In their foundations, they support the laissez faire (economics) but they don't accept the green economy. Are there any logical reasons of why most Republicans (not all) refuse to acknowledge climate change? Are their ideas supported by any ideology, movements, lobbies?

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    This isn't really a question as much as an argumentative stance. Can you reword this in a more neutral manner and perhaps focus on an specific aspect of it (rather than a general 'all republicans' statement).
    – user1530
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 5:08
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    This isn't the place to analyze motivations. This question is unfit for an SE.
    – Publius
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 8:08
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    Comments deleted. Please note that this is a website about politics. If you would like to talk about whether or not climate change is real, please do that on earthscience.stackexchange.com.
    – Philipp
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 21:51
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    There is an underlying assumption to this question that because a politician says he doesn't believe the accepted science, that he actually doesn't. Please note how many politicians change their stances once they are out of office and are no longer under the onus to raise money and assistance from specific business groups. Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 20:43
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    Possible duplicate of Why is denying global warming associated with conservatives?
    – Jasper
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 4:36

6 Answers 6


I'm not American, and would only sometimes vote Republican if I were, so your question is not directly addressed to me. Nonetheless the debate about climate change crosses national borders so I believe I can still contribute a useful answer on one of your points.

You write, "...they support the laissez faire (economics) but they don't accept the green economy."

It's not "but", it's "therefore". The green economy arises mostly as a result of government action, the opposite of laissez faire. The main drivers of the green economy are:

  • government subsidies to companies providing services that are believed to be environmentally desirable, e.g. solar power, wind power, insulation in houses, recycling, research into green technology;

  • jobs created in the above industries and jobs created to ensure compliance with green regulation;

  • the curtailment by taxation or legislation of activities that are seen as environmentally undesirable (e.g. coal mining), which pushes investment into activities seen as desirable.

A believer in laissez faire by definition thinks that utility is maximised if the market is allowed free play.

So they are very likely to think that the "green job creation" as a result of government subsidy is outweighed by the jobs and wealth destroyed by the taxation necessary to pay for the subsidy. Jobs created simply in order to fulfil environmental laws will be seen as still worse, as harmful to everybody but the job-holder. (All economists, not just believers in laissez-faire, agree that to all but the job-holder jobs are a cost not a benefit. Often a necessary cost, but still a cost.) As for jobs, so for wealth and utility generally.

Another reason for many of those Republicans who believe in the free market (which not all Republicans do) to think that the green economy is incompatible with laissez-faire is that many of their opponents say so too.

For instance, the well-known activist Naomi Klein's book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate is described in the following terms on its US Amazon page:

"The most important book yet from the author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core “free market” ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems."

The anti-capitalist tone of much climate justice activism leads pro-capitalist people to suspect that the danger from climate change is being exaggerated, consciously or unconsciously, as an excuse to justify political measures they oppose.

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    The irony of this, of course, is that the non-green energy industries in the US are heavily government subsidized. :)
    – user1530
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 19:41
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    I fail to see the logic here. They might think that laissez-faire is incompatible with preserving the environement (and I agree), however I don't see how this makes the global warming not happening. Saying the global warming is not happening because you like laissez-faire is like saying cigarettes aren't harmful because you like smoking.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 21:59
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    Excellent analogy with beliefs about smoking but it cuts both ways. Motivated reasoning is common across the political spectrum. Just as there are those who disbelieve in global warming because its existence would be politically inconvenient, so also there are those who believe in it because it would be politically convenient. Both beliefs are illogical. Both are nonetheless widespread. It is reasonable to suspect that people may, as I said in the last sentence of my post, unconsciously modify their beliefs as to fact to suit their politics. The question asked why don't (some) Republicans... Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 22:46
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    American politics seem laden with confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 7:56
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    If the perceived effects of climate change were such that they worked FOR the Republican agenda, the Democrats would be deniers and the Republicans would be decrying them as anti-science. It just happened to work out the other way around. Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 0:26

There's a particularly important phenomenon at work here: things are harder to believe in if they're costly. For example, someone may say "I'm 100% sure my sportsball team will win that game," but that same person will probably be unlikely to make a $1000 bet at 100:1 odds against them that their team will win. When believing something has costs people become less sure and more sceptical.

