Is this the weather or is this catastrophe?


Caught in a panic, there’s no escape for reality. Or is there?

Democrats are far more likely to believe droughts, floods, wildfires, hurricanes and tropical storms have become more frequent or intense where they live in the last decade, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The divergence [with Republicans] shows how years of political squabbling over global warming – including disputes over its existence – have grown deep roots, distorting the way Americans view the world around them. The divide will play into the 2020 election as Democratic hopefuls seek to sell aggressive proposals to reduce or even end fossil fuel consumption by drawing links between climate change and recent floods, storms and wildfires.

Nearly two-thirds of Democrats believe severe thunderstorms and floods have become more frequent, compared to 42% and 50% of Republicans, respectively, according to the poll.

About half of Democrats, meanwhile, think droughts, hurricanes and tropical storms are more common in their region, versus less than a third of Republicans, according to the poll.


These differing perceptions concern events whose characteristics at least to some extent are able to be objectively established. For example, in relation to tropical storms and hurricanes, the report released back in May by NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory notes that “there remains just a small nominally positive upward trend in tropical storm occurrence from 1878-2006. Statistical tests indicate that this trend is not significantly distinguishable from zero,” and that “it is premature to conclude with high confidence that human activity–and particularly greenhouse warming–has already caused a detectable change in Atlantic hurricane activity.” Factors like media attention or the damage bill are bad proxies for judging the severity of natural disasters, including hurricanes, since they tend to correlate with the level of economic development of the affected areas.

“Frequency” and “intensity” in the poll above are really just proxies for the belief in the “catastrophic climate change”. Needless to say, people on the left are significantly more likely to be strong believers, whereas those on the right have a greater range of views about the reality and the extent of man-made global warming. In the past, some would joke about partisanship that if someone proclaimed that the sky was blue, people of opposite political persuasion would then claim it was really pink. We’re getting close to the point where it’s not a joke anymore.