A recent poll has shown that a majority of Russians believe climate change is happening and that more than half of them think humans are to blame, says the country’s oldest polling agency, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center.
The poll has interesting implications for US President Donald Trump, who in May abandoned American participation in the landmark Paris Climate Accord, and whose administration has been busily hobbling government agencies tasked with solving global warming and protecting the environment.
Even the spy services that Trump oversees believe Kremlin meddling in the American electoral process boosted him to his presidency – yet the climate poll coming out of Moscow shows Trump doesn’t have the common sense of your average Russian.
The US president has famously called global warming a “hoax” orchestrated by the Chinese to put one over on American industry. Since trashing the Paris agreement, reporters in Washington have asked the White House if Trump actually still thinks that, or if it was just another of his characteristic crowd-riling outbursts. They have received no answer.
Trump may, in fact, have nothing to say. Before taking office in January 2017, he gave numerous interviews showing that he clearly hadn’t given the matter a lot of thought. In one set of scattershot remarks on American radio in 2015, Trump suggested that though the world might be warming, the real threat was a global freeze.
The world, he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, “could be warming, and it’s going to start to cool at some point. And you know, in the early, in the 1920s, people talked about global cooling.”
It actually wasn’t until the 1970s that people started talking about global cooling, and that notion was debunked as quickly as it arose. Trump later told The New York Times, perhaps truthfully, that he “has an open mind to” climate change.
Nevertheless, despite the efforts Trump’s administration is taking to aggressively ignore or repress the science of global warming and humanity’s part in causing it, he still after seven months in office doesn’t have a clear opinion on whether or not it’s real.
But the Russians do.
The poll conducted throughout Russia by telephone in June found that 86 percent of Russians believe climate change is real. More than 70 percent of them have noticed big, chaotic weather patterns veering from hot to cold, and 55 percent of them believe global warming is due to the activities of humanity.
Nonetheless, these climate conscious Russians say that the concept of climate change is more poorly understood in contemporary society than it was seven to 10 years ago – perhaps understandable when the second most powerful man on the planet after Vladimir Putin doesn’t grasp it either.
Only 20 percent of Russians responding to the poll said they had a good handle on what climate change actually was. Compare that to 2007, when 34 percent said they understood global warming in the same poll. Still, 91 percent of Russians say they have at least heard of the idea of climate change.
That level of cognizance, according to the poll, however, starts to slip among younger respondents, many of whom the polling agency said don’t much know or much care about global warming. Climate change, it turns out, is the wisdom of the older generation.
Interestingly, many Russians told the agency that they now had a more “positive” view of climate change, but the pollsters failed to explain in their release of the data what that meant.
Contrary to that rosy outlook, though, 51 percent of respondents told pollsters that global warming is a “serious problem demanding a quick solution.” And 55 percent were worried that Russia itself would start feeling the impact of climate catastrophe.
Fewer than 30 percent of respondents said they thought climate change would mean good things for Russia, which likely shows the Putin propaganda machine has backed off telling the public about how global warming would bring beach resorts to the Arctic. Still, a lot of Russians – 39 percent – fall in line behind Trump in saying climate change is all made up.
The survey also found that the Russian state media has been using the term “global warming” a lot more often than it used to. According to pollsters’ data, the term has made the papers or been mentioned by television anchors 100,000 times over the last five years.
This figure rode the on tide of two news events: The signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, and Trump pulling out of it in May.
The degree to which Trump and members of his campaign may have colluded with the Kremlin is the focus of three federal investigations and a special counsel’s probe, and hasn’t been determined yet. But one thing is now certain: If Russians helped elevate him to the White House, it’s not because he believes what most of them do.