by Jake Kessler
The United States is divided over the existence of climate change. The conservative right-wing party in the U.S., the Republican party, is widely known for its anti-climate change beliefs. The Democratic Party, our left-wing liberal party, strongly believes in climate change and the need to tackle it. Does this type of relationship between political ideology and opinion on climate change exist elsewhere? Aaron et al (2016) looked at similar populations in Canada, Australia, and the European Union, and found similar divides in those countries between the left, and right wing- coalitions. They argue that the issue has been become politicized in much of the developed world. However, the United States remains an outlier due to the intensity of the divide. The authors attributed this to the greater degree of politicization in general versus other developed countries.
The paper then focuses on the countries of the European Union. The authors looked at various surveys and papers detailing public sentiment regarding climate change, and recognized that much of the developed world does have a measurable relationship between political affiliation and likelihood of acknowledging climate change. The authors demonstrated that more that many Western Europeans than Americans were willing to acknowledge climate change, but that still, many conservatives did not believe in it.
Citizens of Western European countries generally have the same political leanings and ideas as those in the United States, but this is not in Eastern European countries. While climate change is a widely discussed topic in Western Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia, it is seldom broached in the former communist countries, and viewed as a low priority.
I was not expecting there to be such a disparity between Eastern and Western Europe. The media in the United States makes it seem as if the whole European Union is united against climate change, but this study eliminates the idea of a unified front. It was also shocking to see that the United States is an outlier when it comes to divisiveness and climate change. The authors acknowledged that many individuals on the right side of the political spectrum are fearful of an encroachment upon property rights, and I feel that this is especially prevalent in the United States. Hopefully we won’t remain an outlier for much longer.
Aaron M. McCright, Riley E. Dunlap & Sandra T. Marquart-Pyatt (2016) Political ideology and views about climate change in the European Union, Environmental Politics, 25:2, 338-358, DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2015.1090371