Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Tea Party consensus on man-made global warming

Dan Kahan, Professor of Law and Psychology at Yale, produced a remarkable plot about the attitude towards global warming of Tea Party supporters.

Kahan of the Cultural Cognition Project is best known for his thesis that climate "sceptics" should be protected from the truth and that no one should mention the fact that there is a broad agreement (consensus) under climate scientists that we are changing the climate.

Without having the scientific papers to back it up, reading WUWT and Co. leaves one with the impression that there are many more scientific claims on climate change that would make these "sceptics" more defensive. They may actually be willing to pay not to hear them. We could use the money to stimulate renewable energy; to reduce air pollution in the West naturally, not for mitigation of global warming that would help everyone.

Tea Party

Maybe I should explain for the non-American readers that the Tea Party is a libertarian, populist and conservative political movement against taxes that gained prominence when the first "black" US president was elected.

It is well known that members of the Tea Party are more dismissive of global warming as the rest of the Republicans or Democrats in the USA. It could have been that Tea-Party members are "more Republican" as other people calling themselves Republican. The plot below by Dan Kahan suggests, however, that identifying with the Tea Party is an important additional dimension.

In fact, normal Republicans and democrats are not even that different. The polarization in the USA is to a large part due to the Tea Party. Especially, when you consider that the non-Tea-Party Republicans most to the right of the scale may still have a more tax-libertarian disposition than the ones more in the middle.

For me the most striking part is how sure Tea Party members claim to be that global warming is no problem. On average they see global warming as being a very low risk, the average is a one on a scale from seven to zero. Given how close that average is to the extreme of the scale, there cannot be that much variability. There thus probably is a consensus among Tea Party members that global warning is a low risk. That was something Kahan did not explicitly write in his post.

That is quite a consensus for a position without scientific evidence. I guess we are allowed to call this group think, given that many climate "sceptics" even call a consensus with evidence group think.

Related reading

Real conservatives are conservationists by Barry Bickmore (a conservative).
"The radical libertarians’ knee-jerk rejection of the scientific consensus on climate change isn’t just anti-Conservative. It borders on sociopathy in its extreme anti-intellectualism and recklessness."
The conservative family values of Christian man Anthony Watts
A post on the extremist and anti-intellectual atmosphere at WUWT and Co.
Planning for the next Sandy: no relative suffering would be socialist
Some people seem to be willing to suffer loses as long as others suffer more. This leads to the question: "Do dissenters like climate change?"


  1. If I am reading the graph correctly, there appear to be members of the tea party who score pretty nearly as very liberal on the conserv_repub scale. "Very liberal" and "tea party" don't seem to mix. Who are these people?

  2. Anonymous, yes I think you are reading the graph right. This curve does not fully go up to very liberal, I guess there there are too little people to be able to compute an average risk estimate there, but it goes farther as one may intuitively expect.

    Being liberal (or conservative) is not such a coherent package of ideas. Some of these people be against the state or immigration, but still count as liberal because they do like civil liberties for people already in America.

  3. I completely forgot to mention that the Tea Party Consensus is all the more remarkable because it is about the risks of climate change. That includes the impacts of climate change, which are very hard to judge.

    The consensus of 97% among climate scientists was just about the natural science part of the problem. (It is warming. It is us. The warming will continue.) That is the easy part. If you would ask scientists about risks, I would expect a considerable spread in the answers.

  4. Victor -

    ==> "Kahan of the Cultural Cognition Project is best known for his thesis that climate "sceptics" should be protected from the truth and that no one should mention the fact that there is a broad agreement (consensus) under climate scientists that we are changing the climate. "


    he thinks that "consensus" messaging will antagonize existing group identifications, and thus questions the effectiveness of such messaging. But that isn't the same thing as saying saying that people should be "protected from the truth"

    W/r/t Tea Partiers and climate change - there's this from a while back:

    And of course, more recently this:


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