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In the United States, conservatives tend to be against climate change regulations more frequently than the rest of the population.

Conservatives in the U.S. tend to hold traditional and Christian values. However, none of these values are directly incompatible with climate change reform, nor with the idea of climate change itself. Moreover, I do not know of any Christian theologies or denominations that are incompatible with it. So, what caused this tendency to emerge in U.S. politics?

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    You make a couple of leaps here that are hard to follow. First, you describe it as "conservatives" and "the rest of the population". But conservatives are a pretty large chunk of the population of the US, not some fringe group. Second, you describe conservatives as holding Christian values, but its unclear why that would be the only motivating factor for them. Christianity for example doesn't really say anything about foreign trade policy, yet conservatives have opinions on that. – Reinstate Monica May 28 at 2:11
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    @DavidGrinberg (1) I never said they were a fringe group. "The rest of the population" just means the part of the population that isn't conservative. (2) For some reason I thought that climate change and Christianity were related for some reason (I never thought hard about it). That's why I brought it up. – PyRulez May 28 at 2:37
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    You are focusing on social conservatives and their largely Christian identity, but there are fiscal conservatives, like the group republicEn, that support climate change reform through free-market solutions. – Thunderforge May 28 at 3:42
  • Comments deleted. This is not the place to discuss climate change. – Philipp May 28 at 14:43
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    Possible duplicate of Why is denying global warming associated with conservatives? – Jasper May 28 at 18:39

13 Answers 13

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Big business

Politics (of either mainstream party) in the USA is dependent on money from big business. Many of those big businesses prioritise short term profit over long term environmental preservation, or have bonus systems that promote short term (<5 years) gains over long term (>100 years) gains. Climate change action may reduce short term profits, in particular for businesses heavily invested in fossil fuels. Companies working in the oil and gas industry donate more to Republicans than to Democrats (see Western Refining and ExxonMobil in particular), and presently, the Republican Party is the primary home of conservatives in the USA. On the other hand, there is also a lot of money to be made in climate change action, and many high tech companies donate a lot more to the Democrats than to the Republicans, so one can equally argue that Democrat politicians support climate change action not out of idealism but due to corporate donations (I'm not saying this argument is right or wrong, but it can be made).

Populism

Climate change action may be (correctly or not) perceived to affect the short term lifestyle of consumers. Propaganda by big business may stress those aspects of climate change action that have such an impact. Some voters may dislike the idea of a impact on their short term lifestyle, and thus be happy to listen.

Of course, for some people, such as employees in the fossil fuel industry, the short term impact on their life may be major, in particular if they do not successfully transition into new industries (with or without government help).

"Small government" conservatism

Many proposals for the mitigation of climate change require government action including taxation, and many conservatives are inherently skeptical of any government intervention in the economy in general and of taxation in particular. A tax on CO₂ emissions is a government intervention and a taxation, and even many conservatives who support climate change action in principle may oppose such a taxation because they want to reduce taxation in general, preferring "market based" solutions such as CO₂ trading schemes (although the latter is still a government intervention; I don't know what such a market based solution would look like without any government-organised pricing of externalities in some way)¹.

Denial

In the USA (and, perhaps to a lesser degree, in Europe), there still exist mainstream politicians who either deny the science of anthropogenic climate change altogether, or state that the impacts are exaggerated. For the groups mentioned above (at least the first two bullet points), it may be convenient to deny that the problem exists, so that they don't need to answer why they won't support action to resolve the problem. See Fizz' answer for evidence on the partisan divide in accepting scientific findings on climate change. There may be a handful of people who state that God created the Earth and therefore humans cannot change the climate, but that view is probably not held by a large number of people (see also Rogers answer).

Even among those who accept anthropogenic climate change, some may argue that action is useless because other/bigger countries aren't taking action, but I don't know if this view is more prevalent among conservatives than among progressives.


¹I suppose that a libertarian-legalistic answer would be that the inhabitants of Bangladesh in 200 years can simply sue all the world's industry emitting CO₂ between 1850 and 2050 for drowning them, or something like that. You may be able to tell I don't really buy this approach to environmental pollution including climate change.

  • Under populism you don't seem to include the loss of jobs for certain geographic areas. While those job losses may be offset elsewhere certain geographic areas are net losers in terms of jobs, which makes the population there into upset populist voters. – Mark Rogers May 29 at 19:54
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    @MarkRogers You are right that I did not address that point, but why would that lead to conservatives not support climate change action? It might as well lead to progressives not support such. – gerrit May 29 at 20:14
  • @gerrit - Well conservatives do care about how rural communities are doing, which is one of their centers of power. The job loss gives them an argument to use against climate change in favor of big business and libertarianism. Their argument is often that regulation leads to job loss and they can hold this up as an example. While one would think that fighting job loss is progressive, it can be used to fuel conservative talking points. Unemployment can be seen as a criticism of capitalism, if there is less unemployment then capitalism maybe perceived as doing well. – Mark Rogers May 29 at 20:31
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    You missed one reason. There are also those who believe that pollution is primarily the fault of China and India, and any changes in the US would have little to no effect on the climate overall. The solution then would be to wait until the standard of living in those countries increases enough that climate becomes a concern to the native population. – Strill May 29 at 21:11
  • @Strill Is that view more prevalent among conservatives than among progressives, though? – gerrit May 30 at 9:20
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  • Proposed solutions to climate change are (almost?) all based on handing greater power to the government, and Conservatives are traditionally for smaller government.

  • Proposed solutions to climate change come at a cost of increased taxation or economic slowdown, and Conservatives are traditionally in favor of free market and lower taxes.

  • Big business donors lobby against policies that could hurt them.

  • They may believe that climate change has been co-opted by Liberals, who are using it to promote their own political agenda, and so it is natural for Conservatives to oppose what the other side is proposing (and vice-versa).

