The GOP’s opposition to regulating greenhouse gas emissions is not driven by the GOP “street” according to a new report by the Yale Project on Climate Communication. They report that 56% of Republicans surveyed support regulating carbon dioxide emissions as a pollutant (the Obama / EPA position). Even 54% of self-identified conservative Republicans take the Obama / EPA position. A Republican legislative assault on EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions – if it ever happens – would thus face headwinds not only from the electorate at large but from the party’s own base.

This might have something to do with Senator John Thune’s statement on Fox News Sunday in mid-November that he thinks climate change is happening and that it may well be caused by human activity. While Thune did not go so far as to endorse regulation, he went right up to the line. Pleasing the Tea Party (only 36% of which support regulating carbon dioxide emissions as a pollutant) may no longer be the primary political consideration for elected conservatives in Washington.

Senator Inhoffe, the coal industry, and other regulatory opponents should take notice. If conservative Republicans are going to accept the reality of global warming and a majority of Republicans support emissions restraints, the prospects for rolling back EPA regulations without any concessions is likely a political non-starter.