Climate Skeptics Are More Eco-Friendly Than Climate Alarmists, Study Finds

Published July 13, 2018

Americans who are generally more skeptical toward claims humans are causing catastrophic climate change conduct themselves in a more eco-friendly fashion than those who say they are very concerned about global warming and the environment, a new study reports.

Researchers from Cornell University and the University of Michigan found those “highly concerned” about climate change were less likely to recycle, take mass transit, buy green products, and engage in other behaviors commonly considered eco-friendly, than persons who identified themselves as skeptical of global warming.

Government vs. Personal Action

In “Believing in Climate Change, But Not Behaving Sustainably: Evidence from a One-Year Longitudinal Study,” published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Environmental Psychology, the researchers divided 600 participants into three groups based on their level of concern about climate change: “highly concerned,” “cautiously worried,” and “skeptical.”

The scientists report the “Highly Concerned” cohort was “most supportive of government climate policies, but least likely to report individual-level actions, whereas the ‘Skeptical’ opposed policy solutions but were most likely to report engaging in individual-level pro-environmental behaviors.”

The researchers suggest it is possible climate skeptics were also more skeptical of the ability of governments to address climate change appropriately and placed more emphasis on personal responsibility for the impact of their actions.

Skeptical Toward Government

Julian Morris, vice president of research at Reason Foundation and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News, says big-government programs designed to “save the planet” are often fraught with unseen consequences.

“Even when politicians diagnosis a particular problem right, they often use inefficient, ineffective, or even counterproductive prescriptive measures to ‘solve’ it,” Morris said. “Instead of relying on big government to clean up the environment, there are free-market alternatives.

“Private law can be an effective means of addressing problems relating to pollution, for example,” said Morris. “Common-law actions of trespass and nuisance have been used for centuries to prevent pollution, and property owners have also used contracts to prevent unwanted activities.”

The measures of environmentalism the authors of the study used, which governments tend to advocate, don’t actually have much to do with environmental protection, Morris says.

“Segregating trash and recycling is often not environmentally beneficial, and can be harmful,” said Morris. “And public transportation is also not necessarily superior environmentally to private transportation.”

Skepticism, Not Apathy

The study shows skepticism about catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (AGW) doesn’t mean apathy about the environment, says E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., founder of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.

“People can care a lot about the environment while being persuaded the human contribution to global warming is small and not dangerous,” Beisner said. “But the study shows alarmists are so focused on AGW that other concerns escape them, which is sad because many of those other concerns pose far greater risks than global warming.

“I think there is another element, too: skeptics are also not prone to jump on bandwagons for causes like global warming about which, frankly, individual action is irrelevant,” said Beisner. “But where individual action can really make a difference, they’re ready to act.”

‘Morally and Intellectually Superior’

The study shows a big contrast between people who accept personal responsibility and those who consider themselves part of a superior class who should rule others, says Paul Driessen, a senior policy adviser for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and The Heartland Institute.

“The study doesn’t necessarily prove global warming alarmists are phonies, but it provides evidence they are using climate fear-mongering to advance personal agendas and secure their own wealth and societal positions,” Driessen said. “It also shows they have little to no concern for the livelihoods, health, and welfare of the less fortunate, especially Earth’s poorest families, who need fossil fuels to significantly improve their lives.

“Climate alarmists think they are in a morally and intellectually superior class governing everyone else and exempt from the rules they impose on everyone else,” said Driessen. “By contrast, persons who are skeptical of the claim humans are causing dangerous climate change tend to believe in personal responsibility and accountability, and take actions to carry out their obligations, rather than simply rant, rage, silence those with different views, and demand government action.”

Calls for Tolerance

Radical environmentalists have totalitarian leanings says Driessen.

“Totalitarian governments permit no studies, news articles, or protests that question, dissent from, challenge, or embarrass official doctrines, decisions, or leaders,” Driessen said. “That’s the danger here with radical environmentalism and climate alarmism.

“Today’s hard-green environmentalists want the same kind and degree of government control as totalitarian dictators, and it will result in the same kind and scale of environmental destruction experienced in closed, communist societies,” said Driessen.

Driessen says one way to lessen the chance of serious environmental and social harm from green policies is to make sure they are transparent and publicly debated.

“We need the use of secret science—including agency data, evidence, and assumptions—to end, and to focus our efforts on solving demonstrable problems without creating new problems, destroying jobs, impacting people’s living standards, or harming Earth’s poor,” said Driessen. “We also need Green and Antifa totalitarians to show more tolerance of differing views, and for them to be held accountable when they lie, intimidate, or impose policies that harm others or the environment.”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.