US Public on Global Warming: Been There, Done That, No Big Issue

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gallup data

This week brought a new Gallup poll of US public opinion on global warming—and the only good news is that nothing has gotten any worse. Still, it staggers the mind to contemplate just how big the gap is between what scientists think about the issue, and what the public thinks.

Public concern about climate change, Gallup reports, is “stable at lower levels”—just 51 percent say they worry significantly about global warming, down from 66 percent in 2007. If you don’t think that the rise of an ever-more-assured climate denialism in Congress is tied to those numbers, you don’t know politics.

As usual, the latest survey also underscores the depth of the partisan divide on the climate issue. Democrats are 40 percentage points more likely to worry about global warming than Republicans, and 35 percentage points more likely to agree with scientists that global warming is human caused. Republicans, meanwhile, are 45 percentage points more likely to claim global warming is exaggerated in the news. Lovely.

The most staggering finding from Gallup, though, is that in one area—and one area alone—we’re making what you might (very ironically) call “progress.” As time passes, Americans are professing to know more about, and better understand, the climate issue. We’ve gone “from 69% saying they understand the issue “very well” or “fairly well” in 2001, to 74% in 2006 and 80% in the current poll,” Gallup reports.

This has got to be the scariest finding of all. People are now saying they’re very familiar with the climate issue, very confident that they understand it. Yet the data about their opinions overwhelmingly shows they misunderstand it in large numbers.

In other words, we have a public that is quite comfortable in its misguided views—and therefore, one presumes, fairly unlikely to change them. And once again, this is mirrored in Congress, where Republicans don’t necessarily even feel they need present a “debate” any more about climate science. They now take it as rendered that it’s all bunkum; and Democrats have to struggle just to get an “on the one hand, on the other hand” hearing to go off.

Is there anything to feel good about in here? As far as I can tell, just this: Summer is coming. People definitely care more about global warming when it’s hot outside, and if there’s going to be any public opinion shift, that’s when it’s likely to come. Not a lot to pin hopes on, but, well…let’s just say I’m calibrating my hopefulness to the overall bleakness of the public opinion picture.

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Republicans, meanwhile, are 45 percentage points more likely to claim global warming is exaggerated in the news.

This upsets me more because in order to exaggerate, the media would have to be reporting on the issue in the first place. What are the stats for how frequently climate change is actually mentioned in the news recently? I’ve seen more about Charlie Sheen’s drug habits in the last few months than I’ve seen about global warming. A more meaningful poll might have asked 1) how much news do you watch 2) when was the last time your media outlet of choice actually mentioned global warming and then finally asked if they believed the report to illustrate that their answer was based on party lines versus independent synthesis of information.

Chris Mooney refers to the gap “between what scientists think about the issue [global warming] and what the public thinks” —— however there are many scientists who are researching climate science, and they have a complete array of hypotheses about which drivers of the global climate are most important. It is simplistic to talk about “what scientists think” as if they are all of one mind on the issue of global warming.

The discussion about how to proceed with policies to deal with climate change is often muddied by the mistaken assumption that there is universal scientific consensus about the hypothesis that CURRENT carbon containing greenhouse gas emissions are the primary drivers of CURRENT climate change.

I spent the most of the last two years of my 45 year Research Scientist career in Natural Resources Canada intensively reading climate science(I retired in December, 2010).

I met with New Brunswicks’s Energy Minister recently - and IF YOU ARE INTERESTED - I would like to show you FIVE files that I selected to introduce the minister to various examples of “what scientists think” about the recent cyclic warming that the Earth experienced between the early 1970s and the early 2000s.

If you are interested in scanning these files and their easy-to-read illustrations and graphs — then please send your email address to [email protected]

Peter Salonius [email protected]

Peter Salonius says “climate change is often muddied by the mistaken assumption that there is universal scientific consensus about the hypothesis that CURRENT carbon containing greenhouse gas emissions are the primary drivers of CURRENT climate change.”
However, the majority of the “scientists” opposing the consensus base their stance either on ignorance or dishonesty.

For example here is a quote from Salonius on the Nature blog “We now have evidence that the APPARENT unusually rapid climate warming during the three decades after the early 1970s was in large measure CREATED by a consistent program of eliminating data from high altitudes and high latitudes so that as time marched on global temperatures were increasingly driven by warm records from the few low altitude and low latitude stations remaining.”

This is complete nonsense as any one who has studied climate change knows since these are the areas where temperature anomalies are, in fact, higher than other areas. He does not appear to understand that all temperature graphs show temperature anomalies not actual temperatures.

Whether his comments are caused by ignorance or are attempts to discredit climate scientists I will leave to the reader.

This part, not the overall percentage, is the real story here:

“Americans are professing to know more about, and better understand, the climate issue.”

