In the same week the United Nations released a shocking report showing that a million species are about to go extinct, in large part due to climate change, a YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project survey added insult to injury. According to the global survey, the U.S.—the wealthiest country in the world—has the largest number of climate-change deniers among the world’s richest countries. Or, as The Guardian puts it, “The US is a hotbed of climate science denial.”

Perhaps it’s unsurprising that 13% of the U.S. population—about 42 million people—think the climate crisis has nothing to do with human activity, while another 5% believe climate change doesn’t exist when the country’s leader, and several high-ranking officials in his administration, consider it a Chinese hoax. The same leader pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Accord, is expanding offshore oil drilling, is leasing territory once designated part of national monuments to fossil fuel companies, is freezing car emissions standards—the alarming list goes on and on.

It’s not just Donald Trump’s fault, however. American media, led by cable giant Fox News, has played its part in making this hotbed we’re all lying in. While Fox News actively tries to discredit widely accepted climate science with both-sides-ism, as Rolling Stone points out, the rest of mainstream media outlets rarely mention climate change in their reporting, even when discussing disasters proven to be fueled by the phenomenon.

Of the 23 countries polled in the YouGov survey, the U.S. was behind only Indonesia and Saudi Arabia when it comes to climate-change denial. And the bad news doesn’t end there:

Americans also appear unusually prone to climate-related conspiracy theories, the YouGov data suggests. A total of 17% of those polled agreed that “the idea of manmade global warming is a hoax that was invented to deceive people”.

Belief in this conspiracy theory, which was previously invoked by Donald Trump, who falsely claimed climate change was made up by China, increases with age and also conservative political ideology. A total of 52% of Americans who described themselves as “very rightwing” to YouGov insisted global warming was a hoax. … wider denial of climate science is down to a concerted campaign of misinformation by fossil fuel interests and aspects of American character, according to Margaret Klein Salamon, a clinical psychologist who founded the advocacy group Climate Mobilization.

“The Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry have put billions of dollars into lying to the American public, even sending literature to science teachers in schools,” Salamon said. “They are so well organised and have managed to turn climate change into a controversial subject that gets shut down. It’s clearly working.

“There is also the issue of American individualism, remnants of manifest destiny, that don’t set us up well for understanding that we are part of the web of life. The American dream is quite self-involved. We need a new American dream.”

Might that new American dream look a bit like the goals outlined in New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal? Scientists who have analyzed the proposal certainly seem to think so. AOC, as the freshman member of Congress is often called, isn’t the only Democrat worried about climate change, but as the 2020 Democratic primary campaign kicks off, it’s becoming abundantly clear that many other Dems are sorely lacking in the climate policy department. As The Guardian points out, of the increasingly large group of people running for the Democratic candidacy, only a couple have actual plans to tackle the pressing catastrophe. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, in the United Kingdom, the British Parliament has voted to declare a climate emergency, responding to pressure from the Extinction Rebellion movement. If the U.S. were serious about national, let alone global, survival, it would do well to follow in the U.K.’s footsteps.

While the prospect of Congress declaring a climate emergency in this political climate might be a long shot, there’s another poll that Americans who care about the planet’s future can take heart in: Even in our climate-change denial “hotbed,” awareness about the climate crisis is growing rapidly, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released in December, which found that 35% of Americans see climate change as an “imminent threat.”

In other words, the panic Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg wants us to feel is spreading.


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