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White Evangelical Protestants, Tea Partiers, and the Climate Change Debate
Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux,

Earlier this week, Eugene Robinson wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post, lambasting the “neo-Luddites” (read: politicians) who he says are turning the GOP into an anti-science party. He zeroes in on climate change skeptics, citing a recent study by Richard Muller, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, who along with his team at the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, “rigorously explored the specific objections raised by skeptics – and found them groundless.”

Although the results are still preliminary, Muller nevertheless hopes that the report will serve to end the debate over whether or not climate-change is occurring. A more difficult task, at least according to Robinson, will be getting the politicians— even those who accept the science—to admit that humans are to blame. He blames Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Michele Bachmann for “committing an unforgivable fraud” by “play[ing] politics with the Earth’s future. They may concede that warming is taking place, but they call it a natural phenomenon.”

Mitt Romney is conspicuously spared Robinson’s accusations, perhaps because even though he’s been accused of flip-flopping on climate change, he’s staked out a more moderate position than his rivals.  What Perry, Cain and Bachmann do have in common are their attempts to court two important Republican constituencies: white evangelical Protestants and people who identify with the Tea Party. In September, PRRI found that both groups are significantly less likely than the general public to believe that the earth is getting warmer and that warming is caused by human activity.

It’s hard to know whether Perry, Cain or Bachmann could convince evangelicals or members of the Tea Party movement that climate change is a fact, and one for which humans are responsible. But one thing is clear: if Robinson and others want to push politicians to lead on the issue of climate change, facts alone are unlikely to do the job.