An Interesting Survey

As it happens I am an elected “official”.  I am a Precinct Committee Officer for my election precinct, and my party affiliation is Republican.  Thus, apparently, my private email address is out there available for people to use to write to me.  Or, at least, someone got the address and sent me an email inviting me to participate in a survey.

The survey in question was put together by a young man enrolled in our local university, The Evergreen State College, and he put it together for his class Doing Research, and he seems to have sent out the invitation to a mailing list of Thurston County Republicans.  It’s about conservative attitudes towards Climate Change.

My initial feeling was that this had to be a slanted survey, in the sense that the information obtained would be used to show how horrible and ignorant those dastardly Republicans are, and that I didn’t really want to help this effort.  The main reason for my prejudice is that The Evergreen State College has a local reputation of being populated by flaming left-wing liberal neo-Socialists.  But then, I decided, what the heck.  The young man is trying to get a decent grade in his class, so who am I to be such a jerk?  If he misuses my answers, well, that’s his lookout.  And for all I know he is sending out a similar survey to the local Democrats, and he wants to make a comparison.

The survey itself seemed to be a bit leftish in its bias, but not terribly so, so I answered the questions.  And since many of the questions made some unwarranted assumptions, I thought I would respond here with some explanatory writing.  So here is the survey and my answers.  In the case of my choices to the survey questions, my choice is indicated in bold Red.  My expanded answers are in italics.

Climate Change Attitudes

Question: Do you believe in climate change?

Yes
No
Maybe

Fair enough, and I’ll answer Yes. I seem to recall something about that last glaciation which ended about 12,000 years ago or so. So, yes, there is climate change, and has been for millions of years. It hasn’t suddenly stopped, I don’t think.

Question: If you clicked Yes or Maybe you believe in climate change, do you think it is caused by human activity?

Yes, climate change is man-made, bruh
No, because the earth is dynamic and has gone through phases of climate change before.
I don’t know because science, man

None of these apply, so no response.

My first reaction to this was how am I supposed to take this survey seriously with this  “bruh” stuff and “I don’t know because science, man”? Excuse me? Because science what? Because science says there’s not? Just because science? LOL. What does that even mean?

I guess I can’t answer the question, since none of the possible responses matches what I think. My answer would have been: Climate change has been going on for millions of years, and lately human activity has probably contributed towards it in some form and to some extent. I don’t know to what extent, and I doubt anyone else does, either.

Question: How often do you think of climate change?

Always
Most of the time
About half the time
Once in a while
Never

Is there anyone who thinks about it all the time? If so, why? I primarily think about it when earnest do-gooders try to make me think we are all going to die if we don’t do something about it.

Question: Democrats in Congress are doing a great job: Do you agree, disagree, or neither agree or disagree?

Agree a great deal
Agree a moderate amount
Agree a little
Neither agree or disagree
Disagree a little
Disagree a a moderate amount
Disagree a great deal

Is this “doing a great job” a generic or a specific thing? Does it pertain to climate change, or overall? Since the survey has to do with climate change, I will assume that the question pertains to the specific.

And my answer must be “Neither agree or disagree”. I answer this way because I don’t think the Democrats in Congress are doing much of anything about climate change, and this would be because the Republicans in Congress are preventing them from doing much.

I am also fascinated by the fact that despite having overwhelming majories in the House and Senate in the first two years of Obama’s presidency, the Democrats sat on their hands with respect to a lot of things that President Obama had talked about while he ran for office. Not that I am complaining, mind you. They could have done all kinds of ruinous things, but the only significant thing they did was pass the so-called Affordable Health Care Act.

Oh, and by the way, I am not one of those nervous nannies who think that a legislature that fails to pass much legislation is suffering gridlock.  Gridlock simply indicates that there isn’t enough agreement between the two sides to make it worthwhile to produce laws.  Laws that are not produced with at least some bipartisan agreement are probably BAD laws.  And I don’t like bad laws.

Question: Republicans in the U.S. Congress are doing a great job: Do you Agree, Disagree, or neither agree or disagree?

Disagree a great deal
Disagree a moderate amount
Disagree a little
Neither agree or disagree
Agree a little
Agree a moderate amount
Agree a great deal

Using the same criterion as the previous question, I have to say that I “Agree a moderate amount”. I say this because with regard to “doing something” about climate change, the Republicans are successfully preventing the Democrats from “doing something” about it. And that is a good thing.

