Monday, May 1, 2017

Are Trump's Climate Policies Backfiring?

Data from a recent Gallup poll. Something is moving in the climate wars and science seems to be winning.

Trump's presidency is generating a backfire in beliefs on climate change. A recent Gallup poll went somewhat unnoticed in the great noise of the 100 days date, but it shows a consistent increase in the belief that climate change is real, it is caused by human actions, and it is dangerous. See the figure above, and also this one:

In an earlier post, I had defined the situation with the public opinion as "trench warfare in the climate wars", with neither side being able to gain a significant advantage over the other. But now, with Trump president, the deadlock seems to be over. The Gallup polls never reported such a clear majority of Americans seeing the climate situation in the right terms.

So, what's going on? I can think that Trump's heavy hand in punishing climate science and climate scientists is correctly perceived by the public as ideologically minded and dangerous - and many Americans don't like it. Scientists are seen as the victims of a political persecution and that is causing an increase of trust in science.

The situation may evolve even more in favor of climate science as Donald Trump becomes less and less popular. A significant fraction of Americans are still trusting him, but that trust may soon wear out as Trump's policies fail. They have to fail since they are based on two fundamental errors that have to do with physics, which is impervious to manipulation by politics. The first error is that climate change and ecosystem disruption are not important factors in the economy. The second is that mineral resources are still abundant and that the decline of the production of fossil fuels can be reversed. Because of these fundamental flaws, whatever Trump does will be a disaster, even assuming that he manages to avoid making some truly colossal strategic mistake in the international arena. Trump seriously risks to be remembered as the worst president in American history.

The decline and fall of Donald Trump could generate a long-lasting bad reputation for climate science denial. Unfortunately, there is little to be happy about that; the damage that Trump can manage to do to science and to the ecosystem even in just a few years of presidency will be very hard to reverse - if at all possible. And it is known how the public opinion is volatile and sensible to PR campaigns. A new scandal such as "Climategate" or a fortunate denial meme such as the "pause" could bring things back to the starting line. In any case, the climate change question is so polarized by now that the hardcore Trump supporters will never be convinced of the reality of climate change, not even when the their homes are swamped by the sea. 

But let's not be too pessimistic. At least for now, things are going in the right direction. And it could be worse! (even California's drought seems to be over)


  1. In a previous comment tere mentioned Bob Altemeyers Book "Authoritarians" which prooved to be a very enlightening read about Trump followers.

    Maybe not all of the Trump followers score high on the "RWA scale" that Altemeyer uses to research the authoritarian personality, but it seems obvious that many would.

    If so, the notion that scientific arguments and logic would swing their attitudes on science and climate change is wrong. Understanding this might help us in the case for saving the climate. There is virtualy no argument that changes the dogmatic believes of high RWA personalities. These people are incapable to get to a changed attitude on matters by logical arguments and a logical train of thoughts and are even capable of ignoring all evidence, even if it jumps them in the face.

    So, 71% is probably as high a percentage as we will probably see. It will have to suffice.

  2. @alien observer

    I don't know whether it is of any consolation, but Trump does know how to change his mind.

    Read this :-)

    "President Donald Trump admits that he said NATO was obsolete because, well, he didn’t know anything about the transatlantic alliance. So apparently his campaign comments now are inoperative. If he had to do it all over again, he’d probably sound a lot like, well, Hillary Clinton.

    When he was asked about the issue on CNN, he admitted, he deemed the organization obsolete “not knowing much about NATO, now I know a lot about NATO.” He argued that his ignorance was understandable “because I wasn’t in government. People don’t go around asking about NATO if I’m building a building in Manhattan, right?”"

  3. Yeah, well, probably he asked somebody who he believes to be an authority.
    RWA can change their mind, if somebody they follow tells them to do so.

  4. "the Gallup polls never reported such a clear majority of Americans seeing the climate situation in the right terms". Two points. Are these the same pollsters who predicted an overwhelming victory by Hillary Clinton?
    And has what "the RIGHT terms" are been agreed to by the many evil "deniers" too?

    1. Right or wrong, in this case, is decided by physics, which is not modifiable by politics.

    2. High and definitive sounding but meaningless. Which physics in particular and physics according to whom? Michael Mann and James Hansen et al or Richard Lindzen and Nir Shaviv et al.? Nothing to do with politics, just scientific disagreement . Or maybe in fact it is politics after all inasmuch as its the same political ploy of trying to argue by authority in different guise. Physics is us and what we think. Others either deny it or just don't see it. They cannot modify immutable physics by their politics but we can assert which physics is correct by our own clever ultimately political ploy. Have seen these games many times before on this blog. So many times that they have become transparent and boring.

    3. Physics is not changed by the fact that you are unable to understand it

    4. Immagino avrai già capito. Comunque te lo confermo volentieri.




Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014). His most recent book is "The Seneca Effect" to be published by Springer in mid 2017