Half of Americans think global warming ‘exaggerated’


by Don Paskini    
2:23 pm - March 11th 2010

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Bad business:

“Gallup’s annual update on Americans’ attitudes toward the environment shows a public that over the last two years has become less worried about the threat of global warming, less convinced that its effects are already happening, and more likely to believe that scientists themselves are uncertain about its occurrence. In response to one key question, 48% of Americans now believe that the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated, up from 41% in 2009 and 31% in 1997, when Gallup first asked the question.”

“A majority of Americans still agree that global warming is real, as 53% say the effects of the problem have already begun or will do so in a few years. That percentage is dwindling, however. The average American is now less convinced than at any time since 1997 that global warming’s effects have already begun or will begin shortly.

Meanwhile, 35% say that the effects of global warming either will never happen (19%) or will not happen in their lifetimes (16%).

The 19% figure is more than double the number who held this view in 1997.”

“In similar fashion, the percentage of Americans who believe that global warming is going to affect them or their way of life in their lifetimes has dropped to 32% from a 40% high point in 2008. Two-thirds of Americans say global warming will not affect them in their lifetimes.”

“In 2003, 61% of Americans said such increases were due to human activities — in line with advocates of the global warming issue — while 33% said they were due to natural changes in the environment. Now, a significantly diminished 50% say temperature increases are due to human activities, and 46% say they are not.”

“Roughly half of Americans now say that “most scientists believe that global warming is occurring,” down from 65% in recent years. The dominant opposing thesis, held by 36% of Americans, is that scientists are unsure about global warming. An additional 10% say most scientists believe global warming is not occurring.”

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Reader comments


Isn’t this the kind of headline that spurs the classic response:

Forty percent of Americans believe that the world will end as a result of supernatural intervention

Half of Americans are not convinced that the physical world will end someday and another 10 percent are not sure.

A quarter of those polled answered that the world ending would be caused by an environmental disaster citing a variety of scenarios from an outbreak of disease to a lack of natural resources. While 18 percent believe that the world would be destroyed by war.

When asked if “the end times come in your lifetime, what do you think will happen to you.” the majority of end times believers (61 percent) are confident that they would go to heaven. The next most prevalent belief (28 percent) among these Americans is simply, “I don’t know.”

Half? still better than the Tories, most of whom (i.e. much more than half) think global warming is either exaggerated or not happening at all.

Gosh, isn’t it amazing what oil money can do. Especially without funding anything…

4. Truth Talker

Global warming is greatly exaggerated.

Just when taxes are being lowered and businesses are being deregulated, all of a sudden comes “global warming”, which requires high taxes are a large amount of business regulation to avoid… how convenient.

Convenient for whom?

Try this on what’s visibly happening to glaciers in Europe in the last few decades:
http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/player/environment/global-warming-environment/glacier-melt.html

I’ve no personal axe to grind in this and will go with the evidence. The available evidence indicates that average temperatures around the world have risen. The next issue is why?

The scientific challenge is explaining what is known as the “Medieval Warm Period” c. 950 – 1250 AD and the “Little Ice Age”, from the 16th through 19th centuries, which are both pre-industrialization and can hardly be argued to have been man-made:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_Warm_Period

As I understand, it’s argued that the rise in average global temperatures in the last century is man-made because it can be shown that there are more green-house gases in the atmosphere and there’s no alternative, scientifically credible explanation for the evidence of higher average temperatures.

BobB,

The LIA was most almost certainly caused by a combination of low solar activity and high volcanic activity. The cause of the MWP is AFAIK less clear, but then there is some doubt as to its extent – both in terms of exactly how warm it was and how much of the globe was affected.
But the fact that they were obviously not man made is not really relevant as no-one is denying that our climate can change and has changed in the past due to factors not connected with human activity, in fact the warming in the early part of the 20th century was mainly due again to a combination of solar and volcanic activity. But, as you say, the warming which has occurred since the latter part of the 20th century cannot be explained by any other known influences on our climate, and would certainly be expected given the increase of GHGs in the atmosphere.

My own computer model suggests that this is a trend in opinion which will soon assume hockey stick proportions!

Though I am losing my climate bet with Sunny as so far the first 18 of the (silly) “100 months to save the world” (very short period I know) have shown an upward temperature trend.

Little surprise that Shite Talker can add climate change denial to his right-wing rap sheet.

