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The Debate is Dead; Long Live the Debate



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A current New York Times poll reinforces the assertion that the public is now convinced that global warming is real, and that greenhouse gases contribute to it. Politically, this appears to be a decided issue. 85% of respondents consider global warming to be a serious problem. 84% of respondents said they think that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, though 63% thought it was one factor among many, and only 21% thought it was the most important factor.

 

A detailed reading of the full poll results also demonstrates why it is dangerous to draw conclusions from responses to abstract polling questions. Answering question 23, 63% of respondents agreed with the statement “Protecting the environment is so important that requirements and standards cannot be too high and continuing environmental improvements must be made regardless of cost.” But answering question 59, only 20% of respondents would support a $2 per gallon gasoline tax in order to reduce global warming. Apparently “regardless of cost” < $2.

 

This is a straw in the wind that illustrates why it is to conservatives’ advantage to force specificity around carbon emissions reduction programs and translate this into specific cost estimates. Getting voters to mouth platitudes about global warming is now pretty easy, but getting them to agree to large cash costs is a lot tougher.



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