable measures to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and those who want to do nothing. We believe the time for sensationalism is over. And we are seeking ideas that will bring people together, rather than drive them apart.”

Why This Matters:  The Murkowski/Manchin op/ed states the “least common denominator” position on climate change that would have the backing a large majority of the country.  The real question is what is a “responsible” course of action to address climate change at this point in time?  Are we past the point of taking iterative baby steps? Is working to improve only energy efficiency and expand renewables without any constraints on fossil fuels at all still sufficient?  if it is important to now take “responsible action” — isn’t that action still urgent?  Shouldn’t Congress be doing something more than just holding hearings and paying lip service to this problem?  Iowans and New Hampshirites will have the first opportunity to press all the candidates about their climate change policy ideas and impress upon them that the people of this country want to see some action on climate change, and soon.  


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