Hearing people deny climate change or question how much humans are contributing to it can be really frustrating. It turns out that we have a unique culture of climate denial in the United States. As the Guardian reported, “a total of 13% of Americans polled in a 23-country survey conducted by the YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project agreed with the statement that the climate is changing “but human activity is not responsible at all”. A further 5% said the climate was not changing. Only Saudi Arabia (16%) and Indonesia (18%) had a higher proportion of people doubtful of manmade climate change.” Additionally, 13% of Americans said they did not know whether the climate was changing or people were responsible–which was more than any other western country.
We have a distinct political environment in the United States, especially in the wake of the Citizens United decision that has allowed unlimited amounts of dark money to influence our political process. For instance, the Koch brothers whose business interests have been historically rooted in fossil fuel operations are some of the biggest donors to climate-denying politicians and nonprofits. According to Greenpeace, Koch Family Foundations have spent $127,006,756 directly financing 92 groups that have attacked climate change science and policy solutions, from 1997-2017. (This unlimited amount of dark, climate-denying, money is something that Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has been trying to address with a recent bill and weekly speeches on the issue).
In other nations that have stricter campaign finance laws, climate denial isn’t as prevalent. The Guardian explained that “In Europe, fewer than one in 10 people across the major countries surveyed thought the climate was not changing or not changing owing to human activity, with only Poland showing a slightly higher number, with 12% taking one of these views.”
Why This Matters: The YouGov data also suggested that Americans are more prone to climate-related conspiracy theories as a total of 17% of those polled agreed that “the idea of manmade global warming is a hoax that was invented to deceive people”. In the U.S. our views on climate change are closely tied to our political beliefs–85% of Republicans reject that climate change is a serious problem that needs urgent action. However, this isn’t surprising when fossil fuel companies have spent decades repressing climate science while at the same time giving millions to Republican campaigns to help spread climate denial--people listen to the lawmakers that represent them. That may seem dismal but all hope is not lost: as Earther explained, another recent poll showed that the proportion of Americans alarmed about climate change has more than doubled since 2013 and young people are more concerned with the issue than ever before (and are even swaying their parents’ views on the issue!). One of the best things we can do to help combat misinformation is to regularly engage the people in our lives on the topic of climate change.