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California Republicans and Democrats are living in opposite universes on climate change, poll finds

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Signs of climate change are happening across the world, but as global citizens, we have the option to take action against climate change following some of these helpful tips.
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Signs of climate change are happening across the world, but as global citizens, we have the option to take action against climate change following some of these helpful tips.

Global temperatures are rising, yet a significant slice of Republicans in California say the effects of climate change will never be felt.

According to a poll from the Public Policy Institute of California released Monday, a plurality of Republican likely voters — 35 percent — say the effects of global warming “will never happen,” while another 20 percent say the effects won’t happen in their lifetime but will affect future generations. Thirty-one percent of Republicans believe the effects are already being felt.

Meanwhile, 85 percent of Democratic likely voters and 59 percent of Independents say the consequences of global warming have already begun.

“It reflects how polarizing climate change has become,” said Mark Baldassare, president of PPIC.

Rob Stutzman, a Republican political consultant, said it’s undeniable global warming is having an impact today but urged Democrats to make room for open discussions about all of the contributing factors to rising global temperatures and solutions for reversing it.

He said Republicans are making it difficult for lawmakers in their party to address the growing threat.

“In the polarized tribalism of American politics, it makes governing extremely difficult,” Stutzman said. “There’s no incentive to arrive at sensible solutions, which have commonly been bipartisan in our history.”

A recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel found that “human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0 degrees Celsius of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8 to 1.2 degrees Celsius. If the trend continues, global warming could reach disastrous levels of 1.5 degrees Celsius between 2030 and 2052.

Last year, the group warned that governments across the world must make “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to avert the crisis.

Three in four Democrats surveyed think global warming poses a very serious threat to the economy and quality of life for California’s future, compared to just 22 percent of Republicans. Forty-two percent of likely GOP voters believe the threat is not at all serious, and another 21 percent think the problem is not too serious.

Despite partisan differences across many environmental issues, there was one small point of agreement.

Respondents across all parties, including 83 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of Independents and 42 percent of Republicans, said they’re very concerned about more severe wildfires in California. Even so, there was a major split on whether global warming was to blame for the fires. Eight in 10 Democrats said global warming has contributed to California’s recent wildfires, while nearly three in four Republicans said global warming has not contributed.

Polling PPIC conducted this year shows the environment is the second most important issue for California Democrats, narrowly behind education.

The poll of 1,085 likely voters had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

A subset of 766 adults who identified as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents were also asked an open-ended question about their preferences for the party’s 2020 primary. The margin of error on that question was 5.1 percentage points, and 32 percent of respondents did not name an individual candidate.

A fourth of respondents were unsure who they’d vote for, while 19 percent backed California Sen. Kamala Harris.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders polled at 15 percent and 12 percent, respectively, while former Vice President Joe Biden received 11 percent. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg got 5 percent support. Ten other Democratic candidates received 1 percent or less.

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Bryan Anderson is a political reporter for The Bee. He covers the California Legislature and reports on wildfires and transportation. He also hosts The Bee’s “California Nation” podcast.