Science identifies precisely when the GOP went off the rails about climate change

A study claims that the Republican position on climate completely flipped in the early 1990s

Published July 29, 2014 9:17PM (EDT)

Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh                     (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/AP/J. Scott Applewhite/<a href=''>Tomas Rebro</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>/Salon)
Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Tomas Rebro via Shutterstock/Salon)

Although it may feel like Democrats and Republicans are ancient enemies when it comes to the debate surrounding climate change, energy and government spending, some say that isn't so. A new study (unfortunately behind a paywall) published in Social Sciences Research traces the history of public opinion regarding the EPA.

By analyzing General Social Survey data from 1974 to 2012, the research team (which includes academics from American University, Michigan State and Oklahoma State) was able to come to the conclusion that there has been significant political polarization on the environment in the past fifteen years, with the two parties rapidly diverging in the early 1990s.

The researchers attribute this divide to the fall of the Soviet Union:

After the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, the conservative movement replaced the "Red Scare" with a new "Green Scare" and became increasingly hostile toward environmental protection. In response to the international environmental community successfully placing global environmental problems such as anthropogenic climate change, ozone depletion, and biodiversity loss on the international policy agenda (most notably via the 1992 Rio Earth Summit), and fearful of the Clinton-Gore Administration's likely receptivity to that agenda, conservative foundations, think tanks, and leaders mobilized to challenge the legitimacy of these problems and thus undercut the need for government action to deal with them.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

By Joanna Rothkopf

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Climate Change Democrats Politics Republicans