Andy Revkin reports that voter interest in climate change as an issue has waned. That’s disappointing, but it’s not entirely surprising. One suspects that we’re sort of backtracking on the environmental Kuznets curve. The really distressing thing is that we’re getting dumber on the issue:

Forty-four percent (44%) of U.S. voters now say long-term planetary trends are the cause of global warming, compared to 41% who blame it on human activity.

Seven percent (7%) attribute global warming to some other reason, and nine percent (9%) are unsure in a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democrats blame global warming on human activity, compared to 21% percent of Republicans. Two-thirds of GOP voters (67%) see long-term planetary trends as the cause versus 23% of Democrats. Voters not affiliated with either party by eight points put the blame on planetary trends.

In July 2006, 46% of voters said global warming is caused primarily by human activities, while 35% said it is due to long-term planetary trends.

This is the stuff that drives scientists mad. The science on the issue has only gotten clearer over time, and the outlook, in terms of likely temperature rise, has grown worse. I can’t believe that 41% of Democrats think humans aren’t causing warming. It’s hard enough to make the case for carbon taxes assuming voters understand the issue; if they don’t even realize the danger, then we are really and truly doomed.

Our political leaders have to see themselves as having the responsibility to educate voters on this. They have to make warming an issue. And this is why its so damaging for newspapers to believe that it’s ok to run “contrarian” takes on climate change, or to use “fake balance” — finding some wingnut denialist to counter the opinion of an actual climate scientist in the name of fairness. Opinions on the shape of the earth differ, it’s true, but we can say definitively that some are right and others wrong. If the stewards of the press can’t tell the story like it is, then I don’t know how we can hope to educate voters on the topic.

And obviously, the smart Republicans who know better but abuse this topic for political gain should be roundly pilloried. Denialism at this point is like racialism or communism — a debunked and dangerous pseudo-theory that deserve to be pushed to the fringes of the responsible political debate.