GOP conservatives remain skeptical on climate change: Poll

A Greenpeace activist holds a figure of the US Statue of Liberty, during their a symbolic "Sinking Icons" activity, in Cancun, Mexico, on December 8, 2010 during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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A majority of conservative Republicans believe global warming will never happen, or that it won't happen in their lifetime, according to polling data released Wednesday by Gallup.

Forty percent of self-identified conservative Republicans believe global warming will never happen, according to the data, while 17 percent believe it will affect future generations. Only 37 percent of GOP conservatives believe the current generation will have to deal with the effects of a changing climate.

That belief puts them at odds with every other ideological group Gallup surveyed. Eighty-nine percent of liberal Democrats, 78 percent of moderate Democrats, 66 percent of independents, and 64 percent of moderate Republicans believe they'll see the effects of global warming during their lifetime, according to Gallup.

The results expose the tricky political question facing proponents of a more aggressive response to climate change: Can progress be made on a response if a significant part of one party can't even agree on the existence of a problem, much less the wisdom of a proposed solution?

President Obama will deliver a speech at Everglades National Park in Florida on Wednesday, which also happens to be Earth Day. The president is expected to highlight the bipartisan efforts to restore the park's fragile ecosystem, which has been threatened by decades of development in south Florida. But he's also expected to warn that those efforts will be for naught if global warming continues unchecked.

Democrats have long pushed for a reduction of carbon emissions and a transition to cleaner forms of energy to help ward off the most pernicious impacts of climate change, from rising sea levels to droughts and other severe weather patterns. A cap-and-trade proposal to place a price on carbon emissions cleared the House when it was under Democratic control in 2009, though it later died in the Senate. And last year, President Obama unilaterally imposed a carbon cap on coal-fired power plants.

Many Republicans, though, have questioned the science behind climate change, disputing the majority of scientists who believe human carbon emissions are to blame. Others in the GOP have said human activity has played a role, but they've accused Democrats of pushing solutions that would be too costly for American businesses.

Gallup's data was based on annual interviews between 2010 and 2015 with 6,154 American adults. Survey results based on the full sample carry a margin of error of plus or minus one percent.