New polls in the U.S. and in the U.K. show a continuing collapse in public conviction that climate change is a serious and urgent issue - a result that can only be interpreted as an unprecedented measure of success for the campaign to deny global warming.
A poll by Anthony Leiserowitz Climate Project at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies shows that the number of people who are “dismissive” of climate change has doubled and the number of people who are “alarmed” has dropped by half in the last two years.
The Guardian reported that an IPSOS Mori poll shows the number of Britons who believe that climate change is “definitely” a reality has dropped 30 per cent, from 44 per cent to 31 during the last year.
Such results demand that we look back over the past year to figure out what’s causing these huge shifts in public opinion. It can’t be the scientific evidence, which by virtually every measure gets more alarming by the day. Ice is retreating in the Arctic and the Antarctic. An unprecedented drought persists across southern Australia, the global average temperatures continue to edge dangerously higher, and other wierd weather seems to persist everywhere.
Thus, the change in the public conversation must be tracked back to the pointed and persistent attacks on the scientists who work in the climate change field. Whether they are mischievous hobbyists or paid lobbyists, a large and suspiciously well-funded group of climate change deniers have been having a field day - with the stolen East Anglia emails and with a small number of actual (and embarrassing) errors in the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This is a worrisome triumph of spin over science. People who doubt it need to take more care in what they read. People who want to do something about it - all of us really - need to work harder to correct this distorted, perverted - frankly stolen - public conversation.