Was the election also a referendum on climate change?

November 27, 2016

A couple of days ago, I watched a video of Judith Curry talking about Climate Science and the Uncertainty Monster. Her presentation is long (and a little dry) but she brings up some interesting points.

One of the slides in Curry’s presentation was a map of state-by-state support for President Obama’s climate change programs. Here’s Curry’s map, captured from the video. (You can find a very similar map at ThinkProgress.)


Look familiar? Here’s a map of Electoral College results (via 270toWin.com).


I was struck by the correlation between the two maps, even though it’s not perfect.

Since the election, I’ve read any amount of commentary along the lines of "Trump’s victory means (fill in the blank)." The collection of opinions I’ve read reminds me of the elephant and the blind men. Everyone’s putting his own interpretation on the Trump elephant and frequently, I suspect, with little knowledge about Trump himself.

But I suppose you could add my interpretation here to that collection because what I’ve gathered from the people I know is that reaction to new Federal regulations under the Obama administration – climate change, among many others – was a factor in Trump’s win.

But back to the maps: It doesn’t surprise me that states whose governors & legislatures support active measures against climate change voted Democrat while those that don’t support those measures voted Republican. Before liberal readers begin buffing their halos as members of the Reality Party, though, it seems to me the Democrat support for action on climate change could have any number of explanations.

And that brings me to an article that John Tierney published in City Journal recently. I found Tierney’s article pretty interesting and you should RTWT. (My emphasis below.)

The Real War on Science
The Left has done far more than the Right to set back progress.

My liberal friends sometimes ask me why I don’t devote more of my science journalism to the sins of the Right. It’s fine to expose pseudoscience on the left, they say, but why aren’t you an equal-opportunity debunker? Why not write about conservatives’ threat to science?

My friends don’t like my answer: because there isn’t much to write about. Conservatives just don’t have that much impact on science. I know that sounds strange to Democrats who decry Republican creationists and call themselves the “party of science.” But I’ve done my homework. I’ve read the Left’s indictments, including Chris Mooney’s bestseller, The Republican War on Science. I finished it with the same question about this war that I had at the outset: Where are the casualties?

Where are the scientists who lost their jobs or their funding? What vital research has been corrupted or suppressed? What scientific debate has been silenced? Yes, the book reveals that Republican creationists exist, but they don’t affect the biologists or anthropologists studying evolution. Yes, George W. Bush refused federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, but that hardly put a stop to it (and not much changed after Barack Obama reversed the policy). Mooney rails at scientists and politicians who oppose government policies favored by progressives like himself, but if you’re looking for serious damage to the enterprise of science, he offers only three examples. […]

The danger from the Left does not arise from stupidity or dishonesty; those failings are bipartisan. Some surveys show that Republicans, particularly libertarians, are more scientifically literate than Democrats, but there’s plenty of ignorance all around. […]

The first threat is confirmation bias, the well-documented tendency of people to seek out and accept information that confirms their beliefs and prejudices. In a classic study of peer review, 75 psychologists were asked to referee a paper about the mental health of left-wing student activists. Some referees saw a version of the paper showing that the student activists’ mental health was above normal; others saw different data, showing it to be below normal. Sure enough, the more liberal referees were more likely to recommend publishing the paper favorable to the left-wing activists. When the conclusion went the other way, they quickly found problems with its methodology. […]

And that brings us to the second great threat from the Left: its long tradition of mixing science and politics. To conservatives, the fundamental problem with the Left is what Friedrich Hayek called the fatal conceit: the delusion that experts are wise enough to redesign society. Conservatives distrust central planners, preferring to rely on traditional institutions that protect individuals’ “natural rights” against the power of the state. Leftists have much more confidence in experts and the state. Engels argued for “scientific socialism,” a redesign of society supposedly based on the scientific method. […]

(H.T. Jeff G)

Update 11/28/16: Here’s a more recent, post-election, column by Tierney. (My emphasis again.)

Trump and Science

What will a Trump administration mean for scientific research and technology?

The good news is that the next president doesn’t seem all that interested in science
, judging from the little he said about it during the campaign. That makes a welcome contrast with Barack Obama, who cared far too much — in the wrong way. He politicized science to advance his agenda. His scientific appointees in the White House, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Food and Drug Administration were distinguished by their progressive ideology, not the quality of their research. They used junk science—or no science—to justify misbegotten crusades against dietary salt, trans fats, and electronic cigarettes. They cited phony statistics to spread myths about a gender pay gap and a rape crisis on college campuses. Ignoring mainstream climate scientists, they blamed droughts and storms on global warming and then tried to silence critics who pointed out their mistakes. […]

Trump has vowed to ignore the Paris international climate agreement that committed the U.S. to reduce greenhouse emissions. That prospect appalls environmentalists but cheers those of us who consider the agreement an enormously expensive way to achieve very little. Trump’s position poses a financial threat to wind-power producers and other green-energy companies that rely on federal subsidies to survive. […]


One comment

  1. […] mentioned Judith Curry a few weeks ago. She’s a Professor at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia […]

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