Daniel,

Can’t you just ignore those who do not seem capable of debating properly? Despite the fact I tend to agree with the sentiment he expresses here, I discounted his post as not contributing anything. But then I have to do the same to yours, as it addresses his.

If you want to engage with him or her then I suggest you challenge him or her to prove their point. Otherwise, ignoring them might be the best option.

One thing I can ask though: what happens to left-wingers (politically, not Joe Cole) who deny man-made climate change? It seems you are ascribing a political stance to one particular interpretation of the science, which is a worrying combination as it politicises climate science (we may be a bit late there) and makes the correct interpretation of science a political belief.

W:

I am getting better at ignoring trolls, believe it or not, it is a slow process but I am getting their, like kicking a habit.

As for your query, it seems to me and I am not sure why that climate change denial seems to be fall mostly on the right side of the spectrum but I have no doubt that based on the law of averages, there must be some of the left hand side of the spectrum that also are sceptical.

Fair enough, it just seems to me that it is a right-side of the spectrum trait but I’d change that if evidence came in to the contrary.

For me it is not about the politics, believe it or not but the lack of insight into problems that are huge and need actively engaging with sooner rather than later. That’s all.

Isn’t it OK to not really have a clue about climate change, and not really care that much either?

And I mean care as in, not being able to do anything about it, and so not bothering to think about it too much.
To give George Monbiot’s articles a miss as they seem so preachy?

Damon:

I’m a heart on sleeve kinda guy so not caring to me is copping out and a sign of weakness, being human is about caring, to me anyway.

Daniel,

I have some insight as to why there is now a tendency for doubting man-made climate change on the political right, which is for the same reason as I do. That is all these taxes and government spending, the entire carbon trading scheme (designed to suit big companies!), the international meetings got me thinking, what is the underlying logic of this, what justifies us spending money now when a better solution may be available in a few years? So I looked, and found the argument was not as strong as it appeared it the press. Perhaps it is my low-tax, anti-corporation political leanings that encouraged me to try and understand why our government felt something was serious enough to basically channel tax money to big companies, whilst rising my electricity bill. It may be others on the political right have done the same – tried to understand the logic behind what is proposed and imposed.

And it is possible that we see the risk as not justifying the means, whilst many left-wingers who do the same analysis see the potential risk as requiring action (I hope I would not upset too many here by saying a key test of left/right might be how willing you are to commit state spending (taxpayers’ money) in any given situation). So maybe there is a political slant to interpretation – but I would ask this: how much good could be done in the world now with all the money spent on averting future climate change?

There’s no doubt in my mind that some professed climate scientists have behaved badly – see this researched New Scientist report on exaggerated claims about the early loss of glaciers in the Himalays:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18420-climate-chief-admits-error-over-himalayan-glaciers.html

And I’m willing to be duly sceptical about temperature trends constructed from monitoring by weather stations which over time have been overtaken by urban development.

But the retreat of glaciers around the world and of the polar ice caps is observable and we need to worry about the long-term implications without raising bogus issues to divert attention from the fundamentals.

Doesn’t this poll just add to the evidence that AGW advocates are losing the argument at an increasing level (or at least failing to sell their argument). I’m a sceptic, but leaving that aside, don’t the advocates need to find a new way to make their argument?

And perhaps they could start by having their most public supporters not running up massive carbon footprints. The Copenhagen summit was an orgy of private planes and chauffeur driven cars and it left me thinking as someone else said “When those that tell us that there is a crisis, start acting like there’s a crisis, then I’ll start believing that there’s a crisis”.

None of the politicians, or the Prince Charles and Al Gores are acting like there’s a crisis which makes me suspicious that they have an ulterior motive for their advocacy. This poll suggests others feel the same way.

Bob,

“But the retreat of glaciers around the world and of the polar ice caps is observable and we need to worry about the long-term implications without raising bogus issues to divert attention from the fundamentals.”

Well, the glaciers are getting shorter in the main. May be linked to the higher recorded tempratures in many places (although note that weather patterns also affect glacier size – wind and precipitation can apparently change their shape).

But polar ice in the Artic has increased year-on-year over the last three years (perhaps not a significant enough period to draw any conclusions to be fair), and in the Antartic even the lowest estimate (perhaps coincidentally, that used in the fourth IPCC report) had a non-significant positive trend (i.e. an increase) over the last couple of decades; that model has now been amended to be in line with most other models in showing a significant positive trend.

So the information is not clear cut. If, as seems very likely, the tempratures were unusually high 1990-2010, then glaciers will get smaller. But if this was a general heating of the globe, should not the ice at both poles consistently melt? Hence my personal jury is still out on global warming: the evidence is not as clear cut as sometimes stated.