I would argue that believing in (and believing we must take action to solve) catastrophic anthropomorphic climate change is much more costly to someone with a conservative world-view than with to someone with a more progressive or liberal world-view. Note I said conservative not Republican, the Republican party is an organization with one goal, win elections, conservatism is political philosophy which makes up one constituency likely to vote Republican and thus influences the positions of Republican lawmakers.

Conservatives see value in the existing social order. Hybrid cars and eco-friendly light-bulbs will not change atmospheric CO2 levels significantly. What will is rapidly switching almost all power from fossil fuels to renewable sources and nuclear power. This transition could fundamentally change or risk the destruction of the current societal order. Billions to trillions of dollars in equipment and human expertise related to fossil fuels would become drastically less useful and hundreds of thousands to millions of people would have to change jobs (just petroleum extraction and coal mining is 200,000 jobs). Communities would change as people moved. Furthermore, renewable energy is more expensive (especially in the short run during the transition) and people's standard of living would be effected. All of this screams change, and conservatives are much less likely than those of other philosophies to embrace such change.

Conservatives are distrustful of governmental power, and it would take a lot of governmental power to change atmospheric CO2 levels. Conservatives see a huge risk of corruption and special interests gaining power as the clumsy hand of government attempts to remake the energy market. Progressives are much more comfortable with using governmental power and see it as much more efficient and effective.

Conservatives are distrustful of the international community. Conservatives have little faith that the entire world would be willing to simultaneously make the cutbacks necessary to actually have a significant effect on atmospheric C02 levels. They worry that a "cheating" nation could gain significant advantage militarily and economically from consuming fossil fuels and jeopardize the global order and peace. Many progressives have much more faith in the power of organizations like the UN and diplomacy to resolve these issues.

For these reasons it's much more costly for a conservative to believe in and want to stop climate change than a progressive. Despite the wealth of macro statistical data, there is no airtight reproducible double blind experiment proving the effect of mankind on the climate. So there is room for doubt both in climate change's existence and especially in degree to which man is responsible for climate change and accuracy of predictions of what will happen to the climate (which are much more difficult and many conservatives perceive as having been wrong before). Given this room for doubt, many conservatives deny climate change outright or remain agnostic saying something like "it's probably real, but I'm reluctant to take massive policy action without stronger evidence."

Note, I'm not saying these beliefs are correct or articles are fair and unbiased; I'm just trying to explain a position.

  • Nitpick: If the rational decision was to make a 100:1 bet, that would make the person 99% sure.
    – dwjohnston
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 0:48
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    @dwjohnston, upnitpick: there are two parties with the bet; the one offering odds and the one betting. The person offering 100:1 odds is 99% certain against the win; the $1000 bet may be anywhere from 0.000001% certainty to 99.999999% certainty (and 100% certainty). Here's an example of a 0% certain bet: ( pressofatlanticcity.com/news/… ) Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 15:38

It is impossible to answer this question for every Republican; 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 circles I travel, that the prospect of man-made climate change is questionable. There are four main points, highlighted below with amplifying information. They will be followed by a summary.

History of Data Manipulation
There are two significant incidents where it has been revealed after the fact that those developing the man made climate change 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. With a Bachelors in Mathematics and a Masters in Systems Engineering, not having access to the raw data increases the skeptical approach.

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. That isn't how science works. It far easier to prove the negative, that a thing doesn't exist, than to ever prove a thing does exist. Consider the level of proof required for even the simplest of scientific claims. 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.

Climate Change does exist; there are cyclical pattern that can be demonstrated in what weather does. That said, I can't give much credence to the claims that man kind is at direct fault for it.

