The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Meanwhile back at the ranch

The disastrous trend that got me started blogging is not abating. According to Craig Miller's Climate Watch blog at KQED
Across much of the country (California being a notable exception), recent public polling would seem to indicate an eroding public acceptance of climate science, increasingly divided along party lines. A survey by the Pew Research Center last spring found that 71% of those surveyed accepted the basic premise of climate change but less than half believed it was related to human activity ("Republicans are increasingly skeptical," noted Pew).
Yikes.

The link also fully quotes an especially plausible version of the denialist talking points, well-seasoned with half-truths and distortions and outright Oregon petitions.

We should not fool ourselves. The battle of ideas is being won by the side of untruth, or at best fought to a draw (which is a victory on points for the side of untruth). This is a huge problem not just for the present carbon crisis, but for future crises as well.

6 comments:

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

Inactivist rhetoric is part of the problem, but now I think the main problem is still that people still don't really 'feel' that global warming is a real issue, and don't really care about the global warming 'debate' either way.

How does one make the global warming issue personal enough to motivate people to get informed and take action? Hmm...

Dano said...

Frank is right...er...correct.

Action requires awareness, then galvanization, then motivation, then organization. Until we start pricing externalities, nothing is going to happen. Our system is set up to hide externalities and separate us from nature.

And wrt to the Pew Poll (out last year, IIRC, and cause for much thought on my part), this is merely another indicator of how our thought processes manifest themselves, and that everyone does not think the same.

Lakoff tries to get at this in his writing, and we see some papers coming out that try to quantify how this works, but bottom line is: some folks refuse to see, as one of my favorite cartoons explains.

Best,

D

Craig Miller said...

Thanks for the mention but I had to wince a little when you said that I "quoted" McKillop's letter refuting the prevailing climate science. One might infer that I agree with McKillop's views. I don't and I hope that was clear from the rest of the post.
I printed his entire letter as a particularly comprehensive catalog of denialist arguments. If you let people go on long enough, it often exposes the weakness in their positions. McKillop's citation of the Oregon petition undermines all of his other points by demonstrating, in effect, that he hasn't done his homework. Still, I find the psychology of climate change denial fascinating and when that many people are naysayers, it's worth exploring.

Steve Bloom said...

One of the problems with polls that hit people cold with questions like "Do you believe in global warming?" is that, similar to political polls, there's no wrong answer. IOW, the implicit frame is that whether climate disruption is happening or not is properly a matter of *opinion* independent of what the science may say. Many of the "no" answers may just be people expressing their wish that it wasn't underway.

That said, there remains a clear long-term trend in these polls. It's a bit like the annual global temp trend, where we do not expect a smooth progression.

Solution-oriented polls, as with this current example, may actually be more useful. Here's another I just saw, "with 89% saying they like the idea of creating jobs through increasing production of renewable energy and making public buildings more energy efficient." Impressive.

Of course motivations relating to climate disruption get conflated with concerns about pollution, peak oil, supply security, etc. in these polls, but that's the real world for you.

Michael Tobis said...

At this point, I'm not sure whether I am just looking at the same poll twice.

Nevertheless my impression is that you get more people on the blogs anyway who are "sure" that "global warming" is "totally discredited", just because it is cold this week.

Which it is. Which makes this as good a time as any for an Al Gore joke.

Craig Miller said...

It looks like the Pew center is tracking this with annual updates, done in the spring (last one was in May, 2007). It'll be interesting to see if there's a shift with the new administration pledging repeatedly to be science-oriented.
Of course, it could also mean that sensing the threat, deniers just pour more cash into national ad campaigns reminding us that CO2 "is life."