Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas is not, as Politico would have you believe, a "climate skeptic." Nor is Dana Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California. They are climate change deniers — of the sort that a recent poll suggests may be harming the Republican Party with younger voters. For now, though, it doesn't matter. Far from suggesting a problem for the party's energy policies, denialism is trapped in a chicken-egg paradox with calls for additional fossil fuel extraction.
Politico's overly gentle article on climate "skeptics" is predicated on that non-existent political problem: Will the party's opposition to climate change make the party's energy strategy more difficult? Will the arguments of Barton (the Great Flood was climate change) and Rohrabacher (there was bad weather a century ago, too) make the Republican argument on energy a tough sell? Part of the Republican House leadership's plan for the August recess is to bring the party's energy message — more oil drilling, essentially — to congressional districts. Will denial of the scientific reality of climate change make that trickier?
Not with young people. Last week, a survey conducted for an environmental group by two polling firms — a Republican firm and the pollster that did both of Obama's campaigns — discovered that young people are already hostile to that message. The Guardian reported on the results.
The implications were even more harsh for those Republicans who block Obama on climate action and dispute the entire body of science behind climate change. "For voters under 35, denying climate change signals a much broader failure of values and leadership," the polling memo said. Many young voters would write such candidates off completely, with 37% describing climate change deniers as "ignorant", 29% as "out of touch" and 7% simply as "crazy".
The climate cranks were unlikely to pick up many points with their base either; just under half of young Republicans said they would be less likely to vote for a climate change denier.
The League of Conservation Voters, which commissioned the poll, offers a more full set of data, albeit one that excludes the specific questions asked.