We cannot know from DK2 data alone how many of the majority respondents from either political camp were motivated to affirm the scary stories on their own behalf, or only on behalf of the climate scientists. But we do know from the surveys in Appendix 1 (and many more) that diluting and contextualizing the tribalism of climate change via an alternate method, i.e. presenting within lists of other national issues, does result in weakened belief and resolve from the Dem/Libs about this ‘ultimate issue’. It is highly likely that the same effect is in play here, and at least to the same degree. Given that Dan’s method, while very simple, distances from identity still further, then the number of Dem/Libs who truly believe all the scare stuff themselves may be as low or lower than say the 25% who place Global Warming as their top priority in the PRRI / Brookings poll. The rest of the Dem/Libs do not truly believe. So the apparent bi-partisan consensus is not driven by a widespread apprehension of climate danger (latent or otherwise), but in large part by a common lack of faith in climate science and in lesser part by the question design, which can’t distinguish between the two possible main motivations for affirmative responses (mainly for Dem/Libs). Why many Dem/Libs shift position, as posed above, is that they are only true to their alliance with the culture of CAGW when they must be, to defend their party line or worldview. Yet a majority of the rank and file are not convinced by the case for imminent danger of catastrophe, and this shows when there is sufficient distancing from identity defense and / or dilution among other real-world issues.
And does this gel with the polarization in DK1? I think so. For the science unaware, it is highly likely that for such direct questioning on this issue which is so tribal in the US, both sampled camps respond in defense of their cultural identity. If they are science and climate unaware, what else would they have to motivate or guide or them? How it became tribal is a different question. Maybe because the Democrats formed an early and particularly strong alliance with climate culture, the Republicans were motivated to react in the opposite manner; maybe because politics is more polarized in the US anyhow, this is what drove a different outcome to the UK say, where official support for the climate Consensus is strong within all the main political parties. Anyhow, one would expect polarized responses. However, one would also expect such folks to be not too sure of themselves on this topic of which they have little knowledge, and indeed the response bands are wide and overlapping, plus much less emphatic than for the science aware folks. Things get much more interesting when considering the latter, because for folks from both political camps their initial path to greater knowledge will in most cases be steered by a similar starting bias as for the science unaware. So in practice, science questing Rep/Cons and Dem/Libs will be set upon different paths of discovery, which therefore will lead to dissimilar caches of knowledge.
Questing science-aware Democrats will very quickly find themselves in an avalanche of scientific papers and articles from myriad sources, all fronted by a bow wave of official statements about Arctic sea-ice or surface temperature or energy accumulation in the deep oceans or whatever, from scientific bodies and governmental organizations. They will become familiar with some major currents, e.g. the importance of models, various paleo-climate proxies, the strength of the Consensus, the emphasis on policy and action, yet much of this avalanche is simply moving in sympathy with the core direction, e.g. papers on species harm that simply assume dire Global Warming projections as their starting position. Against this huge intellectual inertia it is hard for anyone to hold position, to remain truly objective that is. While some comfort will be derived from the fact of such strong official / governmental backing, the very powerful and obvious emotive content and the dynamiting of the top slopes by NGOs such as Greenpeace and the WWF, will likely create serious doubts for many too (subconscious in some cases). And right from the start an exploration of skeptic sources would be discouraged by the Dem/Lib peer group (either explicitly or via the term ‘denier’ and other techniques); likely only a small minority would venture there often enough to gain some skeptic perspective. Most people stepping into this avalanche of orthodoxy, however well-motivated, will end up moving in the same general direction; their grasp of all the main issues will be shaped by official arguments (independently of whether these are essentially ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, or just ‘likely’ to some degree). Those with sufficient interest to stay in the climate domain for an extended period are likely to be sucked into the culture of CAGW itself, which defends its orthodox narratives as all cultures do, and promotes the certainty of catastrophe that can be such a blind to further investigation. At that point they are not Democrats who lean towards belief in seriously dangerous man-caused climate change, they are climate change advocates who vote Democrat because this is the only party large enough and allied enough to advance their agenda. Either way, these questing science-aware types will become familiar with the issues and will also rise on Dan’s polarization chart. Their journey represents a cultural steering, in the direction of the avalanche. For many, their doubts and glimpsed uncertainties will tend to remain suppressed.
In contrast, questing science-aware Republicans will tend to be suspicious of official sources from the get-go, allied as these are to opposing politics. They will try and peer between the cracks, try and seek out alternative narratives. They will tend to be apprehensive about the sheer force of the orthodox avalanche, especially as they’re not sure how it all got going in the first place, yet suspecting it’s not primarily a force driven by science. Though inevitably a few will get swept into its currents, most will stay at the margins and try to figure out what’s going on from there, attaching to skeptic sources that resist the flow. Probably more slowly than their Democrat counterparts, they will learn of major issues: the poor skill of models, the error ranges and contradictions in paleo-climate proxies, the importance of natural variation, the lack of unprecedented change, the inherent bias in many official statements, the hollow nature of the fabled 97%, and so on. Many will probably be pleasantly surprised that their political position has led them to the proper questions that science should always ask, and which climate orthodoxy has suppressed. However, none of this means that there aren’t negative memes in skepticism, such as “it’s all a liberal hoax” or whatever, and some will foster this politically motivated stance in parallel to their science quest, a minority to the extreme. Yet it takes more than a few negative memes to make a culture, and climate skepticism is not a coherent and driven social entity, not at this time a culture in its own right. And while some questing science-aware Republicans may end up on the side of science for less than noble reasons, as a whole they will nevertheless become familiar with the issues and will sink on Dan’s polarization chart. Their journey represents a resistance to a cultural takeover, with the shield of rigorous scientific principles deployed to help in defense; an attempt to resist ultra-expensive policies dictated by CAGW culture, unless or until some benefit can be scientifically demonstrated.
The current state of scientific endeavors regarding what is essentially a wicked problem, are easily wide enough to accommodate both these positions for the science aware. And no minority psychology such as ‘dualism’ is required to understand folks at each pole. They are simply the two poles of interpretation of the currently available data and theory sets. While one pole may indeed be much more culturally biased than the other, for each group the journey itself will increase their confidence in their position. Each will arrive at opposing stances on almost every big issue. Meanwhile a major group in-between the two poles, the ‘luke warmers’, is not really visible in this data. This is another clue to the limitations of the survey tools here, which are mainly attempting to measure left-right responses in a domain where a third culture dominates. Indeed the tribal positioning of mainstream politics in the US regarding climate, which does not occur in many other countries, helps to disguise the very presence of a climate culture. Yet this culture is key to understanding the survey results, and in fact cuts across politics. Its alliances and defense of orthodoxy (the ‘DNA’ of a culture) do show up on the left-right map, albeit this is not the best way to view the domain. And that defense of orthodoxy is easily visible and frequently commented upon. For instance economist Richard Tol says: “Politically correct climate change orthodoxy has completely destroyed our ability to think rationally about the environment.” (American Interest 10th December 2014, hat-tip Climate Etc).
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