Conservative Cabbie,

“None of the politicians, or the Prince Charles and Al Gores are acting like there’s a crisis which makes me suspicious that they have an ulterior motive for their advocacy. This poll suggests others feel the same way.”

Actually I think it is because they feel that other people should make sacrifices, but their functions are too important. Common human error – assume that your role in achieving something is so vital that it doesn’t matter how you do it.

@17: While the Antarctic ice extent is increasing, it’s mass is decreasing. It’s spreading out and getting thinner. As for why both poles don’t behave the same, that’s because Antarctica is a whopping massive continent surrounded by ocean, whereas the Arctic is a comparatively small area of sea surrounded by land, which changes all sorts of things. There is no Arctic Circumpolar Current, for one thing…

And no, three years is not nearly long enough to draw any conclusions from in this case. If you go out to four years, the linear trend in Arctic sea ice extent is negative, as 2006 had a greater extent than any year since. As a general rule, if your answer changes dramatically with a small change in your period of analysis, you’re looking at noise (aka weather), not climate. That’s basically how you tell the difference between the two.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill, I think it’s great to be a heart on sleeve type person. There can never be too many of those.
Though I seriously fell out with some people on the internet a couple of years ago, because I didn’t share their very high profile way that they lived their lives so ethically.

Always looking to buy fair trade or union made – non sweatshop sourced stuff.
Being green, into recycling and having a low personal carbon footprint etc.

But they couldn’t accept that I was just as caring and as ethical as they were, even though I turned my nose up somewhat at the ”lifestyle movement” (for want of a better term).

I had to be cold hearted in their eyes – as to say that I wasn’t going to get concerned about my own miniscule consumption in the wider scheme of things …… as it doesn’t make any difference to anything ….. was just not the way a concerned moral person could be. Hence, I had to be the opposite.

That’s partly the reason I am somewhat of a skeptic on this issue. I don’t really trust the commentators.

21. The Moral Coward of Kirkcaldy

I’d rather listen to the world’s leading Climate Scientist……

“Carbon Dioxide irrelevant in climate debate says Professor Richard Lindzen of the Massachusettes Institute of Technology”

http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-7715-Portland-Civil-Rights-Examiner~y2009m8d18-Carbon-Dioxide-irrelevant-in-climate-debate-says-MIT-Scientist

“In a study sure to ruffle the feathers of the Global Warming cabal, Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT has published a paper which proves that IPCC models are overstating by 6 times, the relevance of CO2 in Earth’s Atmosphere. Dr. Lindzen has found that heat is radiated out in to space at a far higher rate than any modeling system to date can account for…..”

22. The Moral Coward of Kirkcaldy

With a world class Scientific cv the studies of arguably the worlds leading Arctic Scientist are worth far more than the propaganda of the IPCC and green activists

http://www.iarc.uaf.edu/people/indiv/iarc_all_staff.php?photo=sakasofu

“Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu, IARC Founding Director and Professor of Physics, Emeritus, was the the director of the International Arctic Research Center of the University of Alaska Fairbanks from its establishment in 1998 until January of 2007

and this article highlights Akasofu’s findings:

‘Climate skeptic’ questions conventional thinking

http://www.alaskareport.com/science10064.htm

“If you look back far enough, we have a bunch of data that show that warming has gone on from the 1600s with an almost linear increase to the present,” Akasofu said. He showed ice core data from the Russian Arctic that shows warming starting from the early 1700s, temperature records from England showing the same trend back to 1660, and ice breakup dates at Tallinn, Estonia, that show a general warming since the year 1500.

Akasofu said scientists who support the manmade greenhouse gas theory disregard information from centuries ago when exploring the issue of global warming. Satellite images of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean have only been available in the satellite era since the 1960s and 1970s.”

Dunc @ 19,

“@17: While the Antarctic ice extent is increasing, it’s mass is decreasing. It’s spreading out and getting thinner. As for why both poles don’t behave the same, that’s because Antarctica is a whopping massive continent surrounded by ocean, whereas the Arctic is a comparatively small area of sea surrounded by land, which changes all sorts of things. There is no Arctic Circumpolar Current, for one thing…”

So the ice is spreading? (covering a greater extent of water) Into waters which were previously not warm enough to freeze? And this is a trend? Not sure what the decrease in mass represents (are we using consistent sattelite technology to measure it would be my first question), as there is no guarentee it is part of the same process. But overall, we can agree that there is no clear picture of polar ice melting?