But it’s complicated: a sense of high “understanding” occurs at both ends of the scale. For example,

(graphic from Hamilton, L.C. (2011) “Education, politics and opinions about climate change: Evidence for interaction effects.” Climatic Change 104:231–242.)

We’ll have a new report out in a couple of weeks, looking at this interaction effect through almost 9,000 interviews on regional surveys conducted in 2010.

Perhaps DeSmogblog can report on this Vatican workshop (April 2-4)–the first of a series. Very famous scientists will be presenting.

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences accepts the science of climate change and has created a Working Group on the Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene.

Wikipedia explains:

The Anthropocene is an informal geological epoch that serves to mark the recent extent of human activities that have had a significant global impact on the Earth’s ecosystems…The term was coined in 2000 by the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen, who regards the influence of human behavior on the Earth in recent centuries as so significant as to constitute a new geological era.

[See Dr. Crutzen’s Wikipedia, his homepage at the Pontifical Academy, his homepage at the Max-Planck-Institute, his Nobel Prize autobiography, and an article by James Hansen in Time (10-17-07) about Dr. Crutzen’s achievements.]

The Pontifical Academy’s Working Group is having a workshop at the Casina Pio IV on April 2-4, 2011. The Prologue of the program, which was written by Pontifical Academician P.J. Crutzen, L. Bengtsson, and Pontifical Academician V. Ramanathan, states:

Mountain glaciers in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and the largest of them all in the Himalayan-Tibetan region are retreating, some at alarming rates. The hypothesized causal factors include global warming, atmospheric brown clouds, land surface modification, recovery from the mini ice-age, and large scale drying of the air among other factors. Some glaciers are expected to disappear during this century and others are predicted to experience significant loss of spatial cover and mass. The downstream consequences include glacial lake outburst floods, disrupted availability of water for agriculture and human consumption, changes to mountain eco systems, increased frequency of forest fires, loss of habitat, and other potential catastrophes. A holistic study covering the physical science, social science, and the human dimension sides of the problem has not been attempted thus far. It is our hope that this first of its kind workshop organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences will lay the foundation for studying and monitoring this potential disaster that will impact the entire planet.

The workshop will also explore avenues available for mitigating and adapting to this potential tragedy.

P.J. Crutzen, L. Bengtsson and V. Ramanathan [See the full schedule of the workshop and the speakers.]

Links here:

Instead of feeling that evil denialists are undermining efforts to save the planet with misleading stories and confusing facts, a better response would be to determine why the public is losing confidence in AGW. It cannot be just the cold winters (though that would be an emotional issue). There has to be more.

The “more” is, in my view, due to the strident end-of-world aspect of the eco-warming meme. The end of the world predicted back in 1988, 1999 and even 2005 is now today or 2015. Even at 2020, it is close. All the disastrous things - the rapid temperature rise, the sea levels drowning Pacific islands, the oceanic pH plunge, must be visible if not now, then within 2 years if they are to occur within the AGW/CAGW timetable. The public actually expect there to be visible signs now, not just rhetoric.

The eco-movement: can it survive without a global meltdown by 2015? Or is the movement independent of an apocalypse? The two have become linked, and inextricably so because that is how the grant money was justified (including subsidies for solar and wind-power). And that is how large-scale legislation has been justified: the choice of “waiting to be sure” was not reasonable.

The Precautionary Principle is based on the risk of a terrible future. We do now to avoid catastrophe later. The trouble with this is that a castrophe must approach to be believed after a while. If we do nothing, the heavens must fall down. But are they? Apparently not.

This linkage, this need for a millennial doom has been a double-edged sword for the eco-movement. The sword appears to be cutting both ways these days. There is only a 0.5-0.7C rise since the 70s. It isnt enough. You have to use a 3-year trend to push the rate up - clearly something that shows up badly in year 4 and 5. The sea-level is still at 3.1mm/yr by Hansen, and less by satellite. The rapid rise is not to be seen. The future still looks bright.

Unless the Gore-Hansen-Schmidt-IPCC clan can come up with a terror on the horizon, the time-frame to justify AGW measures has shrunk to close to nil for nature to bail them out. This is the problem.

The response to declining support for AGW or CAGW is not to blame skeptics, denialists or flat-earthers. The response is to determine WHY the support has fallen. To check past claims and predictions against current conditions. To see if the world is, indeed, falling apart, and if not, whether the fears of such were justified.

There is no shame in discovering that ones heroes exaggerated the scope of the danger. In war, a general would be remiss to say the enemy is weak. But when the general asks for additional troops or funding, it is reasonable to ask for details about how the battles actually went, and what state the enemy is in before agreeing to what, professionally, one would expect him to ask for.

If you have an open mind concerning science that does not support the IPCC’s human caused climate warming (AGW) hypothesis –- in spite of the length of time this hypothesis may have dominated your thinking – then I suggest that you circulate Archibald’s paper (see URL/web site below) to members of your organization who may not have considered alternatives to the rapidly collapsing science ‘consensus’ about the primary drivers of regular episodes of climate warming and cooling that have gone on since the end of the Little Ice Age.