  • Most importantly, they do not believe in (man-made) climate change, or at least do not believe that solutions proposed are effective and/or reasonable or practical. There have been numerous failed climate change predictions, the temperature data is wrapped up in complicated models, and in the age of fake news, it is easy to disbelieve the establishment narrative, especially when it is used by your political opponents.

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To give a somewhat glib answer, Fox News.

In a 2019 poll, 12% of Republicans who watch Fox News believe in man-made climate change; the percentage among Republicans who don't watch Fox News rises to 28%.

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Of course, this doesn't explain the profile of Fox News viewers in any further detail.

There's an older academic study (2011) which looked at additional factors. They have two linear regression models, one without and one with some interaction terms between choice of news channel and political-party orientation ("partisanship" as they called it.) (The product terms use mean-centered variables.) Beta(s) in the table below are standardized regression coefficients; the B's are the usual regression coefficients and SE is standard error for those.

enter image description here

There is a perhaps a slight influence of church attendance and/or biblical values but nowhere near as much the choice of media consumed. Good political-values predictors were belief in small government (labeled "individualism") and [rejection of] redistribution etc. (labelled "egalitarianism").

Here's the rundown of the factors in that table, as they were measured:

  • Age in years (M = 46.4, SD = 16.8)
  • Gender (48.1 percent male)
  • Race (69.3 percent white)
  • Education (Range = 1 [less than high school] to 5 [post-graduate degree]; Median = 3 [some college])
  • Income (Range = 1 [less $25,000] to 5 [$100,000 or more]; Median = 4 [$50,000-$74,999])

Media Use

  • Days per week read a printed newspaper (M = 3.6, SD = 2.7)
  • Days per week read news online (M = 3.7, SD = 2.7)

  • Cable news use. Using a response scale from (1) “never” to (4) “often,” respondents were asked to report how frequently they watch CNN (M = 2.2, SD = 1.1), MSNBC (M = 2.0, SD = 1.0), and the Fox News cable channel (M = 2.2, SD = 1.1).7 Because the correlation between CNN and MSNBC was substantial (r = .66, p < .001), responses to these two items were averaged to form a combined measure of CNN/MSNBC cable viewing (M = 2.1, SD = 1.0). This was further justified given that the content analysis results indicated similar trends in climate change coverage across these two networks.

  • Network TV news use (Range = 1 [never] to 5 [often]; Median = 3 [sometimes])

  • Global warming information-seeking (Mean of three items: “How much attention do you pay to information about global warming?” “In the past 30 days, how much have you actively looked for information about global warming?” and “How closely do you follow news about the environment?” Range = 1 to 4, where 4 indicates higher information seeking; α = .80; M = 2.0, SD = 0.7).

Values and Predispositions

  • Political partisanship. Respondents were asked to specify their party identification (Democrat, Republican, Independent, other, or no affiliation). Those who identified as Independent or Other were then asked to indicate whether they see themselves as closer to the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, or neither. A 5-point ordinal partisanship measure was constructed from these responses (Democrat, lean Democrat, Independent/other/no affiliation, lean Republican, Republican; M = 2.8, SD = 1.6).

  • Frequency of religious service attendance (Range = 1 [never] to 6 [more than once a week]; Median = 3 [a few times a year])

  • Biblical values (Mean agreement with three items: “Human beings, as we know them today, evolved from earlier species of animals” [reverse-coded]; “One must believe in God in order to be moral and have good values”; “Just as the Bible says, the world literally was created in six days.” Range = 1 to 4, where 4 indicates stronger biblical values; α = .77; M = 2.6, SD = 0.9)

  • Egalitarianism (Mean agreement with four items: “The world would be a more peaceful place if its wealth were divided more equally among nations”; “In my ideal society, all basic needs would be guaranteed by the government for everyone”; “I support government programs to get rid of poverty”; “Discrimination against minorities is still a very serious problem in our society.” Range = 1 to 4, where 4 indicates more egalitarianism; α = .72; M = 2.6, SD = 0.7)

  • Individualism (Mean agreement with five items: “If the government spent less time trying to fix everyone’s problems, we’d all be a lot better off”; “Our government tries to do too many things for too many people. We should just let people take care of themselves”; “The government interferes too much in our everyday lives”; “Government regulation of business usually does more harm than good”; “People should be allowed to make as much money as they can, even if it means some make millions while others live in poverty.” Range = 1 to 4, where 4 indicates more individualistic attitudes; α = .77; M = 2.6; SD =0.6)

  • Materialism (Mean agreement with four items: “You can tell if people are successful by the things they own and the way they dress”; “It’s very important to me to have a home as well-equipped and furnished as that of other people I know”; “I follow the latest trends and fashions”; “I prefer brands and products that make me feel accepted by others.” Range = 1 to 4, where 4 indicates greater materialism; α = .67; M = 1.9; SD =0.6)

  • Approval of modern science (Agreement with statement “Overall, modern science does more harm than good”; Range = 1 to 4, where 4 indicates more disagreement; M = 3.1; SD = 0.8)

  • Environmentalism (Agreement with statement “I consider myself an environmentalist”; Range = 1 to 4, where 4 indicates more agreement; M = 2.5; SD = 0.8)

As for the dependent variable in that regression, they asked 5 questions about global warming, but the answers were so highly correlated that they combined in to a single index/response.

Five beliefs and perceptions were used as indicators of global warming acceptance: the perception of scientific agreement on global warming, belief in the human causes of global warming, certainty that global warming is happening, concern about the impact of global warming, and the valence of expectations regarding the outcomes of taking action on global warming. For the sake of parsimony, these five variables were combined into a single omnibus index, which served as the dependent variable in our analyses. A principal components factor analysis confirmed that these five variables load on a single factor (eigenvalue = 2.92; all factor loadings > .64), and internal reliability was high (a = .82).

