Residents of Tangier Island reject 'climate' victim label

This summer, a delegation of Republican climate activists visited Tangier Island, a speck of grassland in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay, to try to convince its 450 residents to take climate change seriously.

At a dinner attended by island residents Aug. 2, the activists from RepublicEn headed by former Republican Congressman Bob Inglis laid out the stakes: The sea level is rising, and some scientists estimate that within decades the island, already suffering severe erosion, will need to be abandoned.

The people of Tangier Island were used to this kind of message. Former Vice President Al Gore, a prominent Democratic climate activist, had given the same speech to islanders three days earlier. They were also used to rejecting it.

“We’ll talk to everybody,” said James Eskridge, mayor of the mainly Republican island community. “But they’re not going to change many minds here.” Residents, he said, do not believe in climate change: they want a new sea wall to prevent erosion, not a lecture about saving the world with solar panels.

Tangier Island’s steadfast rejection of climate change reflects the rigidity of American opinions about global warming, often defined along political party lines.

Reuters/Ipsos polling shows more than a third of Americans, mainly Republicans, reject the scientific consensus that climate change is driven by human activity. Less than a third of Americans believe global warming poses an imminent threat to the United States. These views barely budged after a series of devastating hurricanes this summer.

That rift in opinion has proven to be a headwind for U.S. lawmakers seeking broad solutions to stem climate change, like imposing a cost on carbon emissions or encouraging cleaner renewable energy technologies to replace fossil fuels.

And while conservatives have long been skeptical about climate change, doubters have a powerful new ally: U.S. President Donald Trump. He has called climate change a hoax and has started withdrawing the United States from a global pact to combat it, citing what he calls the huge economic cost.

Eskridge told Reuters Trump called him in June after seeing a report about severe erosion problems on the island, telling him not to worry about sea level rise.

“I believe man plays a part in it but not to the extent that others have been talking about – that’s what me and Donald Trump were talking about,” Eskridge said. (Reuters)

Photography by Adrees Latif/Reuters

Photos: Just a 100 miles from the White House, Tangier Island is disappearing into the sea »

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Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

A shanty, once used to sort through crabs, lies destroyed on Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

Soft shell crabs lie in a wooden box before they are sorted to be sold on Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

Tourists arrive by ferry to Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

Destroyed crab shacks are seen in this aerial view over Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

Local resident Jim Tyler cleans out the organs of a blue crab in preparation for picking its meat, at his residence on Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

A cat sits on a porch on Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

Brandi Tuck of Yorktown searches for arrowheads in the “Uppards” part of Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

Visitors watch a short film at the Tangier History Museum on Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

A tombstone lies on a beach in the “Uppards,” part of Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

A woman cycles past a house displaying a sign supporting U.S. President Donald Trump on Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

Homes and businesses line Main Ridge Road in this aerial view over Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

Paige Tuck of Yorktown displays an arrowhead she found in the “Uppards,” part of Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

Wave breakers are seen along the “Uppards,” part of Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

Visitors swim in the waters along a sandbar on the south side of Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

Local islander Jim Shores lays out his crab traps to dry along a dock on Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

A seawall erected to prevent erosion is seen along the east side of Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

Local resident Wayne Crokett, 72, rides along Factory Road on Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

An islander speaks to former congressman Bob Inglis after a meeting at the Fisherman’s Corner restaurant on Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

A duck decoy rests in a wooden box on a shanty on Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

Local fisherman Rudy Shores sorts through soft shell crabs at his crab shack on Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

Tangier Island is photographed from the north side in this aerial view over Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

Tangier Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge is photographed during an interview at the Fisherman’s Corner restaurant on Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

A tombstone lies submerged at the water’s edge in the “Uppards” part of Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Residents of Tangier Island reject ‘climate’ victim label

A cross stands in the marsh on Tangier Island, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters)

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