Utne Blogs > Environment

Climate Change Denial Deepens

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Environment, climate change, global warming, poll, scientists, public, denialists,

The sobering reality of climate change is slow to sink in among the general public. Miller-McCune reports that scientists are still “far ahead of the public” when it comes to accepting that global warming is occurring and that human activity is to blame.

In a recent survey of earth scientists, the website reports, “90 percent of respondents expressed the view temperatures have risen, and 82 percent said human activity is indeed a significant factor in the phenomenon.”

Meanwhile, a recent public poll stands in contrast: “It found that while 64 percent of American voters consider climate change a serious problem, they are split over its cause. Forty-four percent blame ‘long-term planetary trends’ while only 41 percent attribute the problem to human activity. Even more problematic, skepticism of the scientists’ findings seems to be growing. In a July 2006 survey, 46 percent of voters said global warming is caused primarily by human activities, while 35 percent reported it is due to long-term planetary trends.”

Republicans, if it surprises anyone, lag Democrats in accepting the human role in global warming.

The results, Miller-McCune writes, suggest that industry-backed climate change denialists are successfully placing doubt in people’s minds. Apparently, their single-occupant SUVs, meat-rich diets, and 4,000-square-foot homes aren’t to blame: It’s simply a planetary cycle.

According to the author of the scientist poll, Peter Doran, the debate is all but over in the science world. “The challenge,” he says, “appears to be how to effectively communicate this fact to policy makers and to a public that continues to mistakenly perceive debate among scientists.”



2/4/2009 10:04:36 AM

I would be interested to see how the American public poll breaks down further than Republicans, Libertarians and Democrats. I think age has much to do with accepting the concept of global warming and whether human activity has anything to do with it. I was in a 'Theory of International Relations' class recently and the professor asked how many of us (about 200 students) believed in global warming by a show of hands(as if we believed in an ideology), and only one person denied the theory. Which spurred some head shaking and guffaws from the back of the room. She was asked why, and said it was because of insubstantial proof. Insubstantial, underreported, or misunderstood: I'm not sure. But I think the younger generation can generally see through the political mire and look at this crisis as a joint (global) problem.

keith goetzman_1
2/3/2009 2:58:26 PM

Well put, Jeffery. You were smart to spot Ray's Edith Efron (not Efrom) reference as a libertarian red flag. Ray, if you truly believe at this stage of the "game" that global warming is a hoax cooked up by pseudoscientists to "drain the people of taxes and control their lives," then in my view you too are among the Americans in deep denial. Libertarians will suffer under catastrophic climate change, too. Keith Goetzman

jeffery biss
2/3/2009 9:48:10 AM

Ray, thank you for providing a great example of what I was talking about, people who are too ideological to accept verifiable facts. Libertarians are opposed to any argument that posits that we have a responsibility to something other than ourselves. Anthropogenic climate change challenges our individual decisions, purportedly made in our best interest, because the aggregate of those individual decisions threatens all, thus providing the rationale for societal regulation of the individual for the greater good. This cause-effect is just one reason why libertarians and conservatives hate environmentalism and government regulation. Another is Calvinism and its secular corollary corporatism. As for Efron, she was not a scientist, she was a right-wing apologist. Her perspective was entirely colored by her libertarian world view and not from any objective science. Her perspective is based entirely on the belief that the individual should be allowed to act in what they see as their own best interest and that society has no authority to interfere. Thus she dislikes what scientists represent, an elite who know what's best for the individual. Her position is pure ideology and thus another great example of what I was referring to.

r cree
2/3/2009 8:33:41 AM

Having been in the environmental game for many years, I can see why people don't believe the scientists. In the book by Edith Efrom, The Apocalytics, Cancer and the Big Lie, Efrom showed the unscientific and psuedoscience being performed to ban asbestos in industrial products and nitrates in pork. Given the scientific communities hysteria to say anything to be quoted as a reliable source on CBS or CNN, Efrom noted that the ignored scientist---now wined and dined and listened to by the news media---would say almost anything to get attention---even to the point of fudging data and coming up with erroneous conclusions to make the newsmakers happy. So global warming is as much a political science issue as a real science issue. Unfortunately we see closed minds in science pushing conclusions that people distrust and we see politicians pushing global warming to enhance their control to insure their life styles of the rich and famous and keep draining the people of taxes and controlling their lives--- for an issue that may or may not be necessary to address or that can not be solved no matter how draconian our life style changes. People are tired of being externalized on by the economic and political system. Why believe in global warming when the politicians were so wrong about free trade and uncontrolled capitalism. Would you trust the scientist or a politician after what we have seen in the last few years---and the sense by the people of complete unscientific honesty by a self-serving scientific community beholding to the politicians for grants and support?

jeffery biss
2/2/2009 4:31:14 PM

It aint only anthropogenic climate change, folks! Look at the failed economics of Milton Friedman, Jude Wanniski, et al and how conservatives refuse to give it up. Originally called the horse and sparrow theory of economics, because if you feed a horse enough oats, enough oats will pass through the horse to feed the sparrows, Wanniski's incarnation "trickle-down" economics created the mess we're in now. Reaganomics does not work. The faithful cannot admit it regardless of the mess and simply claim that we haven't applied it enough. Americans are too ideological and have a lot of trouble accepting inconvenient truths that do not support their ideology. No surprise here.