For Palin, Is it God-made Climate Change? Journalists Need to Ask the Question.
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
At the WPost, Juliet Eilperin pens a lengthy feature on the differences between Palin and McCain over the causes of global warming. Palin believes that the effects of climate change are impacting Alaska and has advocated for action, but continues to hedge on whether or not humans are a cause. McCain, on the other hand, believes that "the science of man made global warming has really been proven."
Palin's rejection of scientific consensus may simply be politically strategic, playing to a conservative base, or she may be victim to the counter-framing of climate skeptics. Either way, Palin's opinion of climate change is in line with her party faithful. Polls show that less than 25% of college-educated Republicans accept that human activities are contributing to climate change.
On the other hand, as a devout Pentecostal who believes in creationism, Palin's rejection of scientific consensus may also derive from her religious faith. Palin, for example, is already on record saying that she believes Iraq is "a task that is from God." It stands to reason that religion also likely colors her views on climate change.
So for journalists, the relevant question for Palin is the source of her beliefs about climate change. Why is it that she rejects overwhelming scientific consensus? And specifically, what role does her faith play in perceiving the causes of climate change? For Palin, does God trump science when it comes to understanding the causes of complex problems?
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