Details for each of these 5 questions omitted by me here.

Research in other countries (Sweden, Brazil) also found that rejection of egalitarianism (as measured by more standardized social dominance orientation questionnaires) is a good predictor of climate change denial. So the (positive) correlation with anti-egalitarianism is hardly a unique US phenomenon.

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    Correlation, causation, or both? – Obie 2.0 May 27 at 22:09
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    Wow, that first visualisation is the most unintuitively designed thing I've ever seen. – typo May 28 at 7:17
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    Perhaps a quick run down on what Model 1 and Model 2 is, as well as what B (SE) and Beta is would be useful. – PyRulez May 28 at 12:47
  • @PyRulez: the only difference is that one model has an interaction term and the other doesn't. For some background see any textbook on statistics (linear regression) or on-line equivalent e.g. newonlinecourses.science.psu.edu/stat501/node/307 – Fizz May 28 at 21:41
  • @Fizz okay, they are correlation coefficients. That's what I was wondering. – PyRulez May 29 at 2:45
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To speak purely to the Christian theological point -- some theologians have interpreted Genesis 9:11 to be relevant:

And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

U.S. Representative John Shimkus (Republican) made this argument in 2010:

"I believe that's the infallible word of God, and that's the way it's going to be for his creation. The Earth will end only when God declares it's time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth. This Earth will not be destroyed by a Flood. I do believe that God's word is infallible, unchanging, perfect."

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    Yes, this is a salient point, along with the Second Coming and various eschatological beliefs. Of course, contrarily, the first chapter of Genesis is the main Christian argument in favour of climate change reform, but it is definitely not as serious for Christians as it is for atheists. It is not about the survival of the planet - it is simply about obeying God's command to look after the planet. – Nacht - Reinstate Monica May 28 at 6:45
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    I thought of this, but I decided not to add it to the answer, because I do not believe it to be a major cause of the dominant conservative thought on climate change. To go back 9 years quoting a single representative may be considered nutpicking. – gerrit May 28 at 7:34
  • The world is over if this sh*t just happens to be in the beach of Phuket during year 2004 tsunami disaster. – mootmoot May 28 at 13:09
  • That quote illustrates a popular misconception about climate change too. We won't (can't) "destroy this Earth". But we're perfectly capable of changing the landscape of the Earth such that many species of animals and billions of people are killed. Whether this is an issue for you depends very much on where you are, or what places you care about. If you live in Nauru, this is an existential threat. If you live in Wyoming, you may not even notice, and the loss of coral on the Great Barrier Reef might not be something you care about. – Graham May 29 at 7:23
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    @Graham There are people who say humans can't wipe out species? WTF? – gerrit May 29 at 8:20
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It is impossible to answer this question for every Conservative; each may have their own reasons for the determination they've come to. So, the following answer is a representation of the reasoning, in the conservative circles I travel, that the prospect of anthroprogenic climate change is questionable, thus doubting the need for regulation. There are four main points, highlighted below with amplifying information. They will be followed by a summary.

Massive Opening Clarion Statement

This answer is not about the truth of the following claims. Instead, it is an explainer for the "tendency of conservatives" to not support climate change regulations, because many of them don't are skeptical about claims on Anthroprogenic Global Warming. If they hold AGW in doubt, the cost-benefit curve of regulatory actions are less supported.

History of Data Manipulation
There are two significant incidents where it has been revealed after the fact that those developing the AGW narrative have made demonstrated lapses in integrity. First was the Hockey Stick graph, first released in 1999 (Mann, Bradley, and Hughes). It was subsequently weighed down with challenges to the statistical methods it used and a critique questioning the choice to minimize the statistical influence of the Medieval Warming Period, the latter highlighted by the differences in the IPCC reports between 1990 and 2001. The integrity of the work was further tainted by the hacking of climate research email servers which provided a perspective of conspiracy (more later). More recently, the choice of NOAA to 'adjust' recorded temperature information, lowering earlier records and raising current records, furthers the perspective of manipulation.

Data Not Available for Review
In addition to the question of data integrity, there is an ongoing complaint that many of the reports and news articles present the results of an review, without providing the source information and methodology for evaluation.

Active Conspiracies
While some level of confidentiality and opaqueness is expected in scientific exploration, the lengths that the proponents for climate change goes to doesn't help the perception that something untoward is going on behind the scenes. This is worsened be previously referenced release of emails from within a climate change organization that reflected those concerns.

Abandonment of the Scientific Process
The line that creates the most cringing response is "the science is settled," with the impression being that it has been proven that man made actions have an influence on climate change. As if all factors were understood, all the data was in, and that it was definitively proven that man has a measureable impact on the climate. In this case, the intention that the exhausts of man made technologies has an influence on climate change (again, more later), requires an in depth understanding of a multitude of factors, which non-exhaustively includes: solar cycles, irregularities of the planets orbit, irregularities of the planets rotation, the cyclical nature of prevailing winds, interaction of the moon on the tides and the resulting effects, irregularities of the planet's core hydraulic rotation, shifting of the continental shelves, variation of volcanic heating influences on the oceans, and many, many more. Further, the claim that carbon dioxide is a pollutant, which is held true in order to curtail it's production, is questionable. An increased availability of carbon dioxide would encourage an expanse in plant growth.

Summary
Climate Change does exist; there are cyclical pattern that can be demonstrated in what weather does.

