A troubling trend in Global Warming Denial on the internet

Thu, 2009-01-15 09:55Kevin Grandia
Kevin Grandia's picture

A troubling trend in Global Warming Denial on the internet

Our 2008 analysis of global warming misinformation finds that there was a very significant upswing in online activity.

This trend should be troubling to US policymakers and campaigners wanting to implement new greenhouse gas reduction strategies.

Here’s the stats we’ve generated as evidence of our conclusions (click any of the images to enlarge):

“Global Warming” + hoax

A Google blog search for the term “global warming” + hoax between January 1, 2008 and January 1, 2009 reports 49,719 page results. The same search for the previous year reports only 22,077 page results.


“Global Warming” + lie

A Google blog search for the term “global warming” + lie between January 1, 2008 and January 1, 2009 reports 100,770 page results. The same search for the previous year reports only 50,016 page results.

global-warming-lie


“Global Warming” + alarmists

A Google blog search for the term “global warming” + alarmists between January 1, 2008 and January 1, 2009 reports 27,298 page results. The same search for the previous year reports only 13,864 page results.

global-warming-alarmists


“Global Warming” + skeptic

A Google blog search for the term “global warming” + skeptic between January 1, 2008 and January 1, 2009 reports 73,956 page results. The same search for the previous year reports only 38,346 page results.

global-warming-skeptic

[Note: For those who’ve never visited our site before and might be wondering what I mean by “climate science misinformation,” you can check out this article written by DeSmog co-founder James Hoggan on Slamming the Skeptic Scam.]

Outside of a small band of ideologically motivated outlets, the majority of the mainstream media is unwilling to cover the nonsensical junk science of the right-wing think tanks and their cadre of scientists for hire. With this the case, the internet is exploding with such information. And at the same time that we’re seeing significantly more of this misinformation being spread about global warming online, we’re also seeing more people than ever using the internet as their main source of news and information.

Here’s some recent findings that should trouble anyone working to implement new laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

1) The internet is now a larger source of news for people than newspapers.

Research conducted in December, 2008 by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that the internet is now used as a news source by more Americans than newspapers. The report found that: “for the first time in a Pew survey, more people say they rely mostly on the internet for news than cite newspapers (35%). Television continues to be cited most frequently as a main source for national and international news, at 70%.”

newspaper-versus-internet

2) Millions of people are seeking global warming information online.

In an average month more than 2.2 million people in the United States search for the term “global warming” on Google and another 368,000 people search for the term “climate change.” The more climate misinformation that is posted on the internet, the more likely that people searching for information on global warming will be exposed to it. In fact the number 2 search result for “global warming” on Google is currently a website run by the thoroughly discredited Competitive Enterprise Institute:

cei-global-warming-screenshot

And the results of all this?

Opinion polls conducted in the United States over the last year confirm the upward trend in people who believe that global warming is NOT caused by human activity. One series of polls conducted by Rasmussen Reports found that between April and December, 2008 the number of respondents who attributed global warming to “long term planetary trends” and not human activity increased from 34 percent to 43 percent.

poll-global-warming

This upswing is in spite of the 2007 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releasing a report by top climate scientists from around the world concluding that global warming is “very likely”—or 90 per cent certain—caused by humans burning fossil fuels.

Legislators are going to be very hard pressed to implement strict new greenhouse gas regulations if almost a majority of the public believes that climate change has nothing to do with human activity. As will environmental groups who are urging average citizens to take personal action to reduce their carbon footprint.

Many people (even some well-known climate activists) have told me that the “deniers’ days are over,” so I hope these statistics are a wake-up call.

If this is going to be the year that we have the political leadership in the United States with the will to take real action on climate change, we’re all going to have to double, or even triple our efforts to dispel the myths and lies being spread online about the realities of the situation.


This month we’re giving away FREE copies Coming Clean: Breaking America’s Addiction to Oil and Coal.

Go here to find out more details about DeSmogBlog’s monthly book give-away.

Comments

At first your statistics were alarming, and then I wondered whether you had used any kind of control sampling of unrelated search terms to see whether the burgeoning trend is a more general phenomenon reflecting overall increased traffic on the internet.  Did you get statistics for real science pages as well?  Maybe the situation is not as troubling as it first appears.  On the other hand, it is never a good idea to let our guard down just because it appears the deniers are losing ground.  The item about CNN earlier today over at RealClimate makes that pretty clear!

Fern

I think that the growth of the internet is definitely a factor in the increase. But regardless of the increase in overall content on the internet, these numbers should be going down or at the least starting to level off, not exponentially upwards as the science continues to be more certain. Also, I think its compelling when these Google blog numbers are coupled with the rise in public opinion that global warming is NOT caused by human activity.

Also, regardless of what is causing these exponential increases in misinformation, the bottom line is that there’s more of this content than ever being posted and more content means more eyeballs viewing it.

and it’s certainly true that the more misinformation there is out there, the more likely some folks will be to take it seriously.  Sigh. 

