Republicans, Democrats See Global Warming Differently

Article excerpt

Mary Ann Petrillo says she has a green family.

The Irwin attorney has taught her husband and three children to conserve as much energy as they possibly can.

They recycle, buy food from a farmer's market and use the swirly, fluorescent light bulbs that suddenly surfaced at home improvement stores.

"You just have to start at home and set an example," says Petrillo, who specializes in estate planning and adoption law. "Everybody needs to take personal responsibility for the environment. It's not that hard."

Like Petrillo, a sizeable majority of Pennsylvanians worry about the effect of greenhouse gases on the environment. They believe global warming is disrupting the planet's climate system and a healthy environment is necessary. A recent poll commissioned by the Tribune-Review showed 71 percent of those surveyed believe global warming is a reality.

As Petrillo puts it, "You'd have to be living under a rock to not know about it. It seems to be everywhere -- on TV, in magazines, in politics."

Yet, Ronald Farine of Delmont doesn't buy into the notion. He's a self-described "staunch conservative" who scoffs at the idea that global warming is man-made.

"It's something that has been made up by a certain group of people in order to gain more control of our lives," said Farine, 49, who works as a technician for Verizon. "The scientific evidence does not support global warming. Who are they trying to fool?"

Indeed, politics fuel opinions about global warming.

The Trib survey of 800 registered voters, conducted by Harrisburg- based Susquehanna Polling and Research, showed more Republicans tend to believe global warming is a result of natural climatic change, and most Democrats think human action is to blame for the damage to the environment.

Granger Morgan, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has studied climate change and its potential impact, said the divergence in views likely stems from confusion generated by large corporations who once poked holes at the complicated science behind global warming.

"Within science, there's been recent persuasive evidence that global warming is human caused," said Morgan, head of Carnegie Mellon's department of engineering and public policy. "The disconnect you see partly is the residual lag of very efficient public relations campaigns designed to keep people confused."

Ben Lieberman, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said there is some truth to global warming but it's not the crisis that politicians such as Al Gore have made it to be.

"I would argue that everything you hear about global warming that sounds terrifying is not true and not part of the scientific consensus," Lieberman said.

For example, Lieberman said Gore grossly oversimplified Hurricane Katrina by blaming it on global warming.

"We didn't see a repeat of Katrina in 2006 or 2007," Lieberman said. "The reality falls far short of the crisis rhetoric. …