Surveys Show Major Gap Between Voters and Their Representatives on Global Warming

Nearly two thirds of Americans agree that global warming is happening, yet the same proportion of voters is currently represented by climate change deniers in Congress.

Orhan Cam/Shutterstock
Nearly two thirds of Americans agree that global warming is happening, yet the same proportion of voters is currently represented by climate change deniers in Congress. (Orhan Cam/Shutterstock)

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Never has Congress been more out of touch with the American people, from refusing to hold a hearing on a Supreme Court nominee in the Senate to the so-called “Freedom Caucus” already threatening to hold up budget negotiations in the House. Among the most alarming trends, however, is that Congress is not in line with the American people on the crucial issue of climate change. Not prioritizing climate change on the American political agenda does nothing to stop its rampant destruction. The topic isn’t being ignored, per say, but rather suppressed by the financial influence of the dirty energy industry.

This month, the Center for American Progress (CAP) Action Fund published “The 2016 Anti-Science Climate Denier Caucus,” a study on climate denial in Congress. The study shows that 182 members of the current 114th Congress deny the science behind climate change. That’s 144 representatives and 38 senators, all in the Republican Party, paid by oil and gas interests to deny what 97 percent of scientists agree is true. That means two thirds of the American population is represented by climate change deniers. Compare that to a poll commissioned by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal in 2014, which reported that 67 percent of Americans want action taken on climate change, or to the 2014 Yale Climate Opinion Survey, which showed that 63 percent of Americans think global warming is happening now. This clear rift between public opinion and political agendas shows that these deniers are not delivering for their constituents or for our planet.

To paint an even clearer picture of the problem, the Yale Climate Opinion Survey shows that, generally, Americans believe climate change is a threat, at least for future generations. A notable 77 percent of Americans support funding research into renewable energy sources, yet the majority party in Congress is too blinded by the polluter agenda to even bring renewable energy initiatives to the table. When asked about regulating CO2 in 2014, 74 percent of Americans supported stronger regulations. When such a large majority supports action on CO2 but the politicians who claim to represent the people refuse to pass any legislation on the subject, they are clearly out of touch with the will of voters.

According to the Yale survey, 57 percent of Oklahomans think global warming is real, but their senator, Jim Inhofe, who brought a snowball onto the Senate floor in an attempt to refute global warming in February 2015, believes global warming is “the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people.” Senator Inhofe has received a whopping $2,020,677 from the oil and gas industry throughout his political career. The senator is no doubt listening to the money, not the people.

Other deniers in Congress often say that “the science is out” or “scientists are unclear,” or they claim “I am not a scientist.” But what are scientists really saying? The data produced and supported by NOAA, NASA, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and so many more national and international weather and science organizations indicates that global warming is real and is caused by humans. It’s clear that these climate deniers are factually incorrect.

Climate change is like Frankenstein’s monster—we’ve created it out of our dependence on dirty energy, not foreseeing the devastating path it would take. And like Dr. Frankenstein, we must now deal with the ramifications of our creation, not ignore its power and destructive capability. It’s time for our elected leaders to listen to and act on behalf of their constituents, rather than the polluters who line their pockets.

Noa Banayan was an intern with the Policy & Legislation team in Washington, D.C. for the spring 2016 semester.

Established in 1989, Earthjustice's Policy & Legislation team works with champions in Congress to craft legislation that supports and extends our legal gains.