Be skeptical of the latest 'skeptical' UK pollster headlines

Thu, 2007-07-05 12:44Kevin Grandia
Kevin Grandia's picture

Be skeptical of the latest 'skeptical' UK pollster headlines

A recent IpsosMori poll in the UK found that 56% of people agree that “many leading experts still question if human activity is contributing to climate change.”

The newspaper headline interpretations of this latest poll would lead the reader to believe that climate change, for all its media attention, is somehow not real in the minds of the British or that people are 'in denial.'

Here's some of the headlines from major UK outlets that came to the exact conclusion:

Public Unconvinced on Climate

Voters haven't warmed to climate change

Public 'sceptical about climate change'

Public 'in denial' about climate change

Looking closer at the polling data available from the Ispos research, here's some headlines you won't find.

Headline:
Overwhelming majority believe global warming caused by humans
A recent IsposMori poll finds that 69% of people in the UK agree that “human activity has a significant impact on the climate.”

Headline:
Major public concern about global warming effects on future generations
A recent IpsosMori poll finds that while only 38% of people in the UK believe climate change is having an impact now, 90% believe it will have a 'significant impact' on future generations.

Headline:
Is climate change exaggerated? Most Brits disagree, new poll suggests
A new IpsosMori poll out today finds that 75% of people in the UK disagree with the statement that climate change has been 'exaggerated' and causes 'too much fuss.'

Headline:
Voters demanding action on climate change
A poll released today by IpsosMori finds that over 70% of people in the UK believe that government should take the lead in combating climate change, even if it means using the law to change people's behavior.

What this poll points to, and what the headlines clearly missed, is a great deal of concern, mixed with a great deal of confusion. For example, the same poll found that the most oft-quoted solution to global warming is recycling.

When you analyze the IpsosMori poll as a whole, taking into account all the findings, it is clear that whether people believe that the “scientific debate is over” is not a very good indicator of whether people believe climate change is real or not, or whether they are concerned or not. It is more likely that such a finding is simply tapping into the long held (and correct) social belief that scientists are ever skeptical and ever-questioning. Unfortunately, this finding is also tapping into the effects of some savvy PR pros who take advantage of the “skeptical scientist” image and prop up in the media “skeptical” scientists and “skeptical” organizations with close ties to fossil fuel interests, like ExxonMobil and Koch Industries. Hence the reason we refer to such people as “deniers,” not “skeptics.”

As the IpsosMori pollsters rightly point out, continuing to communicate the issue of global warming, the causes, the effects and the solutions is the prescription. For instance, the Live Earth concert this weekend will be a global warming education mega-dose. And skepticism or not, the public concern over global warming continues to grow regardless of what these latest headlines may have you believe.


Check out Paul Sauven at the Guardian for another take. 

Previous Comments

Thanks. I figured something had to be off-kilter with the stories about this poll.


So let’s see if we’ve got this straight –
-Skepticism of anything which contradicts Global Warming claims: GOOD
-Skepticism of Global Warming claims: NOT GOOD.

I’m getting confused. Do you think maybe you could have some handy wallet-sized cards printed up which tell us what things we are, or are not, allowed to be skeptical about?

That would really help a guy out.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/03/science/earth/03climate.html?ex=132815...

I was hoping that this meant that those polled knew that global warming over the last 50 years could not be attributed with 100% certainty to anthropogenic sources (only 90-99% according to IPCC; I attached the above website because I liked the picture). Instead it’s the usual: “most people aren’t very-well informed,” despite – or perhaps due to – the coverage the issue gets in the mainstream media. Does Paul G dispute that interpretation of the ‘recycling solution’?
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