Changing Planet

Climate Change Concern Slipping as Scientists Ponder Link between Recent Events

new poll says climate change is no longer first on Americans’ list of the most critical environmental problems. About three in 10 people, or 29 percent, believe water and air pollution to be the top issue. Meanwhile, 19 percent saw climate change as a threat, down from 33 percent in 2007. Even with the decline, three-quarters of those polled thought the Earth was getting warmer.

Some scientists are connecting events such as the record heat and Colorado wildfires—suggesting warming is a real threat. The proof, according to scientists such as Princeton University Professor Michael Oppenheimer, is right outside. “What we’re seeing really is a window into what global warming really looks like,” Oppenheimer said. “It looks like heat. It looks like fires. It looks like this kind of environmental disasters.”

A study of media headlines from April 1 to June 30 didn’t quite reflect these scientists’ views. Coverage barely mentions climate change or global warming. Of more than 350 broadcasts and print articles, just 3 percent linked the wildfires to climate change.

Natural Gas Demand High as Drilling Expands

While New York State ponders lifting a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” for natural gas, North Carolina lawmakers voted to override Gov. Beverly Perdue’s veto of a bill that legalizes the technique in the state. The nudging vote, made in error, allows the formation of an Energy and Mining Commission tasked with creating regulations to govern natural gas production, both through horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

As states consider getting in on the nation’s shale gas boom, some of the places companies are considering targeting—parks, churches and playgrounds—are raising eyebrows. The latest is a 122-year-old cemetery in eastern Ohio. Opponents of the lease say the cemetery is sacred ground that shouldn’t be violated, while defenders argue drilling is so deep it won’t disturb the graves and could generate needed revenue.

Natural gas demand continues to increase even though, for the second consecutive year, total U.S. energy production declined. It is projected natural gas will increase 6 percent and account for 27.4 percent of the U.S. energy market, due in part to low prices and environmental regulations that will reduce consumption of coal. One blogger argues: natural gas liquids just may be the next “fossil fuel glut to follow natural gas.”

Health Care Decision’s Effect on Environmental Regulation

Days after a federal court ruled the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, Texas—one of the plaintiffs in the original lawsuit—is considering appealing the decision. (Full disclosure: Shortly after the ruling, I participated in a teleconference with three other experts in which we went over the ruling in detail.) Wednesday, the EPA reaffirmed it will not revise permitting thresholds under the Clean Air Act. The tailoring rule, the EPA said, will continue to focus on the largest emitters—both new and existing.

The same week as the EPA ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, and since then, several have questioned what the ruling means for the Clean Air Act. The Court’s ruling that the federal government cannot coerce states to accept the law’s Medicaid provisions may have implications for the Clean Air Act’s state implementation plans, and new limits on the Commerce Clause may affect other regulations as well.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Tim Profeta is the founding director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. The Nicholas Institute is part of Duke University and focuses on improving environmental policy making worldwide through objective, fact-based research in the areas of climate change, the economics of limiting carbon pollution, oceans governance and coastal management, emerging environmental markets and freshwater concerns at home and abroad. In his role at the Nicholas Institute, Profeta has continued to use his experience on Capitol Hill to engage in climate change debates. His research has focused, specifically, on market-based approaches to environmental regulations—particularly energy and climate change policy. Other projects engage his expertise in environmental law and air pollution regulation under the Clean Air Act.
  • Rudy Haugeneder

    Until the full and continuing force of Climate Change permanently cripples the economy, the majority of Americans won’t permit laws outlawing the causes of the destruction for fear of losing their jobs.
    And even if the worst occurs, they may not change their minds, and consider continued Climate Change as a new normal. Even the worst destruction would simply be accepted as the anticipated biblical end times, after which all will be rosy. Unfortunately the same applies worldwide, where followers of all religions, sadly, have more faith in a luxurious after-life than their ability to preserve and honor the global environment their creator created.

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