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    So, how does any of this answer why conservatives, as opposed to progressives are critical about AGW? You're merely listing talking points which discredit the scientists; if these points are true (I won't discuss that here; as you may be able to guess I disagree but this is off-topic here) then it should be just as much reason for skepticism on the Left as on the Right. – leftaroundabout May 28 at 14:15
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    "It far easier to prove the negative, that a thing doesn't exist, than to ever prove a thing does exist." - This is exactly the opposite of how proving things works. See "Proving a Negative" under "Burden of Proof": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – JackArbiter May 28 at 15:40
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    Pretty much all of your claims about nefarious actions were debunked when investigated. -1 for proliferating misinformation. If I could give you another -1 for talking about "climate cycles" and referencing "weather" I would. – PoloHoleSet May 28 at 20:39
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    @PoloHoleSet The Truth of the claims aren't isn't in question; it is whether or not there are conservative circles that hold those positions and view points. Since there are, there is diminished confidence in any of the science put forth from the AGW activism crowd. – Drunk Cynic May 28 at 20:43
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    You don't frame them as claims, you state them as fact, so, yes, the factual nature of the claims is relevant. You don't state that they believe data was manipulated, you state that data was manipulated. If you care to change your wording, I'll reconsider my downvote. – PoloHoleSet May 28 at 20:47
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I think you're missing something fundamental to the Conservative parts of the Republican Party: government control. Let's break down climate change for a second and we can better spot the disagreements as we go

The earth has gotten warmer since we started keeping records

Scientific fact. Not many argue against this because the records go back long before the theories we have today.

The earth got warmer due to carbon dioxide in the air

There are some minor disagreements here and there but there seems to be a strong correlation. Still not that many political arguments at this level.

Humans are the primary source of carbon dioxide

There's a case to be made here that humans are making it worse, but carbon dioxide sources are somewhat varied. There's some who disagree with this assessment (not endorsing it either way, just noting it's there), and it's hard to solidify on either side because we don't have an easy way to determine all sources.

Human activity is the root cause of climate change

This is where the friction gets going. The problem with this is that there are lots and lots of political alarmists in this arena like Al Gore, who produced the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which has proven to be inaccurate

Gore also famously predicted storms would become more frequent and intense as man-made emissions warmed the oceans.

“And of course when the oceans get warmer, that causes stronger storms,” Gore said in his film. “That same year that we had that string of big hurricanes, we also set an all-time record for tornadoes.”

Unfortunately, science has not backed that up

The IPCC found in 2013 there “is limited evidence of changes in extremes associated with other climate variables since the mid-20th century.” The IPCC also found “no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century” and “[n]o robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.”

A similar problem was criticism of George W. Bush in 2005 about Hurricane Katrina

"The Bush government rejects international climate protection goals by insisting that imposing them would negatively impact the American economy," wrote Jürgen Tritten, Germany's environment minister and a Green Party member.

"The American president is closing his eyes to the economic and human costs his land and the world economy are suffering under natural catastrophes like Katrina," Tritten charged.

The problem there was that Katrina wasn't caused, or even made worse by, the policies of Bush

But the experts add that it is scientifically unfair to blame any one hurricane on the warming trend.

"We would expect hurricanes on average should be getting more intense because of global warming, but it's hard to make the connection in any one event, like Katrina," said Jay Gulledge, senior research fellow at the Pew Institute for Climate Change.

Let's put aside the science for a moment. Imagine one political side starts making wild claims that don't always match up to reality. Would the other side be more or less inclined to listen to them, even if there were more solid scientific arguments to be made?

The solution to climate change is government regulation. Like RIGHT NOW

Here's climate activist Greta Thunberg

One way forward would be to declare a global climate emergency, a proposal that she says has been backed by the U.K., Ireland and other countries, but not yet by Sweden.

This would “send a clear signal that we’re in a crisis,” she said.

And an indirect rebuttal by Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg (emphasis mine)

In times of emergency, we’re all in it together. And that’s a good thing.

But there are two caveats. The first is that emergencies do not last, and when the emergency is over, the old rules need to come back. If they don’t, then capitalism, democracy, and liberty are done for. Emergencies must be the exception to the rule, because if we make the spirit of emergency the rule, then we no longer live under the rule of law, but the rule of tyrants or mobs.

The second problem is that real emergencies must be obvious to all — or at least nearly all. There are moral equivalents to war. A girl down a mine shaft is one. A meteor heading to earth is another, as are various forms of natural disasters, zombie, vampire, and C.H.U.D apocalypses, etc.

The problem is that there are people who are very attracted to the power that comes with emergencies. Power is seductive in whatever form it takes: Emergency powers, money, Infinity Stones, the One Ring, or, as we’ve seen in the case of Jussie Smollet, the cultural power that comes with being able to claim you are a victim.

This leads people to declare emergencies when they do not exist or to exaggerate real challenges so they can do an end run around the conventional rules of democracy. There’s been a lot of the latter over the last decade or so.

Now, not all of this is centered around emergency powers. The Democrat's Green New Deal isn't an emergency power grab, yet it can't resist being political either. Somehow it manages to link dealing with climate change to high speed rail (a long time Democrat favorite), labor law reforms, jobs and leave policy, free college, no nuclear power, etc. In other words, give Democrats full control of the US economy and they'll solve all the problems of the world, along with climate change.

As such, it's unsurprising that Republicans have been more skeptical of the claims pushed by Democrats. Viewed through a political lens, it looks less like science and more like rhetoric to them.