NOW, this would be a good place for the survey to ask me why I think this is a good thing. Since it doesn’t ask this, I will color outside the lines a bit and say why.

Does the surveyor truly believe that the United States all by its ownsome can do something that would actually prevent climate change? Perhaps he does believe this, but I doubt it very strongly. There are so many factors involved, including things which are not at all within our capability of affecting, that it is clearly a case of tilting at windmills.

Humans 12,000 years ago were too few in number to do anything to warm things up, even if they had known there was something they could do about the then Ice Age. But warm up it did, regardless of our ancestors’ involvement. In fact, a mere 4,000 years later (8,000 years BP) the climate had warmed up to the degree that it was warmer then than it had been for tens of thousands of years. And there were no human industries belching out greenhouse gases. But after that point there began to be a long gradual downwards trend, something which has only recently turned around. In other words, starting 8,000 years ago, we had already started heading into the next glaciation! In still other words, it was getting colder.

The question to the answer is, do we prefer miles thick ice sheets or ten feet of ocean rise? I vote for the ocean rise!

The second question to the answer is, even if we did prefer ice sheets, do we really think we can stop the ocean rise by any conceivable reduction of greenhouse gases? We in the West are constantly improving the efficiency of our automobiles and our industries, and this has steadily been reducing our carbon emissions. We could reduce our carbon emissions still further without much effort, and we will. But do you really think that China’s billion people are going to be reducing theirs any time soon? Fat chance. Do we have the influence to make them do so if they don’t want to? Hah.

The point is, even if the Democrats and the Republicans agreed that they must act, Congress can only succeed in stagnating our general trend of greater efficiency through regulations that would likely do more harm than good. Economics is driving this greater efficiency. If Congress leaves well enough alone, then it will continue to get better.

Question: State politicians deserve more trust than politicians at the national level: Do you Strongly disagree, Disagree, Neither agree or disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree?

Strongly disagree
Disagree
Neither disagree or agree
Agree
Strongly Agree

State politicians are not noticeably smarter, more honest or more dependable than federal politicians. They’re ALL politicians. Whatever that means depends upon individual cases rather than upon groups. The only difference between them is the extent to which they can affect change. There is no guarantee that the change they affect at any level will result in good or bad outcomes. I cite the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Question: Do you support more government spending to combat climate change?

Yes
No
Maybe
Depends

I’ve already explained why.

Question: Would you support climate change policy if a Republican governor or President was to enact climate change legislation?

Yes
No
Maybe

Question: Is the United States government spending too much money trying to reduce global warming, too little money, or about the right amount of money?

Way too much
Somewhat too much
Slightly too much
About the right amount
Slightly too little
Somewhat too little
Way to little

I answer in this way because there is nothing they can do to be reasonably certain they can do anything that needs to be done, and lots of cause to believe that if they do something it will make things worse, if possible.

Question: Would you support a gas tax to mitigate climate change?

Yes
No
Maybe

The presumed goal would be to reduce traveling, or increase the number of fuel efficient cars on the road. There appears to be already enough of this going on.

Question: Do you think government should increase or reduce spending in these certain areas of the federal budget as a part of addressing climate change?

Increase spending a lot
Increase spending moderately
Increase spending a little
Leave spending levels where they are
Decrease spending gradually
Decrease spending moderately
Decrease spending and eliminate

  • Military

Increase spending a little

President Obama has caused military spending to be decreased to dangerously low levels.

  • Education

Decrease spending and eliminate

The Federal government has no business being involved in education. This is a state function.

  • Medicare/Medicaid

Leave spending levels where they are

  • Foreign aid

Decrease spending and eliminate

Most if not all foreign aid is a waste of money, for the simple reason that it only rarely accomplishes anything that is in the interests of the United States. The only kind of foreign aid that I support is the kind of military assistance that makes the USA more secure, and that helps to mitigate human suffering in natural or human-caused disasters.

  • Farm subsidies

Decrease spending and eliminate

Farm subsidies should be eliminated and the griculture industry should be subject to the same market forces that the rest of the economy should be subject to.

  • Federal agencies, e.g, FDA, FBI, IRS

Leave spending levels where they are

The question of funding of the alphabet soup of Federal Agencies is too complex to be reduced to such a simple response.

