New Poll Results Reveal The Impact of Decades-Long Climate Confusion Campaign

Wed, 2010-01-27 16:30Jim Hoggan
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New Poll Results Reveal The Impact of Decades-Long Climate Confusion Campaign

A new report published jointly by Yale University and George Mason University finds that Americans are much less concerned about climate change than they were just a year ago.  Fifty-seven percent of Americans polled believe climate change is happening, compared with a figure of 71 percent in October 2008, a 14 point drop. 

The reason ought to be clear.  The climate confusion campaign - waged by the like of Americans for Prosperity, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Petroleum Institute and American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) - is alive and well, and obviously still inflicting damage.

According to the study, only 47 percent of Americans think global warming is caused mostly by human activities, a 10 point drop.  Only 50 percent of Americans now say they are “somewhat” or “very worried” about global warming, a 13-point decrease.

The report, “Climate Change in the American Mind,”[PDF] reveals that Americans are increasingly distrustful of scientists, politicians and the media concerning climate change.  The public’s trust in scientists dropped nine points from 83 to 74 percent, while trust in the mainstream news media’s coverage of climate change fell from 47 percent in 2008 to 36 percent now.

Anthony Leiserowitz, principal investigator and director of the Yale Project on Climate Change, told CNN: “I’m not surprised by the direction of the results but I am surprised at the magnitude of them.  These are steep drop offs and this is despite the fact that, if anything, the climate science is getting stronger and more concerning over the past year.”

Leiserowitz points to the damage caused by “Climategate” and “Glaciergate.”  He is partially right; those scandals did cause damage.  Unfortunately the damage was inflicted on climate scientists.

The real let-down was the media’s obsession with the mythology that scientists had somehow made up global warming by cooking the data.  Anyone who took the time to review the emails or the glacial records knows that assertion is patently false. 

The real damage caused by these scandals resulted from the lazy reporting done by most journalists on the subject.  The media failed to report the real story of “Climategate” - that a crime was committed by thieves who stole from a prestigious university in order to further an agenda of harassment against climate scientists.  And while “Glaciergate” was an embarrassing screw-up by the IPCC, it didn’t change the fact that glaciers are melting worldwide, causing sea level rise that is already affecting coastal communities. 

In both of these cases, and in general, the media should shoulder the bulk of the responsibility, failing to remind the public that the body of science proving human-caused climate change is vast and global, published in peer-reviewed journals, and validated by major scientific bodies the world over.

Readers of DeSmog Blog know well that these recent polling results have much more to do with the decades-long confusion campaign designed by polluting interests to keep the public in the dark about how serious climate change really is.  

“There is a real need for improved public education and communication on this critical issue. The science is getting stronger and public opinion is going in the opposite direction,” Leiserowitz says

That’s an understatement. 

This research underscores my view that climate advocates are incompetent communicators.  With all the science in the world behind us, and a good deal of the public credibility, we still can’t win a debate with people who have all the facts working against them.

Why do we bring a knife to the gunfight with the likes of CEI and the API?  As someone recently said, it’s like the Boy Scouts taking on the Mafia.

It’s time to change all that.  Advocates need to get their hands dirty and scientists need to get out of the office and communicate directly with the public about this urgent crisis.

Whether the American public believes it or not, climate change will continue to threaten American jobs, national security and health.  So we’d better all get better at explaining that reality. 

Comments

And if you listen to Monckton and other loud mouth parrots of business-as-usual like him, it is climate scientists and new initiatives for a “greener” future that threaten jobs, public health and state security. A lot of this reminds of that movie cliché where you have the “good guy” and an impostor standing before another person with a gun. No matter what the good guy says, the impostor is able create doubt, swinging the between the two. Personally I’ve turned my interest to comic style animation – thereby making the point simple and, I hope, exposing the impostor for what it is!

Here’s another illustration of how the Anti-AGW Spin Machine continues to ramp up its efforts. The scientific community of this country had best wake up and smell the roses before it becomes marginalized even more.

“Creative Response Concepts, the public relations firm behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth smear campaign, appears to be mounting an under-the-radar attack on climate action via Twitter. They just don’t want me to know what they’re up to.

“Staffers over at CRC have been tweeting furiously on global warming issues for the past few months—attacking not only climate legislation but climate science.

“The firm’s clients have included the National Republican Congressional Committee, National Taxpayers Union, Republican National Committee, Free Enterprise Foundation, American International Automobile Dealers Assoc., Corn Refiners Association, and the creationists at the Discovery Institute. CRC also has close ties with the conservative media machine, using avenues like the Drudge Report and Cybercast News Service to push the Swift Boat story.”

Source: “Are the Swift Boaters Mounting a Stealth Climate Attack?” by Kate Shepard, Mother Jones magazine, Jan 26, 2010 http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/01/will-climate-get-swift-boated

This is so disheartening. I feel we are losing the battle. Don’t the deniers care about what happens to their children or grandchildren? Is it possible to convince them of anything? The science grows stronger, the deniers grow more intransigent. You can’t argue with everyone, of course. You couldn’t argue with the Nazis either.

Churchill warned about the Nazis for years. No one wanted to listen to him. They were hoping against hope that peace was possible. This was all very understandable. The experience of WWI was still fresh in everyone’s minds. No one wanted to repeat that disaster. But eventually Germany invaded Poland, and Britain could not deny the threat any longer–although it took ANOTHER two years for the US to become involved.

Is that what it’s going to take? An environmental calamity? Unstoppable wildfires in Australia? Salmon extinction? Polar bear extinction? Millions dead in Bangladesh due to flooding? What is it going to take?

I don’t know if this makes it better or worse, but I found this from a recent article in the Guardian/UK:

“A growing number of science students on British campuses and in sixth form colleges are challenging the theory of evolution and arguing that Darwin was wrong. Some are being failed in university exams because they quote sayings from the Bible or Qur’an as scientific fact and at one sixth form college in London most biology students are now thought to be creationists.”

It would appear to me that a general distrust of science is the trend du jour. Maybe if we’re lucky, all of the “skeptics” of science as a system of thinking will just quit getting established, science-based medical treatment (like penicillin or insulin or surgery) from established, science-based hospitals to see what the results are. It would be an interesting experiment. Not that they would believe the conclusions…

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Companies like Shell Oil really need to give their eyes a rub and see that a world with serious constraints on greenhouse gas emissions is not a possible future, but an eventual reality.

Right now, oil companies are investing billions in long term plays in very carbon intensive fuels, like Canada's oil sands, while at the same time there are more and more signs that strict regulations on such operations are on the near horizon.

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