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    Really? You're using a Daily Caller article as your source for a claim that An Inconvenient Truth was proven wrong? Here's Media Bias/Fact Check's report on them: "Overall, we rate the Daily Caller strongly right biased based on story selection that almost always favors the right and Mixed for factual reporting due to numerous failed fact checks. The Daily Caller is a source that needs to be fact checked on a per article basis." mediabiasfactcheck.com/daily-caller – probably_someone May 30 at 9:28
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    @probably_someone Look, it doesn't matter which site I use at this point (and that Skeptical Science link is an easier target in that regard). 1. People will attack the sources they don't agree with. I could use a slightly more center source and still get the same response 2. The questions was why Conservative Republicans feel this way. It's hard not to quote from those sources in explaining that position. 3. That particular article has a lot of objective fact. They quote from external sources like the IPCC report. Gore got it wrong. The source doesn't change that. – Machavity May 30 at 12:14
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    @Machavity 1. The fact that people will attack an article no matter how misleading it is doesn't mean that you shouldn't care whether you post misleading things. It sounds like you want a justification to not care about the quality of your sources. Though this isn't the forum for it, I can explain exactly how the article you posted is misleading if you want. Also, given the choice among many sources addressing the documentary, the fact that you willingly chose this one speaks volumes. – probably_someone May 30 at 12:19
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    @Machavity 2. You didn't say, "Conservatives believe that An Inconvenient Truth has been disproven." You said, "An Inconvenient Truth has been disproven." There's a big difference between those two. 3. The quote from the IPCC doesn't contradict the Gore quote. In the quote, Gore says that storms would be stronger, not that there would be more of them. The IPCC quote says that there aren't more storms. That quote does not say that storms aren't stronger, so it doesn't contradict Gore's quote. It's precisely this kind of bait-and-switch that makes this article misleading. – probably_someone May 30 at 12:23
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    @Machavity If you're really adamant on putting "Gore got it wrong" in your answer, at least do your due diligence. First of all, define specifically what you mean by "it" and "wrong", and provide reputable, peer-reviewed scientific sources supporting your claims. It really could be true that he did get some things wrong, but your answer currently doesn't provide solid evidence of that. – probably_someone May 30 at 12:27
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The other answers mention taxation, government expansion, etc. Those are good points, and definitely a big part of why conservatives generally don't support fighting AGW. But there's a pervasive reason that hasn't been mentioned:

Because liberals support it, loudly and conspicuously.

To endorse the idea of man-made climate change in a conservative space is to invite accusations of being a RINO, a turncoat, someone who has lost the One True Way. Liberals further drive this dynamic by insulting loudly and at great length those who deny the facts as we understand them. Since mocking people tends to be a rather poor way to change their minds, conservatives entrench even further.

And this is a problem, because it's arguably the largest existential threat to humankind today.

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    This answer could be summarized in one word: "spite". Please elaborate on whether or not this is a peculiarity of one party, both parties; or a side effect of certain systems within or of government; or the unfortunate expression some universal human trait; or something else... – agc May 29 at 3:54
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    @agc your one-word summary is priceless. And yes, this is a universal truth of politics, a part of the human condition. It's not the only part of the answer to the OP's question, and it may not even be the most important part, but it's the part that was noticeably absent from the other answers at the time I wrote this. – Jared Smith May 29 at 11:21
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    Many liberal "green" movements are accused of doing it purely as a form virtue signaling, that they don't really care about the environment and don't invest any more resources in saving the climate than anyone else, they just claim to be green because it looks good, and they can use it to vilify their opponents. Far be it from me to dictate whether these accusations are true or not, but they are talked about, so it's not unreasonable for some conservatives to view supportive speeches for climate change regulations as a from of empty virtue signaling. – vsz May 29 at 16:32
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    @vsz the problem is that reality doesn't care whether the motivations of the players (on either side) are pure, empty, or some mix of the two. The temperature of the planet and the consequences are brute facts. Which is why I'm particularly bitter that something so potentially important gets hijacked as a signaling mechanism. – Jared Smith May 29 at 16:59
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    This answer would be a lot better without the last mini-paragraph. Up until then, it was a reasonable answer that a lot of people would agree with. The paragraph above it talks about how mocking people is a terrible way of changing peoples' minds... followed by the final few sentences mocking people that don't agree with you. – Kevin May 29 at 19:20
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It is unclear to me why religion is given as a factor, see Conservatism in the United States.

Conservatism in the United States is not a single school of thought.

I, for example, am a Constitutional conservative, not a Christian conservative.

Also, see Opposition to environmentalism.

Conservative think tanks since the 1990s have opposed the concept of man-made global warming; they challenged scientific evidence, publicised what they perceived as beneficial aspects of global warming, and stated their strong beliefs that proposed remedies would do more harm than good. The concept of anthropogenic global warming continues to be an ongoing debate among Conservatives in the United States, but the majority reject the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by humans; 73% of Republicans believed humans were uninvolved in causing global warming, according to a 2015 poll by Pew Research.

In recent times, American conservatives have generally supported deregulation of pollution and reduced restrictions on carbon emissions. Similarly, they have advocated increased oil drilling with less regulatory interference, such as in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In the 2008 election, the phrase, "Drill baby drill" was used to express the Republican position on the subject.


Preponderance of research is less than preponderance of evidence due to Falsifiability.

The classical view of the philosophy of science is that it is the goal of science to prove hypotheses like "All swans are white" or to induce them from observational data. The Inductivist methodology supposes that one can somehow move from a series of statements such as 'here is a white swan', 'over there is a white swan', and so on, to a universal statement such as 'all swans are white'. As observed by David Hume, Immanuel Kant and later by Popper and others, this method is clearly deductively invalid, since it is always possible that there may be a non-white swan that has eluded observation (and, in fact, the discovery of the Australian black swan demonstrated the deductive invalidity of this particular statement). This is known as the problem of induction.

There is a lack of deductive evidence for anthropogenic global warming; this means there is room for skepticism.

[To clear up some apparent confusion, since lack of does not always mean no.]

There is not enough deductive evidence to reach a definitive conclusion for anthropogenic global warming; this means there is room for skepticism. While some level of Scientific skepticism is normal, the level of skepticism of conservatives in the Climate Science claim of AGW is quite high.


From Pew Research Center, How Americans see climate change in 5 charts:

5 Partisanship is a stronger factor in people’s beliefs about climate change than is their level of knowledge and understanding about science.

