Many Americans think that climate-change deniers ‘get what they deserve’ when disasters strike

Steven Weber, Weidenbaum Center Post-Doctoral Research Fellow


Earlier this month, President Trump raised eyebrows when he tweeted that Californians and their state government were to blame for the devastating fires that left 76 people dead and thousands of others injured. Democrats and fire management experts quickly condemned the president’s comment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused Trump of “insult[ing] the memory” of those who died as a result of the disaster.

Presidents don’t usually blame disaster victims for their suffering. But in keeping with the spirit of that comment, a surprising proportion of Americans who believe climate science think that climate deniers “get what they deserve” when they’re hit with climate-related natural disasters such as coastal hurricanes, which scientists think are becoming more frequent and severe as average global temperatures increase.

Why would people feel that particular kind of schadenfreude, concluding that others deserve to have their lives devastated by natural disasters? In our recent research, we determine that’s because, as the nation polarizes more extremely, Democrats and Republicans increasingly dislike one another as people.

Read the full piece in the Washington Post.

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