OK, what’s going on? We have a fairly progressive institution, Yale University, telling us that only 57 percent of the population thinks climate change is real. And then we have a Fox News pollster (Frank Luntz) telling us the opposite is true — 82 percent of the population think it’s a real or at least a potential threat (PDF).

It seems to go against basic logic. Shouldn’t the Fox News poll be pumping dissent about how few Americans believe in climate change?

Absolutely not. Follow my logic for a minute. What if you knew a piece of evidence was about to be revealed to the public that was so real, so unassailable and so undeniable that it proved once and for all that climate change is REAL?

Well, if you were an environmentalist, you would celebrate. Finally we could get some good legislation that curtails the worst polluters and gives money to homeowners to put up solar panels and buy efficient appliances.

But what if you were an ultra-conservative politician, a dirty coal company, or a free-market provocateur, what would you do?

Well, you would quickly retool your strategy and aim for the lesser of two “evils” (in this case “ two goods”) and that would be cap & trade. The alternative, a carbon tax, is the worst nightmare for oil and coal companies because it would mean a direct hit to their bottom line.

Cap & trade on the other hand is a mechanism that could (at best) ease them into a transition to cleaner fuels and (at worst) be manipulated through the same derivative markets that enabled companies like AIG to waltz away with billions in taxpayer bailout dollars.

Frank Luntz. (Photo: NCPA/Flickr)

Frank Luntz, aka the “Word Doctor” has, it appears, been hired to test how to make the words “cap & trade” palatable to the American people.

Out of 25 questions in the poll, 12 were about the framing of “cap & trade.” Not a single question explored the carbon tax.

James Hansen and other notable scientists have publicly come out against cap-and-trade as a regulatory framework for the simple reason that it is too easy for Wall Street bankers to game the system on behalf of their wealthy corporate clients. Maybe 20 years ago it would have been a good experiment. But given the urgency of our current climate crisis, we don’t have time for rich men to play God with another artificial market while our childrens’ future slowly, quietly melts away into oblivion.

So mark my words ... it may not be in 2010 or even 2011, but as the heap of evidence on climate change grows, the Right will be forced to abandon its fictitious "climate hoax" strategy and shift towards a pro cap-and-trade agenda. 

A tale of two climate polls, part 2
Two new studies on how Americans perceive climate change is a testament to public confusion and an urgent call for better messaging from the scientific communit