I have been reading climate science (not my research field; I am a soil microbiologist) recently and I can provide you and your colleagues with considerable published material that counters the generally accepted (IPCC) hypothesis about human caused climate change. If my reading reflects the true state of [non IPCC] climate science, then the international community has wasted, and continues to waste enormous resources attempting to stage manage natural climate change – as it labours under the misguided assumption that carbon containing greenhouse gases are the primary drivers of that climate change.

I offer for your interest a May, 2007 paper by David Archibald entitled ‘The Past and Future of Climate’ dealing with the relative contributions of solar variability and recent additions of CO2 to past and current climate change - and also - dealing with very slow beginning of Solar Cycle 24 and its implications for the climate cooling during the next few decades, at:

The most interesting part of the Archibald paper for me is Figure 17 –which shows that although low concentrations of atmospheric CO2
do keep the Earth from being a cold ‘snowball’, increasing additions to atmospheric CO2 (and especially those from recent human activity) have less and less effect on the climate as CO2 concentrations rise to those we have in the atmosphere now.

Peter Salonius
email [email protected]

Salonius, how can you refer to your self as a scientist when you seem to completely ignore the scientific literature? You seem to favour citing previously discredited rubbish put out by the clan of deniers who are supported by the every industries who are contributing the most to CO2 increase and who keep on fueling the denier nonsense.

If you are truly a scientist why do you not cite what climate scientists are saying? Do you think that it is all wrong because deniers say so? Can you not produce any science to back up your futile claims?

You are truly not a scientist in my book.

Ian Forrester suggests that I am not a scientist, while I was a Research Scientist in Natural Resources Canada for almost 45 years before I retired recently -and- I spent most of the last two years of my civil service career reading climate science intensively. Forrester says I do not “cite what climate scientists are saying” however he has not sent me his email address so that I can share with him the five pieces of climate science evidence (offered in my first post in this exchange)that I presented to the New Brunswick Energy minister in early March.

Ian Forrester, like David Suzuki claims that so-called “deniers” do not believe established climate science – however the “established climate science” they refer to is that promulgated by a series of reports from the IPCC which has, during its existence, become a clearing house for literature that supports its increasingly discredited hypothesis that current human carbon containing greenhouse gas emissions drive the global climate.

“Established (IPCC) climate science” has gained general acceptance as a result of the taxpayer financed bully pulpit it has used to drown out climate science and hypotheses that do not support the primacy of human emissions as drivers of the global climate.

There is a growing literature dealing with the influence of solar intensity variations, and ocean temperature cycles as long term
(centuries) and short term (decades) climate drivers, respectively; the climate scientists who have published this work have never been offered a chance to present their findings at international meetings such as those in Bali, Copenhagen and more recently Cancun despite appeals for more openness on the part of the IPCC. The IPCC was set up to research the effect of human activity on the global climate and it has consistently rejected any research that does not support its narrow preconceptions – so when Ian Forrester and David Suzuki refer to the “climate change science” they are dealing with science that accepts only research that deals with the influence of human activity on the climate.

Ian Forrester ends his post asking: “Can you not produce any science to back up your futile claims?”


I have been in the habit of circulating the best climate science references I have found — to my complete mailing list.

The paper (URL access below) exposes / introduces us to almost every facet of the the influence of the planets on solar variation, the sun’s motion around the center of mass of the solar system, the influence of solar dynamics on the climate, volcanism, earthquakes, and speed of the Earth’s rotation etc. that I have encountered during the last two years of intensive climate science study.

The paper requires the dedication of such a considerable block of reading time -and - an openness to new concepts that I do not consider it (as yet) appropriate for sending out to most of the people on my list, and I am sure that is completely inappropriate for sending to Canadian parliamentarians who I have ascertained have a concentration span of only a few minutes.

I thought that you may be willing to tackle this paper which coincidently deals (in a somewhat timely manner) with the effects of climate cycles on drought and flooding in Australia, see:

‘Rhodes Fairbridge and the idea that the solar system regulates the Earth’s climate’ R. Mackey, Proceedings of the Ninth International Coastal Symposium, Gold Coast, Australia), Journal of Coastal Research, SI 50, 2007, pp. 955-968, 2007.

If you get time to read it, and have time to respond, I would value your thoughts concerning any new ideas that you encounter in this paper.


Peter Salonius

email [email protected]

If the “paper” you have cited here is any indication of your other “papers” please do not send them to me. I have absolutely no time for the junk put put in the name of science by you deniers.

Just as an example, your “paper” by Archibald has been referred to as “the worst climate science paper ever of all time anywhere”.

You may have a degree in science but you show a complete lack of understanding of even simple science if you believe in the nonsense you are posting. Probably best for all concerned that you no longer work as a scientist.