Pew Research Center Chart

In 2016, 93% of Democrats (including leaners) with a high level of knowledge about science said climate change is mostly due to human activity, compared with 49% of Democrats with low science knowledge, based on a nine-item index. By contrast, Republicans and GOP-leaning independents with a high level of science knowledge were no more likely than those with a low level of knowledge to say climate change is mostly due to human activity.

Among those with a high level of science knowledge, the difference between 23% and 93% shows a very high degree of skepticism. Conservatives don't trust the data and don't trust those providing the data.

From Pew Research Center, Conservative Republicans especially skeptical of climate scientists’ research and understanding:

Pew Research Center Chart

Many conservative Republicans have a negative view of scientists’ understanding of climate change.

Conservative Republicans are closely divided over whether to trust information from climate scientists:

Many conservative Republicans express doubts about whether the work of climate scientists is based on the best available evidence.

Conservative Republicans are more doubtful than others about motives behind climate research findings.


As requested in a comment You should explain what the second half of this post is supposed to have to do with the question.:

The title question: What caused the tendency for conservatives to not support climate change reform? I'm a conservative. Conservative think tanks since the 1990s have opposed the concept of man-made global warming; they challenged scientific evidence .... I'm skeptical of the scientific evidence. Those who are skeptics need not necessarily explain why; it amounts to trying to prove a negative. I provided an explanation.

  • 5
    To be clear, you would dismiss any scientific research because its not based on mathematical logic? That's essentially what your statement about inductive versus deductive logic reduces to. – Obie 2.0 May 27 at 21:18
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    You should explain what the second half of this post is supposed to have to do with the question. Are conservatives necessarily more in a deductive mindset whereas progressives think inductively? (For the argument itself: I daresay it's pretty stupid. By much the same reasoning you could argue that all national defense can be scrapped because there is no deductive evidence that your country will ever be attacked in the future. And anyways there is evidence for AGW; relevant video: youtube.com/watch?v=OJ6Z04VJDco) – leftaroundabout May 27 at 21:54
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    By your definition there is a lack of deductive evidence for the theory of gravity, yet conservatives pretty broadly seem to accept that. I posit that there's something else going on here. – Curt J. Sampson May 27 at 23:33
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    @RickSmith there are pretty rigorous regulations regarding the statics of buildings, which only make sense under the premise that gravity will still work as before when building actually stands. Most conservatives don't seem to find this inappropriate, despite the inductive reasoning involved. – leftaroundabout May 28 at 1:05
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    False: There is a lack of deductive evidence for anthropogenic global warming. There is in fact overwhelming deductive evidence. – gerrit May 28 at 7:43
2

There are actually several opposing aspects to this issue for US republicans.

  • Republicans are nominally pro-small government and deregulation. In reality, modern republican politicians are somewhat hypocritical, where they will appear to be pro-small government but actually support massive expansion of certain public activity such as defense and induce crony capitalism through the MIC as well as other industries (eg. fracking). However, for many other sectors they are still pro-small government, pro-private enterprise, pro-freedom for companies to do as they want and anti-regulation. Environmental matters fall in this latter group.
  • Supporters of climate change regulation (CCR) are usually educated progressive elites. Some of the opposition is basically motivated by "always do the opposite of what liberals say".
  • Besides simple ideological opposition, conservatives also do not trust academics in general, because they perceive that academics subvert or misrepresent science in order to push their own progressive agendas. Thus the claim that climate change occurs or can/should be prevented is not credible to begin with for conservatives. Republican politicians will avoid directly contradicting it in public, because the media would crucify them. But they try to avoid the subject and speak in dog whistle to still covertly imply to their base that they don't believe climate change is real - without actually saying so.
  • The republican base is opposed to CCR, whether rationally or irrationally, therefore the republican politicians and talking-heads are also opposed, so it's a self-amplifying cycle.
  • CCRs often pass on the burden to consumers, who end up not only footing the bill for cleaning up all the public resources the corporations got to exploit for free, but also pay extra because the corporations inject profit margins in the various "green" undertakings. Consumers are already burdened by inflation, growing cost of living and lackluster wages (for low-income people) that they feel additional inflation induced by CCRs prices them out of many essential goods, like cars.
  • Environmentalism in general has become unpopular with conservatives due to various progressive pro-environment movements, such as veganism. These have been driven by progressives, and also have been framed in terms of conservative values, so they have historically failed to appeal to conservatives and as a result conservatives are generally suspicious of any environmentalist cause supported by liberals.
  • A lot of CCRs emerge from urban areas, major universities and large governmental bureaucracies. Rural conservatives feel that these solutions are out of touch, possibly suitable for their urban area but divorced from the realities of their rural life. Liberals sometimes add fuel to the fire by acting like conservatives should just accept their livelihood being destroyed "for the common good".
  • Many large companies stand to profit more in absence of CCRs for obvious reasons, therefore they lobby politicians (and covertly proselytize to the public) to that effect.
  • A lot of environmental damage is actually caused by other countries, such as China and India, which impose far fewer regulations and expenses on their citizens, compared to the US. For conservatives, it is unfair that America should go above and beyond when these countries are not pulling their weight. They see it as something that will weaken America's economic and strategic advantage, and oppose it out of patriotism.

However, despite all of this, it is not entirely true that conservatives oppose CCRs, disbelieve climate change and hate the environment. For example, in conservative, rural states, preserving natural resources is a very popular conservative issue that doesn't make it to national news. A lot of this has to do with preserving hunting and fishing, but usually the public in these areas is interested in keeping these activities sustainable. Historically, there have been cases of conservative pro-environment initiatives in other countries as well. However, climate change (for those conservatives that accept it as real and relevant) has been too poisoned by progressive involvement, if you will, for conservatives to not opposed it in reaction in today's very partisan society.

