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Originally published Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 9:47 PM

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Climate-change skepticism a hallmark of tea partyers

Whatever the party composition of the next Congress, cap-and-trade legislation is likely dead for the foreseeable future.

The New York Times

The Tea party movement | Candidates, mission

Above is a word cloud generated from Sarah Palin's speech to the National Tea Party Convention earlier this year. The larger words are those Palin used more often during the speech.

Whatever the party composition of the next Congress, cap-and-trade legislation is likely dead for the foreseeable future.

Those who support the tea-party movement are considerably more dubious about the existence and effects of global warming than the public at large, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll this month.

Only 14 percent of tea-party supporters said global warming is an environmental problem that is having an effect now, while 49 percent of the rest of the public believes it is. More than half of tea-party supporters said global warming would have no serious effect in the future, while only 15 percent of other Americans share that view, the poll found.

And 8 percent of tea-party adherents volunteered they did not believe global warming exists, while only 1 percent of other respondents agreed.

Those views in general align with those of the fossil-fuel industries. For decades, they have created and lavishly financed institutes to produce anti-global-warming studies, paid for rallies and websites to question the science and generated scores of economic analyses that purport to show that policies to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases will have a devastating effect on jobs and the overall economy.

Their views are spread by a number of widely followed conservative-opinion leaders, including Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, George Will and Sarah Palin, who question the credibility and motives of scientists who have raised alarms about climate change.

Groups that help support tea-party candidates include climate-change skepticism in their core message. Americans for Prosperity, a group founded and largely financed by oil-industry interests, has sponsored what it calls a Regulation Reality Tour to stir up opposition to climate-change legislation and federal regulation of carbon emissions. Its tea-party talking points describe a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions as "the largest excise tax in history."

FreedomWorks, another group supported by the oil industry, helps organize tea-party rallies and distributes fliers urging opposition to federal climate policy.

The oil, coal and utility industries collectively have spent $500 million since the beginning of 2009 to lobby against climate-change legislation and to defeat candidates who support it, according to a new analysis from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a left-leaning advocacy group.

Their message appears to have fallen on receptive ears. Of 20 Republican candidates in contested Senate races, 19 question the science of global warming and oppose comprehensive legislation to deal with it, according to a National Journal survey.

A large majority of tea party-supported House candidates also doubt global-warming science and oppose energy legislation designed to address it.

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