“And no, three years is not nearly long enough to draw any conclusions from in this case. If you go out to four years, the linear trend in Arctic sea ice extent is negative, as 2006 had a greater extent than any year since. As a general rule, if your answer changes dramatically with a small change in your period of analysis, you’re looking at noise (aka weather), not climate. That’s basically how you tell the difference between the two.”

So climate is an average of what actually happens? I like that as a definition. Incidentally, predictions are for 2010 to have more ice than 2006, but obviously that depends on the summer weather, wind direction (there is a limited number of places artic ice can actually go, so if the wind is not pushing it there, it stays put) etc. My point stands though that I see no particular reason to be concerned in terms of polar ice melting or otherwise. In fact, the lack of clear patterns of melting or consistent gain in mass suggests nothing dramatic is happening.

Watchman #14

It’s perfectly reasonable IMHO to be skeptical about some of the measures being introduced to combat climate change, but that doesn’t affect the basic scientific arguments for AGW. Now I agree that those of a right wing persuasion may be naturally skeptical about any government action to combat climate change, but do you not think it possible that in come cases their political leanings are leading them to assume bad faith on the part of governments and to give more weight than may be justified to arguments that the scientific case is flawed? Or in more extreme cases that their anti-government feelings are so strong that they actively want to discredit the scientific case to prevent governments taking action regardless of the reality of the situation?

And to answer your question “what justifies us spending money now when a better solution may be available in a few years?” – we have no idea if there may be a better solution available in a few years and the stuff we are pumping into the atmosphere isn’t going to stop absorbing IR radiation and warming the earth just so we can come up with some as yet unknown invention. And making serious reductions to our GHG emissions is going to take time – it can’t just happen overnight, so we can’t afford any additional delay in starting to actually do someting about it.

But overall, we can agree that there is no clear picture of polar ice melting?

The increase only applies to the antarctic sea ice, the west Antarctic ice sheet is most certainly melting, as is the Greenland ice sheet. It is these which are crucial because unlike the sea ice melting land ice has an impact on sea level.

So the ice is spreading? (covering a greater extent of water) Into waters which were previously not warm enough to freeze?

Antarctic ice shelves are not the result of seawater freezing, they’re the result of glaciers flowing out over the water. They do melt eventually, but because we’re talking about vast volumes, it takes a long time. The increase in extent is largely down to increased glacier flow rates.

Not sure what the decrease in mass represents

Ice melting. Vast amounts of ice melting (OK, or sublimating.) A decrease in ice mass can only represent one thing – less ice.

are we using consistent sattelite technology to measure it would be my first question.

Yes.

But overall, we can agree that there is no clear picture of polar ice melting?

No. We could agree that there is a clear trend of fairly dramatic melting, but I doubt you will, no matter what data anyone presents.

So climate is an average of what actually happens?

That’s something of an over-simplification. Robert Grumbine explains it quite well here.

Arse. Blockquote fail.

“The increase only applies to the antarctic sea ice”

Very true, and the usual suspects cite this as evidence that the Antarctic is cooling (even though measures of sea temperatures show a warming trend). John Cook posted on this very topic the other day looking at why sea ice extent in the Antarctic might be increasing despite rising sea temperatures:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/Watts-Up-With-That-ignorance-regarding-Antarctic-sea-ice.html

Also, an increase in Antarctic sea ice extent is a well-known model prediction, from as far back as 1992, first reported in Transient Responses of a Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Model to Gradual Changes of Atmospheric CO2. Also relevant is Observed Hemispheric Asymmetry in Global Sea Ice Changes from 1997.

In short, it’s exactly what climate modellers have been expecting for nearly 20 years.

“I’d rather listen to the world’s leading Climate Scientist……

“Carbon Dioxide irrelevant in climate debate says Professor Richard Lindzen of the Massachusettes Institute of Technology””
The Moral Coward of Kirkcaldy

Tater gets the feelin he wouldn’t be the world’s leadin Climate Scientist if his conclusions contradicted your politics. Here’s why: Name the top climate scientists in the world. Now state what criteria you used to rank them. Now be honest; were you able to do either of these things? No? Then where did you get the idea he was the world’s leader? Tater suspects it’s just a convenient rhetorical device.

Tater

Oh dear, yet another idiotic climate change denier, not reading the post or the comments, just wading in with their prejudice.


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