  • An interesting question would be: how did it become so polarised in the US? In Germany, UK, and other European countries, all mainstream parties verbally support climate change action, they just don't agree on what action and how much. – gerrit May 29 at 20:26
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    @gerrit This is part of a larger trend, especially among the evangelical religious in this country, to distrust the conclusions of science in general. For a great example of this, look at the prevalence of creationism: over 40% of Americans believe that "God created humans in their present form," a fraction which has remained stable from 1982-2014, according to Gallup (news.gallup.com/poll/170822/…). If you don't trust biologists, even in the face of mountains of supporting evidence, it's even easier to not trust climatologists. – probably_someone May 30 at 9:32
-1

The Republican National Committee has a pro-fossil fuel stance. Now, we might ascribe various true motivations behind this that others detail very well, but it also helps to see what they argue as well.

In their 2016 platform document the Republican Party sets forth such arguments as

  • hindering fossil fuel based energy would hurt struggling families
  • America has huge reserves of fossil fuels and using our own resources would free the US from dependence on foreign oil or energy that requires rare-earth metals supplied mainly from China
  • exporting our fossil fuels will generate a lot of wealth for America
  • Sounds like the GOP has a pro family and pro US stance, not the other way around. – K Dog Oct 3 at 17:50
-2

"conservative" ... "reform". Those are conflicting labels. While explaining complex relations with labels is oversimplification, it's a starting point. Being conservative means to oppose change, and particularly changing yourself. Trying to keep the environment from changing, if necessary by changing yourself, is not conservative but conservationist.

  • 1
    That's not the definition of conservatism. They don't blindly oppose any and all change. Conservatism means to support changes with small and careful steps, while liberalism means changes with drastic steps. Evolution vs revolution. – vsz May 28 at 4:08
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    Climate change is a form of radical change, so by this reasoning, conservatives should radically oppose any industrial activity because it means change. I haven't seen conservatives radically oppose drilling in nature reserves or building pipelines, both of which mean change. – gerrit May 28 at 7:46
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    @vsz: Liberalism doesn't mean changes with either drastic steps or otherwise. Liberalism doesn't have any particular opinion on changes in general. – Gábor May 28 at 13:24
  • @Gábor : I meant the viewpoints on change itself, from conservative or liberal view. Of course both conservatism and liberalism contain many stances in many topics, not just about the topic of changes. – vsz May 28 at 18:42
  • or conservative means pro-preservation. which should mean that the label implies rigorous environmentalism. you can spin labels any way you want. – grovkin May 29 at 22:15
-2

Things that have to be proven that haven't been

While the Alarmists have been able to show that over the 20th century that the earth warmed by about 1.5 Celsius, what they haven't been able to do with any certainty is prove:

  • That we shouldn't have expected some warming leaving the Little Ice Age
  • That there is a climate crisis that requires immediate remediation versus acting later with better technology
  • That warming will continue
  • That C02 is a leading indicator, rather than a trailing indicator, for warming
  • That the warming is man-made, and not attributed to natural causes
  • That the economic benefits of warming do not offset the economic negatives of warming
  • What this has to do with worldwide socialism or destruction of capitalism, the default solution for most Alarmists

Falsification of Data/Bad Science

A key reason is the deliberate falsification of data as proven for the first time in Canadian courts.

Some years ago, Dr. Tim Ball wrote that climate scientist Michael Mann “belongs in the state pen, not Penn State.” At issue was Mann’s famous “hockey stick” graph that purported to show a sudden and unprecedented 20th century warming trend. The hockey stick featured prominently in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (2001), but has since been shown to be wrong. The question, in my view, is whether it was an innocent mistake or deliberate fraud on Mann’s part. (Mann, I believe, continues to assert the accuracy of his debunked graph.) Mann sued Ball for libel in 2011. Principia Scientific now reports that the court in British Columbia has dismissed Mann’s lawsuit with prejudice, and assessed costs against him.

What happened was that Dr. Ball asserted a truth defense. He argued that the hockey stick was a deliberate fraud, something that could be proved if one had access to the data and calculations, in particular the R2 regression analysis, underlying it. Mann refused to produce these documents. He was ordered to produce them by the court and given a deadline. He still refused to produce them, so the court dismissed his case.

The rules of discovery provide that a litigant must make available to opposing parties documents that reasonably bear on the issues in the case. Here, it is absurd for Mann to sue Ball for libel, and then refuse to produce the documents that would have helped to show whether Ball’s statement about him–he belongs in the state pen–was true or false. The logical inference is that the R2 regression analysis and other materials, if produced, would have supported Ball’s claim that the hockey stick was a deliberate fraud on Mann’s part.

This is not a one off occurrence. You have Climategate, for example, corruption in the historical surface temperature records, rejection of the satellite data which is more accurate, model shopping and more dubious practices.

The Earth Keeps Getting Better

Another key reason is that in many ways environmental conditions keep improving. For example deaths from extreme weather have dropped 99.9 percent since the 1920s. The earth continues to green. And crop yields continue to expand. Moreover extreme weather is both less extreme and less frequent. There are myriad of examples of severe weather diminishing.

Bad Actors

Then you have the hypocrisy of the adherents. These stories are so utterly commonplace they are rather the norm. For example, Emma Thompson flying 5400 miles to protest global warming. If this is how the alarmists are going to behave, what's the point?

And for some strange reason a solution that would greatly reduce carbon emissions, nuclear power is strangely rejected by the alarmists, as is fracking. The energy platforms alarmists prefer are beset with cronyism and don't provide even a fraction of the energy to run society.

In addition, you have the absolute fear mongering and wrong predictions. Has any of these predictions born fruit? For example, in 2005, a conference of scientists and politicians declared that the earth had only 10 years before the point of no return. You even had some experts opining that women were more likely to cheat on vacation. Seemingly from the massive to the idiotic, climate change is a go to reason for fear.

