Super Tuesday voters at Sherrod Elementary School in Arlington, Texas LM Otero/AP
Voters in a dozen or so states are heading to the polls Tuesday for the year's biggest presidential primary clashes so far. The victors will find themselves a giant step closer to the Oval Office, where they would have a chance to reshape US policy on a wide range of issues, including climate change. So we decided to take a look at what voters in the Super Tuesday states think about global warming.
Last year, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication released a nationwide study of Americans' attitudes toward climate science and policy. In many states—especially the large bloc of Southern states voting on Tuesday—the results were not particularly encouraging.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists are 95 percent certain that human activities are responsible for most of the dramatic warming since the 1950s. But according to Yale's estimates, that opinion is shared by less than half of adults in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming.
Overall, just 48 percent of adults in the Super Tuesday states accept the scientific consensus.
Here's a slightly different way to look at the data. Yale combined those who believe global warming is mostly driven by humans with those who said it's caused by both nature and humans. The researchers also combined two types of climate science deniers: those who believe the warming is natural and those who simply don't believe the world is getting warmer. This makes the numbers look a bit better, but in many of the Super Tuesday states, a huge number of people still clearly reject the scientific consensus.
World leaders find the positions of GOP candidates “troubling,” the president says.
Jeremy SchulmanFeb. 16, 2016 8:41 PM
President Barack Obama blasted the Republican presidential field during a press conference Tuesday afternoon, calling out the candidates on everything from climate change to immigration.
Obama, following two days of negotiations at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in California, was asked by NBC News' Ron Allen about how foreign leaders at the event had reacted to GOP front-runner Donald Trump's call for a ban on Muslims entering the country.
"The other countries around the world, they kind of count on the United States being on the side of science and reason and common sense."
"I think foreign observers are troubled by some of the rhetoric that's been taking place in these Republican primaries and Republican debates," Obama responded. But he added that the feeling wasn't confined to Trump's comments. "He may up the ante in anti-Muslim sentiment," said the president, "but if you look at what the other Republicans have said, that's pretty troubling, too."
Obama then criticized the candidates' positions on immigration (watch above), before turning to global warming. "They're all denying climate change," he said. "I think that's troubling to the international community, since the science is unequivocal…The other countries around the world, they kind of count on the United States being on the side of science and reason and common sense, because they know that if the United States does not act on big problems in smart ways, nobody will."
"This is not just Mr. Trump," Obama continued. "There's not a single candidate in the Republican primary that thinks we should do anything about climate change, that thinks it's serious."
Obama got that right. Trump has called climate change a "hoax." Ted Cruz recently called it a "pseudoscientific theory." Marco Rubio told ABC, "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it," adding that he rejects the idea that "somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what's happening in our climate." Jeb Bush thinks it's "really arrogant" to say the science of climate change has been settled. Even John Kasich said in September: "I don't believe that humans are the primary cause of climate change." In December, Kasich criticized the very existence of the Paris climate conference, arguing that the world leaders in attendance should have been focusing on ISIS instead. And while Ben Carson seems to be a big fan of renewable energy, he told the San Francisco Chronicle, "There is no overwhelming science that the things that are going on are man-caused and not naturally caused."
"The rest of the world looks at that," the president said, "and they say, 'How can that be?'" Still, he added, "I continue to believe Mr. Trump will not be president, and the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people." The voters, he said, will realize that "whoever's standing where I'm standing right now has the nuclear codes with them, and can order 21-year-olds into a firefight, and has to make sure that the banking system doesn't collapse."
"The American people are pretty sensible," Obama concluded, "and I think they'll make a sensible choice in the end."
"There will be plenty of time for me to do so and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility."
Jeremy SchulmanFeb. 13, 2016 10:28 PM
Defying demands from leading Republicans, President Barack Obama pledged Saturday evening to nominate a Supreme Court justice to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Calling Scalia a "larger than life presence on the bench" and "one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court," Obama told the nation that "today is a time to remember Justice Scalia's legacy."
"I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time," added Obama. "There will be plenty of time for me to do so and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote. These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone. They're bigger than any one party. They are about our democracy. They're about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life, and making sure it continues to function as the beacon of justice that our founders envisioned."
Obama's comments were a thinly veiled rejection of calls by conservative activists and GOP politicians—including presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnnell (Ky.)—to leave Scalia's seat vacant until a new president takes office next year.
GOP politicians want to prevent President Obama from appointing a new justice.
Jeremy SchulmanFeb. 13, 2016 9:59 PM
In a statement released hours after the nation learned of the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Hillary Clinton blasted Republican politicians who have called for Scalia's seat to remain vacant until President Barack Obama leaves office next year.
The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel has some interesting theories about climate science.
Jeremy SchulmanFeb. 13, 2016 2:36 PM
The presidential debates have been widely criticized for so far all but ignoring global warming. But Saturday's Republican debate has the potential to be even more problematic. That's because one of the moderators is an outspoken climate change skeptic.
In addition to Face the Nation host John Dickerson and White House correspondent Major Garrett, tonight's CBS debate will feature questions from Kimberley Strassel, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board.
While not an obsession of Strassel's, she's long expressed doubts: in 2007, Strassel said on CNBC that "there isn't a consensus yet that [climate change] is actually caused by man or necessarily will be a huge problem," before adding "it's real cold out there today." (It was January.)
In 2009, she deployed scare quotes to claim that a set of leaked emails between climatologists had "blown the lid off the 'science' of manmade global warming."
More recently, Strassel appeared on Fox in 2014 to explain that global warming "became climate change when you couldn't prove that there was much global warming anymore, you know, as the temperature didn't change," going on to suggest that there was something nefarious about the shift to the widely preferred phrase: "we had to have this catch all term...that meant that any change in the weather somehow supported the theory."
Those statements align pretty closely with the varying degrees of climate change denial espoused by the remaining Republican candidates. It's not hard to imagine that a debate showcasing the views of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Strassel could leave viewers extremely misinformed about climate science.
I've asked to Strassel to elaborate on her views and have asked her, Dickerson, and CBS how they plan to handle the issue. They haven't responded.
Still, if the moderators decide to ask the candidates some scientifically accurate questions about global warming, we've compiled a pretty good list for them to pick from. My colleague Tim McDonnell asked a bunch of the nation's leading climate scientists and environmental activists what they'd ask. Read their suggestions here.