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Shifting Attitudes on Global Warming-response

Where Did Global Warming Go?” (Sunday Review, Oct. 16) notes that Europe, Australia, China, India and Brazil are all moving ahead with policies to reduce heat-trapping pollution, while most American politicians duck the issue or actively question the reality of the problem.

Unfortunately, the article offers a sweeping — and in my opinion wrong — claim that Americans are just “wired to be holdouts.” Yes, Americans value personal freedom, but we also believe, by 71 percent to 28 percent, that the Environmental Protection Agency should be allowed to do its job of protecting us from dangerous carbon pollution, according to a CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll.

Yes, American cars and homes are larger, on average, than those in Europe, but we support stricter energy efficiency standards by 73 percent to 26 percent. And 76 percent of Americans trust scientists for information about global warming, while only 37 percent trust their member of Congress, according to researchers at Yale and George Mason Universities.


So perhaps the problem is not so much how Americans are wired, but rather how American politicians are wired to campaign cash from those with a vested interest in not accepting reality.

Climate and Clean Air Program
Natural Resources Defense Council
Washington, Oct. 18, 2011

To the Editor:

“Where Did Global Warming Go?” describes the shameful fact that almost all Republican presidential candidates deny that man-made climate change is a serious problem. And President Obama has stopped talking about climate change.

As your article points out, political leaders in almost all other nations not only acknowledge that climate change is a serious danger but also are actively working to address it.

The Republican presidential candidates compete in their debates to show how much they believe in American exceptionalism. That America’s politicians are virtually alone in the world in failing to act on climate change is indeed exceptional. But it is not an exceptionalism that Americans can be proud of.

Rixeyville, Va., Oct. 16, 2011

To the Editor:

Your article concludes that global warming agnosticism is mostly an American thing. I disagree. Around the world, the opinion that global warming is a clear and present danger is much diminished. There is a realization that the case for global warming was uncertain at best, and certainly greatly exaggerated.

Global warming remains a hypothesis. At least in this one instance, the United States showed itself more prudent, and rightly more skeptical, than many. Politics has always been the plague of science.

Wolfeboro, N.H., Oct. 16, 2011

To the Editor:

I wholeheartedly believe that stronger federal leadership is needed to change the United States’ stance on climate change, but thankfully local officials aren’t waiting for environmental legislation to come from on high. Instead, mayors from New Haven to Nashville are competing to be the greenest city with the best sustainability plans, have enabled smart-growth neighborhoods rather than sprawl, and have reduced local sources of emissions and pollution in the air and water.

President Obama need not look all the way to Europe to see sustainability in action, but to Washington. The city is now home to the country’s largest bike share system, is the first to tax plastic bag use, is ranked second in public transit use for commuting and is ranked fourth among the country’s largest metropolitan areas for green economy jobs.

Philadelphia, Oct. 16, 2011

The writer is editor at large of Next American City magazine.

To the Editor:

American readers may get the impression that Australia’s introduction of a carbon tax plan is indicative of a national embrace of environmentally progressive policies. In fact, the tax has been nothing if not controversial. The main opposition party, backed by an increasingly hysterical right-wing media, has virulently opposed the tax. As a result, the current government, a fragile coalition, has seen its political capital plummet.

The Labor Party now faces likely defeat at the next election. In these overheated times, American and Australian politics have this in common: take a stance to slow global warming and risk political suicide.

Paris, Oct. 16, 2011




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