Global Warming Deniers Unite!

18 03 2009

Last week, global warming skeptics and deniers organized a conference in New York City to devise a strategy to counter the recent success of the green movement, according to the NYT. Interestingly enough, even as as polls continue to show a persistent majority of people, though with some notable variation, believe global warming is real and not an exaggeration there is still a growing minority of that remain fiercely skeptical about climate change. I suspect public opinion and our politics  will likely become even more polarized in the future and may delay decisive action on what to do about global warming.

Money quote from the NYT:

“The only place where this alleged climate catastrophe is happening is in the virtual world of computer models, not in the real world,” said Marc Morano, a speaker at the meeting and a spokesman on environmental issues for Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma.

But several climate scientists who are seeking to curb greenhouse gases strongly criticized the meeting. Stephen H. Schneider, a climatologist at Stanford University and an author of many reports by the intergovernmental climate panel, said, after reviewing the text of presentations for the Heartland meeting, that they were efforts to “bamboozle the innocent.”

Yvo de Boer, head of the United Nations office managing international treaty talks on climate change, said, “I don’t believe that what the skeptics say should provide any excuse to delay further” action against global warming.

But he added: “Skeptics are good. It’s important to give people the confidence that the issue is being called into question.”

I tend to think that skeptics are not inherently good. Skepticism can also be used to unnecessarily prolong decision making and bold action. Many companies employ lobbyists, pseudo think tanks, and communications professionals to convince people that so-called intelligent design and evolution are of equal scientific value. Over time highlighting excessive skepticism in the face of compelling evidence only serves to undermine the will for action and gives people the false impression that the debate needs to continue indefinitely.

At any rate, below is a graph of Gallup polling illustrating shifts in public opinion on climate change across time. The crunch in 2004 was probably due to superior messaging on the issue by Republicans, particularly those in the Bush campaign.

The gap widens a bit in 2006 in small part because of the release of Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth and the wealth of media coverage on environmental activism. Greater parity among those who believe that global warming is “generally exaggerated” and among those who think its “generally correct” is probably due to it becoming a partisan issue once again, particularly after an election that featured such topics as cap-and-trade, promoting offshore drilling and other energy security issues.




3 responses

19 03 2009
Weezy F Baby

I tend to disagree regarding skepticism. I do believe, however, in a working majority–much like the senate. We should, as a society, be willing to carry our skeptical (though, i would argue that you really mean ‘backwards’ when you say skeptical, so i’ll use the word in that vein as well) counterparts towards progress.

That said, I believe that skepticism has its place in society. The skeptic ensures that the ball of progress doesn’t spin out of control–unfortunately too many don’t critically think, whether they’re skeptics, backward, or just fall on the side of perceived progress.

Now, that’s just my humble opinion. But I always think: “where we would be without the dark ages” where the anti-progress contingent won.

19 03 2009

I agree that skepticism can be good for society, but I do think it is not a good in and of itself. Just as it has the potential to improve ideas by imposing a rigorous standard it also can lead to paralysis in decision making. Too much skepticism, particularly the cynical kind, has led us to wonder whether or not there is a causal relationship, and not merely a correlational, one between cigarettes and cancer. The same dishonest skepticism is often pushed by those who consider evolution to be a fable.

Now this is not to say certain important questions should not be asked even of well established ideas, scientific or otherwise. But I do think that the value of skepticism cannot be divorced from the ends it is trying to promote. After all, there are some that are not simply adopting a skeptical posture due to sheer intellectual curiosity, but because they are trying to defend their interest at the expense of the public good, whether they are multi-billion dollar corporations or a band of zealots.

20 03 2009
Weezie F Baby

Oh, Then i totally agree!

I hate it when people use their worldview to manipulate facts instead of using facts to manipulate their worldview.

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