Science often comes down to a popularity contest. That’s what happened to global warming, especially after Al Gore began evangelizing through books and movies. Major metropolitan newspapers also accepted it as scientific fact as well as President Obama and California Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown.
Here is the latest measure of the popularity of belief in global warming. Wednesday the Public Policy Institute of California released a survey that shows that 68 percent of Californians support the global warming law passed in 2006 during the Schwarzenegger administration, Assembly Bill 32. That measure requires the reduction of so-called green house gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
But closer inspection of those numbers reveal that Democrats increased their support since 2006 from 67 percent to 81 percent, while Republican support slid from 65 percent to 39 percent. Independents dropped their support only a tiny bit, from 68 percent to 62 percent.
Interestingly, the PPIC survey found that only 26 percent think the state’s cap-and-trade tax on industry will lead to job losses, 39 percent think it will lead to more jobs and 27 percent think cap-and-trade won’t have any effect on jobs.
Cap and trade is a tax on industry by the California Air Resources Board. It is a tax that is under legal challenge. Meanwhile the Democrats in the Legislature have already divvied up the $250 million expected this year. Twenty-five percent will go to high-speed rail, 15 percent to other transportation (not highways) and 20 percent to affordable housing. One must assume the other 40 percent just gets sucked up in the bureaucracy.
The forecast is that the state will rake in $12 billion to $45 billion from the carbon emissions tax by 2020. Currently, there are no plans to tax breathing, but state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg predicted gasoline costs will rise by 40 cents. California gas prices are already 40-50 cents higher than they are in the rest of the country due to special blends required by the state.
Having oil companies “lower emissions” or pay a carbon tax is favored by 76 percent of Californians, but if this raises the cost of gasoline, support drops to 39 percent.
A 2011 state law requiring utilities to get one-third of their power from renewables is also supported by 76 percent. By the way, “renewables,” besides solar and wind, only includes small hydro projects such as the El Dorado Irrigation District’s 21-megawatt powerhouse. Small hydro (30 megawatts or less) generated in California or imported only constitutes 2 percent of the power.
The survey tells us that global warming and the state’s related cap-and-trade tax are popular until Californians figure out it is going to cost them money out of their pockets. We’re not sure they will ever figure out that connection. The PPIC survey found that a mere 13 percent had heard about the cap-and-trade system that took effect in 2012, 32 percent “heard a little,” and 55 percent were totally clueless. Those who know a lot about it oppose it by a factor of 66 percent, while those who remain blissfully ignorant support it by more than 50 percent.
The survey barely mentioned voters, noting that “likely voters” oppose the carbon tax.
Science by popularity contest is what Al Gore counted on. It made him a wealthy man. It’s going to make Californians poorer.