Not to mention, many of these same people were peddling global cooling and the next ice age in the 1970s.

Of course, along with the bizarre causes, you get bizarre and down right repellent solutions, like cannibalism

A Swedish scientist speaking at Stockholm summit last week offered an unusual possible tactic in combating global climate change: eating human flesh.

Stockholm School of Economics professor and researcher Magnus Soderlund reportedly said he believes eating human meat, derived from dead bodies, might be able to help save the human race if only a world society were to “awaken the idea.”

And that's not the worst solution I have seen. Some include burning the worlds' forests, eliminating fossil fuels and wars on cows.

Totally not a cult

Seriously lots of cult like behaviors

Climate change alarmists have been likened to a fanatical 'cult' by an MIT professor of meteorology.

Dr Richard Lindzen told a Massachusetts-based radio station that people who believe in global warming are becoming more hysterical in their arguments.

'As with any cult, once the mythology of the cult begins falling apart, instead of saying, oh, we were wrong, they get more and more fanatical,' he said.

Seriously, a cult, how can this be lost on those that are paying attention?

Here you can see how global warming closely aligns to Rick Ross, an expert on cults and intervention specialist, list of ten warning signs for unsafe groups, which is published by the Cult Education Institute.

Strange Bedfellows

Did you know that Russia donates heavily to the Sierra Club? In fact, Russia is funding worldwide antifracking propaganda.

It also doesn't help that the movement keeps getting co-opted by communists and anti-capitalists. The Washington Post quoted the Green New Deal author, Orcasio-Cortez chief of staff:

“The interesting thing about the Green New Deal,” he said, “is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.” Ricketts greeted this startling notion with an attentive poker face. “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti continued. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

Another example:

For instance, at a press conference in Brussels in early February 2015, in the run-up to negotiations culminating in the Paris climate agreement, Christiana Figueres, then executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, stated the global warming scaremongering going on for more than 25 years at the UN was about controlling peoples’ lives by controlling the economy, not fighting climate change.

“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,” Figueres said. “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model, for the first time in human history,” she continued.

Image Problems

To state that the alarmists have an image problem is a vast understatement. Almost daily you hear them telling you to stop eating meat, kill your AC, stop driving your car, etc. These school marm, petit fascists are the 21st century busy bodies. And not coincidentally environmentalists make good villains because they make your real life worse.

And then you have DC Alarmists blocking traffic. How causing cars to idle for hours helps climate change is beyond me.

enter image description here

  • 6
    I've downvoted this for a couple of reasons. One, the sources for "the earth keeps getting better" are flawed. For example, the paper on death rates from extreme weather ignores the non-lethal economic costs of such weather, among other flaws. Second, having more leaves or better agricultural yields does not imply that further increase of global temperature will be a good thing. Third, the "extreme weather is less extreme and less frequent" article is a classic example of cherry picking data. – phoog Aug 27 at 17:38
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    You downvoted because a paper proved what it was intended to prove, but didn't consider your particular unrelated opinion on another variable that should be included? – K Dog Aug 27 at 18:42
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    Are you talking about the death rates from extreme weather? My point is that examining a single statistic about extreme weather does not establish that global warming isn't harmful. The authors say that "what matters … is the impact of such events" but they ignore other impacts, including the economic impact. The paper notes that the decrease in mortality is due to increased capacity for humanitarian aid, but there is no analysis examining whether the capacity will continue to increase as extreme weather becomes more extreme, or as the sea level rises, displacing millions. – phoog Aug 27 at 20:38
  • @phoog Kenneth Richard has cataloged at the NoTricksZone 35 scientific papers that Global sea levels were 1-2 meters higher than now for most of the last 7,000 years” (6 February, 2017). So I set the cost on dealing with global warming ledger as 0, and the cost of destroying civilization to counter it, at about infinity. This might be a reason you don't see these types of analysis. – K Dog Aug 28 at 10:41
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    But all these coastal cities have grown up in the last few centuries. Are you arguing thsy it will cost nothing to deal with their inundation because sea levels were higher in average over the last few millennia? That makes no sense. The assumption that countering global warming will destroy civilization is also unwarranted and bizarre. – phoog Aug 28 at 12:24
-5

As a non left-leaning progressive, I hope I can shed some light.

  1. Global warming - The global temp is increasing. Yawn. Yeah, peak oil( this has been touted for decades), global cooling (70's), it's bad (mini ice-age). Physics experts, with Phd's, do not seem to share progressive's view: https://www.climatedepot.com/2009/11/02/Team-of-Scientists-Open-Letter-To-US-Senators-Claim-of-consensus-is-fake/
  2. Man-made global warming - Yeah burning fossil fuels is the cause. But at the same time that the left is touting this agenda, they are going all in with despising clean nuclear.
  3. Hot-house gas - Always carbon and fossil fuel. Convenient truths about farming's role minimized. Doubling of food prices anyone, anyone?
  4. Remedies - Taxes, and carbon trading, to hit US citizens of course. As listed above, the ozone hole is coming back, and it was traced to provinces in China.
  5. Population - Less people = less demand for "fuel" but shhh, don't tell anyone, especially about curbing population in the already strapped developing world.
  6. Everything in Drunk Cynic answer as well
  7. US is not the center of the world. EU, China, Russia, Brazil could start on their path to remedy this dire situation. I don't plan on holding my breath, but I hope some lefties will.
  • 6
    Why do you assume that your opinion reflects that of conservatives in the United States in general (which is what this question is asking about)? – probably_someone May 30 at 15:14
  • @probably_someone Because most of those that I interact with are "conservatives". – paulj May 30 at 15:51
  • 8
    Opinion based rant which is neither objective nor evidence/data-driven. – inappropriateCode Jun 5 at 14:24

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