Is there a rise in public opinion that global warming is NOT caused by human activity?  I missed that somehow.  WHAT’S WRONG WITH PEOPLE????

Fern

I think that most people are not especially focused on climate and won’t be unless they feel directly affected. It would be interesting to see  traffic increases to climate sites during major heat waves and busy hurricane seasons.

Heres something else. People stay home more and surf the internet more in the winter, especially during cold snaps. That might affect traffic headed to the contrarian sites.

Yep, there’s a million ways to one that you can run this stuff. Here’s one using Google trends:

Nothing really interesting, but its definitely worthwhile to measure various search trends against one another.

I expected it as the AGW SEPTICS and their Exxon funded SEPTIC TANKS in the US read the tea leaves and saw that McSame/Falin were going down in flames.  They’re putting on their full frontal assault in anticipation of the climactic change that’s about to happen.

As someone intimate with state level politics, word has it that Obama team will overturn Bush EPA and approve the CA Clean Cars waiver in their first year! 

But hey, how about that record ice.  Losers.

Given the fact that 2008 average temperatures were very close to the 110 year mean it is hard to argue for unusual warming driven by CO2 emissions.  Even after all of the data massaging and statistical games the AGW alarmists can’t support their contention that CO2 emissions are a significant driver of climate change.  The more time that passes without warming the harder it will be for the IPCC and the alarmists to explain away the cooling trends in the twentieth century and the fact that the predictions made by the IPCC models and by the GHG theories that claim that incremental additions of CO2 will have a material effect cannot be verified by the satellite data.  And as people begin to pull back the curtain they are bound to notice various attempts to roll back the historical record to make it seem as if temperatures in the 1930s were lower than they actually were or to try to marginalize the historical evidence of higher temperatures during the prosperous Medieval Warm Period.  As long as those Viking farms stay under permafrost the claim of unprecedented temperature highs will still appear to be lies.

All of your “facts” are wrong. If you wish to dispute that then please supply legitimate sources (i.e. do not refer to dishonest denier sites).

I doubt that you will be able to back up even one of your so-called “facts”. A good place for you to start to educate yourself on climate science would be to spend some time on “Open Mind” a blog which discusses the statistics involved in climate science.

These Google stats are meaningless in the way they have been used. “global warming” and “hoax”, “lie”, “skeptic”, etc. are going to appear in thousands of stories from scientifically literate sources.  These numbers prove nothing other than that more people are writing about global warming - whether it’s denial or reality-based reporting.

A better method would be to look at comparative searches: http://www.google.com/trends?q=global+warming%2C+global+warming+hoax&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=0 That shows the number of people looking for evidence of a pre-conceived hoax are insignificant (1/178) compared to those just searching for information.

What should be noted is that searches for ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ do not produce a single denier site in the top 10 results.  That’s where the majority of people will start reading.

And note that Kevin’s searches were just within blogs.  In terms of the poll results, I think there’s still a very clear long-term trend in the right direction.  For example:

A fresh poll (<a href=”http://thinkprogress.org/page/2/”>discussed</a> at Think Progress) finds ”89% saying they like the idea of creating jobs through increasing production of renewable energy and making public buildings more energy efficient.”  That impressive result is about half-way into the diehard yahoos.  Anyway, I’d want to see a real analysis of polling trends over a period of years before getting too worried.

Just to get an overall check on the internet situation, I did basic searches for “global warming” and ‘ “global warming” hoax’, and got (rounding) 60,000,000 to 3,000,000.  There’s no trend information there, but off-hand it doesn’t seem real alarming.

But speaking of ‘ “global warming” hoax specifically, a few other interesting things turned up on Google Trends:

First, I <a href=”http://www.google.com/trends?q=%22global+warming%22%2C+%22global+warming...”>flipped the terms</a> to get the comparative scale and found that it’s an unalarming 178 to 1 in favor of “global warming” (reasonably consistent with the basic search results since they’re not measuring the same thing).

Next, I looked at <a href=”http://www.google.com/trends?q=%22global+warming%22+hoax&ctab=0&geo=all&...”>‘ “global warming” hoax’ as a standalone</a> and found that it 1) has no trend in the time it’s been measured and 2) went from complete obscurity to it’s present level in a 2 week period in late 2006.  Now, maybe that’s a artifact of the search engine, but if it’s real it raises the interesting possibility that there was an overt campaign to get it into general use in November 2006. 

Hmm, what happened in November 2006?  As far as I can see, the only relevant events of significance were that AIT was released on DVD after finishing its theatrical run (and so had arguably reached its peak in terms of public awareness) and the Republicans lost an important election.  Coincidence?  Maybe, but I smell a rat, or at least a move to shore up “the base” on this issue.   

Kevin, I’d appreciate your thoughts on all of this.

