Nobody Cares

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Here's an intriguing result lurking in American Environics' report on attitudes toward energy and global warming (PDF) -- basically, people have the right views on environmental issues, but they don't really care:

disagree

69 percent of the public, in short, is prepared to overlook disagreement about the environment and there are six issues that rate ahead of the environment in terms of the number of people who consider them redlines. Interestingly, even people who say they care about the environment don't seem to care about it all that much:

disagree2

Even people who rate themselves 8s, 9s, or 10s on a scale of "are you an environmentalist" have these other issues that rate higher as redlines. The upshot of this and other data, according to the report, is that while there's public eagerness to do something about global warming, it's very tenuous, and people are rabidly opposed to anything that would increase energy costs. Since this is public opinion research, they go on to discuss a lot of ways to try to navigate that terrain, but it's hard for me to imagine any way to seriously curb carbon emissions that doesn't involve some increase in energy costs. It'd be nice, of course, if renewables just suddenly became cheaper than coal and gasoline, but then there's hardly be need for any policy.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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