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    This answer is full of really poor reasoning and logic but...it actually answers the question directly: lots of people don't believe it because they allow a few incidents to cloud the overall scientific consensus. +1
    – user1530
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 6:22
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    @blip-Science isn't about consensus; it is about verifiable data and repeatable results. This is an abridged version of what I've researched else where. Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 6:50
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    'scientific consensus' is a thing, but there's no need for us to debate the issue here. I think your answer answers the question quite well.
    – user1530
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 7:20
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    Downvoted because this answer is (1) factually incorrect, (2) unsourced, (3) borderline irrelevant.
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 17:55
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    @gerrit Are you saying there aren't republicans that believe the above? Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 18:02

For the record, I am neither a "believer" nor a "skeptic" on the question of man-made climate change. I am unresolved on it.

It is of course possible that contributions from fossil fuel companies have successfully influenced Republican decision-making in Congress away from what it would otherwise be. But the existence of the contributions by itself doesn't prove anything. Perhaps it is the other way around, that these companies merely support those who already favor their positions.

Going beyond the "follow the money" theory, there are several major factors as I see it as to why a Republican in Congress, or a Republican voter, who does not have a PhD in a relevant scientific field, might not accept the "consensus" on climate change we've heard so much about.

But perhaps most suspicious of all:

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    Technically, if you are 'unresolved' on this issue, you are pretty much a skeptic. Also, wrapping the term consensus in quotes is just misleading and silly. There is scientific consensus on this issue. Regardless, this answer reads mostly as a rant.
    – user1530
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 2:24
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    The response to this answer, to me, reinforces some of its content. But it is sincere. I am no troll.
    – wberry
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 16:45
  • I'm not questioning your sincerity. Just pointing out some flaws in the logic.
    – user1530
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 18:11

As reported in The New York Times in 2017, the more education Republicans have, the less they tend to believe in climate change.

As of 2017, this may be because of the "hiatus" in warming that was not predicted by climate models. Here's a snippet of what the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (2014 / current) included on that subject:

Box TS.3 | Climate Models and the Hiatus in Global Mean Surface Warming of the Past 15 Years

The observed [global mean surface temperature (or GMST)] has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years than over the past 30 to 60 years (Box TS.3, Figure 1a, c). Depending on the observational data set, the GMST trend over 1998–2012 is estimated to be around one third to one half of the trend over 1951–2012. For example, in [the observational data set called] HadCRUT4 the trend is 0.04°C per decade over 1998–2012, compared to 0.11°C per decade over 1951–2012. The reduction in observed GMST trend is most marked in [northern hemisphere] winter. Even with this ‘hiatus’ in GMST trend, the decade of the 2000s has been the warmest in the instrumental record of GMST. Nevertheless, the occurrence of the hiatus in GMST trend during the past 15 years raises the two related questions of what has caused it and whether climate models are able to reproduce it. {2.4.3, 9.4.1; Box 9.2; Table 2.7}

Fifteen-year-long hiatus periods are common in both the observed and CMIP5 historical GMST time series. However, an analysis of the full suite of CMIP5 historical simulations (augmented for the period 2006–2012 by RCP4.5 simulations) reveals that 111 out of 114 realizations show a GMST trend over 1998–2012 that is higher than the entire HadCRUT4 trend ensemble (Box TS.3, Figure 1a; CMIP5 ensemble mean trend is 0.21°C per decade). This difference between simulated and observed trends could be caused by some combination of (a) internal climate variability, (b) missing or incorrect [radiative forcing], and (c) model response error.