  • Social Security

Leave spending levels where they are

If Social Security is to be saved (and it will go off the rails eventually, if we do nothing), then it needs to be decoupled from its dependence upon the national debt. This may not be possible; in any case, I don’t feel myself to be knowledgeable enough to go beyond vague generalities.

Question: Government should subsidize climate change related research.

Strongly disagree
Disagree
Neither disagree or agreee
Agree
Strongly Agree

This may be a surprising answer, given the tenor of my previous responses, but climate change needs to be studied thoroughly and understood as completely as possible because although I don’t believe we can do much to prevent it, we definitely need to know what is going to happen, so that we can best prepare to meet the changes.

Question: Government should shift subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Strongly disagree
Disagree
Neither disagree or agree
Agree
Strongly Agree
No subsidies for neither

Double negative! Should be “No subsidies for either”. Actually, I’m not sure government is subsidizing fossil fuels! It’s sure taxing it like crazy. What’s renewable energy? And can subsidizing it make a difference? I think of Solyndra and shudder about the $500 million poured down a rathole. If renewable energy can be made an important part of our energy resources, the market will find the best way. I actually like the idea of geothermal energy, since we got an entire planet’s worth of heat just a few miles beneath our feet — it is however technologically difficult to make a decent go of it, I’m afraid.

Question: Washington State needs to create legislation in response to climate change.

Strongly disagree
Disagree
Neither disagree or agree
Agree
Strongly agree

If the Federal government can do little about the problem, what on earth do we think one small state can do about it?

Question: Do think we should include nuclear energy as a way to address climate change?

Strongly disagree
Disagree
Neither disagree or agree
Agree
Strongly disagree

Strongly agree (he’s got “strongly disagree” listed twice – a Freudian slip methinks).

It would probably be best to site nuke plants where huge earthquakes are unexpected. It would be good to make many smaller plants, instead of a few huge ones. It would be even better to put a LOT of funds into fusion research.

Question: How conservative do you consider yourself?

Incredibly conservative
Conservative
Somewhat conservative
Not Conservative

Actually, although I am personally conservative in my lifestyle, politically I consider myself a libertarian. As do many so-called conservatives.

Question: Do you agree there should be limits on carbon dioxide emissions?

Strongly diagree
Disagree
Neither disagree or agree
Agree
Strongly Agree

I regard carbon dioxide emissions to be a sign of inefficiency in industry. I consider the problem a technical and economic matter, and not at all political.

Question: TRUST in Environmental Groups: Do you have strong trust, moderate trust, neither trust or mistrust, moderate mistrust, or strong mistrust in environmental groups.

Strong trust
Moderate trust
Neither trust or mistrust
Moderate mistrust
Strong distrust

My evaluation of environmental groups is that the great mass of them are afflicted by serious tunnel vision and are more given to acts best characterized as “eyewash” than anything that actually advance what they claim to stand for. What I mean by “eyewash” is that they frequently advocate that which looks good, but in fact is not. They are also generally so politicized that science, by and large, is immaterial — i.e. politics are more likely to drive them than good science does. Do I think they are all bad? No. I believe that some of them do worthwhile things.

Question: TRUST in Capitalism: Do you have strong trust, moderate trust, neither trust or mistrust, moderate mistrust, or strong mistrust in capitalism?

Strong trust
Moderate trust
Neither trust or mistrust
Moderate mistrust
Strong mistrust

I trust free markets. Capitalism, per se, is only an economic model, and is by far the most effective one in improving the lives of people. Of course, it’s possible for markets to make mistakes; we’re all human, after all. But free markets are thankfully self-correcting. When I contemplate what the command economy in the USSR did to the Caspian and Aral Seas, I’d bet on Capitalist Free Markets any day of the week.

Question: TRUST in Government: Do you have strong trust, moderate trust, neither trust or mistrust, moderate mistrust, or strong mistrust in the government?

Strong Trust
Moderate Trust
Neither trust or mistrust
Moderate mistrust
Strong mistrust

Governments, at every level, are a reflection of the people who put them into power, and governments, at every level, are made up of people who are just like the rest of us: variously flawed and gifted. Just because my neighbor is elected Mayor does not make him or her suddenly virtuous.

 

OK, that was the survey. There were a couple of last questions, but they were demographic and so I am not reproducing them here.

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