Checking ‘ “global warming” hoax’ using Google News:

1990 through 11/1/2006 returns 814 hits.

11/1/2006 through the present returns 1340 hits.

8/15/2004 through 11/1/2006 returns 484 hits.

Spot-checking a few  key months:

March 2006 returns 19 hits.

August 2006 returns 21 hits.

Finally, March 2007 returns 61 hits.

The majority of the March and August 2006 hits refer to a single source, James Inhofe, although he’s still frequently mentioned post-November 2006.

Much more could be done on this, but it seems clear enough that the Google Trend result is no artifact.

Kevin, just to note that the shift you mention took the form of Republicans hardening their position, which result meshes neatly with my hypothesis.  I have to say it seems like a desperate rear-guard strategy that’s going to bite them in the butt when they’re finally forced to climb down.

(If you could fix those links I’d much appreciate it.  I had forgotten that the software here doesn’t use the standard code for links.)   

WIll also jump in on comments in a bit Steve.

I am not as concerned about the shift as I am the ling term trend in opinion polls showing that there has been very little significant change in the number of people who think humans are not to blame for global warming. Despite the increasing scientific evidence.

The vast libertarian internet conspiracy is finally doing something effective…

You twits are frittering your lifes away on imaginary “science”.  The most respected scientists at NASA only went along with this nonsense in order to secure funding for climate satellites.  Read this: http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/01/another-nasa-defection-to-the-skeptics-camp/

Another NASA Defection to the Skeptics’ Camp

January 29th, 2009 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Something about retirement apparently frees people up to say what they really believe. I retired early from NASA over seven years ago to have more freedom to speak my mind on global warming.

You might recall that after Dr. Joanne Simpson retired from NASA she (trmm.gsfc.nasa.gov/3rd_trmm_conf/simpson.doc) admitted to a long-held skepticism regarding the role of mankind in global warming.

And who can forget NASA’s Administrator, Michael Griffin, admitting that he was skeptical of the urgency of the global warming problem? After the outrage that ensued, I suspect he wishes he had never brought it up.

And now my old boss when I was at NASA (as well as James Hansen’s old boss), John Theon, has stated very clearly that he doesn’t believe global warming is manmade…and adding “climate models are useless” for good measure. Even I wouldn’t go quite that far, since I use simple ones in my published research.

I remember the old days at NASA, when even John Theon was singing the same tune as most people at NASA were. Manmade global warming was a potentially serious threat, and NASA wanted Congress to fund new satellites to study the problem. It was a team effort to get that accomplished.

Global warming research was a relatively new field back then. Was Theon always skeptical, and just being a team player at the time? I don’t know. It could be that Dr. Theon, after watching 15 years of climate research go by, decided that he was no longer convinced that mankind was at fault for warming.

After all, there is some precedence for scientists changing their minds. One of today’s leading global warming alarmists is Stephen Schneider, who did a major about-face from the 1970s when global cooling was all the rage. At least Theon didn’t write a book back then about how serious the global warming issue was, as Schneider did on global cooling.

And how many defections have we seen in the other direction — from the skeptics’ camp to the alarmists’ camp? Seems like it’s been a one-way street so far.

Theon now also supports what I have repeatedly said over the years. That NASA’s James Hansen routinely ignored NASA policy, and said whatever he wanted to the press and to Congress without getting approval first. The reason why everyone at NASA looked the other way was that we were trying to get congressional funding for satellite missions to study climate. I personally don’t think we needed Hansen’s extremist views to get that accomplished, but it probably helped to some extent.

I asked NASA managers at the time, how can Hansen get away with saying whatever he wanted to? The answer was, “well…he’s not supposed to”.

You might think it’s OK for the lone scientist to warn everyone of impending planetary doom. But I consider it much closer to someone who makes a habit of yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. Forcing expensive energy on people will lead to death and suffering. These are very real threats, not theoretical like manmade global warming, and they exist today. I personally don’t care where our energy comes from — but I do care that a maximum number of people can afford it.

In truth, it wasn’t Hansen who was muzzled, but it was me in the Clinton-Gore years, who was asked to keep my mouth shut about my skeptical views. That was fine…if a little annoying. At least the flap Hansen caused has managed to force NASA to say that their scientists no longer have to march in lock-step on scientific issues. That’s a good thing.

I have to wonder…how many more scientists will be outing themselves as skeptics? While we may never constitute a majority, and many of us have differing views on the real causes of climate change, it only takes one of us to be right for the global warming house of cards to collapse.

media was supposed to be the best medium of interaction and how can these sick people spread such misinformation on the internet, God i’m pissed off kev domain name registration

Carbon dioxide is rising up because the people destroy the forests for furniture,fossil fuels and even for Christmas trees .I’ll suggest that everyone should buy artificial Christmas trees this is a first step to stop deforestation also to stop rising of carbon dioxide