Figure 1a, a, b, & c

The IPCC report finishes that section with this summary:

In summary, the observed recent warming hiatus, defined as the reduction in [global mean surface temperature, or GMST,] trend during 1998–2012 as compared to the trend during 1951–2012, is attributable in roughly equal measure to a cooling contribution from internal variability and a reduced trend in external forcing (expert judgement, medium confidence). The forcing trend reduction is due primarily to a negative forcing trend from both volcanic eruptions and the downward phase of the solar cycle. However, there is low confidence in quantifying the role of forcing trend in causing the hiatus, because of uncertainty in the magnitude of the volcanic forcing trend and low confidence in the aerosol forcing trend. {Box 9.2}

Almost all CMIP5 historical simulations do not reproduce the observed recent warming hiatus. There is medium confidence that the GMST trend difference between models and observations during 1998–2012 is to a substantial degree caused by internal variability, with possible contributions from forcing error and some CMIP5 models overestimating the response to increasing [greenhouse gas] forcing. The CMIP5 model trend in [effective radiative forcing, or ERF,] shows no apparent bias against the AR5 best estimate over 1998–2012. However, confidence in this assessment of CMIP5 [effective radiative forcing] trend is low, primarily because of the uncertainties in model aerosol forcing and processes, which through spatial heterogeneity might well cause an undetected global mean [effective radiative forcing] trend error even in the absence of a trend in the global mean aerosol loading. {Box 9.2}

The causes of both the observed GMST trend hiatus and of the model–observation GMST trend difference during 1998–2012 imply that, barring a major volcanic eruption, most 15-year GMST trends in the near-term future will be larger than during 1998–2012 (high confidence; see Section 11.3.6 for a full assessment of near-term projections of GMST). The reasons for this implication are fourfold: first, anthropogenic GHG concentrations are expected to rise further in all RCP scenarios; second, anthropogenic aerosol concentration is expected to decline in all RCP scenarios, and so is the resulting cooling effect; third, the trend in solar forcing is expected to be larger over most near-term 15-year periods than over 1998–2012 (medium confidence), because 1998–2012 contained the full downward phase of the solar cycle; and fourth, it is more likely than not that internal climate variability in the near term will enhance and not counteract the surface warming expected to arise from the increasing anthropogenic forcing. {Box 9.2}


A lot of misinformation here so far. First, in people referring to the costliness of the program Are merely referring to the costs and not net costs. Here’s one for you, every environmental regulation from regan On has had an economic impact analysis done on it. They weigh net costs vs benifts. I’ve looked at hundreds of these during my time as an environmental scientist and I’ve never sees one that is a net loss. When you hear a political talk about how a regulation will cost x amount of dollars, this can almost always be traced back to this report I’m referring to. But they always leave out the benifts! Don’t believe me? Here is the one for Obama’s clean power plan https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2017-10/documents/ria_proposed-cpp-repeal_2017-10.pdf And one for arsenic in drinking water that was big during bush II years https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPdf.cgi?Dockey=20001YQT.txt Things such as subsidies and carbon taxes can be used to add more of something that a market tends to undershoot, like things that produce externalities. The idea that regulations of the environment is all cost and no benift is way to simple. For further reading on these estimates check out the statistical value of a human life (real thing used in valuations) if you really want To get into the weeds. So to answer your question, the only financial reason they would deny it is either campaign contributions or not understanding environmental economics. Also genuinely disbelief in the science can stem from where they grew up. We are all the victims or benificeries of our parents beliefs and in states that elect conservative people have heard climate science is bullshit.

  • By assigning the right number to those "externalities," any net cost can be reached. E.g. the cost of releasing 1 ton CO2 can be anything between zero (it doesn't impact anything), infinity (we're doomed!). Or even a negative cost - in other words a benefit - (increased plant growth, nicer temperature). Assigning a value to that is political from the start.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 23:13
  • you’re argument could literally be applied to anything. Externalities I’m referring to are calculated and provided eveidnece as to how the reach them. The statisital value of a life, which lots of these boil down to, is a very thorough examination of existing data about how much we value our own lives. What you’re sugggesting isn’t realistic and isn’t valid to the conversation.
    – spmoose
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 2:15
  • To make that a little clearer, any economic impact study could theoretically come up with any number, that doesn’t mean the number found is invalid. If what you’re saying was true, math wouldn’t be valid
    – spmoose
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 2:20

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