TCS Daily


Americans Still Cool On Warming

By Roy Spencer - April 12, 2006 12:00 AM

The most recent Gallup poll (March, 2006) of Americans' attitudes on various environmental issues has revealed that there has been virtually no change in the last 17 years in the fraction of people worried about global warming. Only 36 percent of 1,000 adults polled in mid-March said that they worried a "great deal" about global warming. That increased to 62 percent when worrying by at least "a fair amount" was included. While this percentage is significantly higher than it was only two years ago (51 percent), it is lower than it has been in some previous years, with the peak number of worriers being 72 percent in 2000.

As one might suspect, many more Democrats are currently worried about global warming than are Republicans, at 77 percent versus 45 percent. Both parties had experienced weak downward trends in concern from 1999 through 2004, but the Democrats have jumped back up to Clinton Administration levels this year. The current 45 percent concern among Republicans has only rebounded somewhat, and still remains below the 1999 (59 percent) and 2000 (64 percent) levels.

How do Americans' global warming fears compare to other environmental concerns? Consistent with previous years' results, the public ranks global warming almost last -- 8 out of 10 different environmental concerns. The percent of those who "worry a great deal" about specific environmental concerns was greatest for pollution of drinking water (54 percent), toxic waste contamination (52 percent), pollution of fresh water bodies (51 percent), and fresh water for household needs (49 percent). Global warming came in at 36 percent, followed by species extinction (34 percent) and acid rain (24 percent). Even ozone depletion, although almost absent from the news since sometime last century, ranked above global warming at 40 percent.

Despite the lack of any long term upswing in global warming concerns, the percentage of people who think they understand global warming either 'very well' or 'fairly well' has steadily risen, from 53 percent in 1992, to 74 percent this year. So it appears that as Americans become more educated on the issue, that extra knowledge does not, on average, translate into increased concern.

On the subject of whether global warming is occurring now, 58 percent believe it to be happening today, which is higher than any previous year since the question was first asked in 1997. Similarly, 58 percent believe that the warming over the last century has been more due to human activities than natural variability, while only 36 percent believe the warming is entirely natural. These percentages have not changed much since the question was first asked in 2001.

On the debate over the effects of global warming on hurricanes, only 35 percent believe the recent upswing in hurricane activity is due to global warming, 33 percent believe there is some small influence, while 26 percent say global warming is not a factor.

A record 65 percent agreed with the statement that "most scientists believe global warming is occurring" versus only 3 percent agreeing that "most scientists believe that global warming is not occurring".

Of considerable surprise to me is the finding that more people (38 percent) think the media underestimates the seriousness of global warming than think the media exaggerates the seriousness (30 percent). Maybe they have been reading only my articles.

What do we make of these poll results? First, even though Americans feel better informed on the global warming issue than ever before, there has been no net increase in worrying about the problem in the last 17 years. Most people agree that global warming is indeed occurring, and that mankind is largely to blame. But public acknowledgment of manmade global warming, and recognition that most scientists also believe it is occurring, has not led to the conclusion that it is our dominant environmental concern. Water and air pollution concerns rank considerably above global warming.

The main problem I see with poll results like this is how they will be interpreted. Some policymakers will infer that "action is needed" if the percentage of people worried about global warming gets high enough. Instead, what really needs to be polled is the willingness of the public to sacrifice various amounts of wealth to achieve various levels of reduced warming. We need to get unstuck from the rut of "how worried are we about global warming?" and start debating "how much are we willing to sacrifice to fix it?"

Dr. Roy Spencer is a principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA's Aqua satellite. He is also a member of the TCS Science Roundtable.

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300 Comments

The main problem I have with the poll
Working from your description of the poll, the main problem I have with it is that it sounds like a fourth grade reading comprehension exercise where the assigned reading was whatever scare piece made it to the paper or onto the network news that day. For one, some of the questions assume a public trust of scientists as agenda-free. Science with a big S has be agenda-free over the long term in order to reconcile itself with observable truth. But there can be a window of certainly years and perhaps decades (large fractions of careers) where individual scientists can have an agenda and not be accountable to truth. Perhaps it's funding, or perhaps it's racism or SUV hatred. The 20th century shows us many examples of scientists driven by those things and not by truth. Our press and our pollsters really need to develop some inherint level of skepticism to keep the scientists in check. They seem to have developed it for politicians and technologists. Why not the scientists yet?

So it's those darn scientists who are the problem!
Hello??

>. But there can be a window of certainly years and perhaps decades (large fractions of careers) where individual scientists can have an agenda and not be accountable to truth.

Please document this with regard to climate change. Which specific scientists are ignoring truth? How are they doing so. Remember that we are talking not just about one or two "individual scientists," but tens of thousands of specialists all over the world.

>Perhaps it's funding, or perhaps it's racism or SUV hatred. The 20th century shows us many examples of scientists driven by those things and not by truth.

This issue has been in play for decades, debated intensely in the scientifica community. The result has been an emerging consensus, exactly the way consensus emerged on questions like whether cigarettes can cause cancer. The only "agenda" involved is from people -- the vast majority of them non scientists -- who don't like the result.

>Our press and our pollsters really need to develop some inherint level of skepticism to keep the scientists in check. They seem to have developed it for politicians and technologists. Why not the scientists yet?

Because scientists have to back up what they say with demonstrated facts that have to pass muster with other experts? Because non-experts don't understand the technical issues involved?

unscientific Americans
It's a well known and depressing fact that Americans and scientists disagree on science. For example, a majority believe in creationism and that the sun goes around the earth. And don't even try asking whether objects get heavy when they go fast (relativity) or whether it is possible to know both the position and the speed of a particle at the same time (uncertainty principle).

We do experiments, not opinion polls to confirm quantum mechanics. And so should it be with global warming (apology to Shakespeare).

In fact, that's the very definition of science, that we turn to nature, not human authority, for truth. This site has science in the title, but not in the posts.

Evil, conniving scientists
Since science is a seamless, interconnected community of many thousands of individuals, the global conspiracy to delude us that you seem to be assuming, would be a very ambitious one, wouldn't it?

Isn't it the case that as new theses are proposed, many scientists jump in to try to pick it apart? And that some turn out supporting the theory, while others come to doubt it? And the debate is hashed out until some kind of reasonable consensus emerges?

Wasn't this the case with the Alvarez theory, positing that a large bolide strike caused the extinction episode that terminated the dinosaurs? Do you think that among the "believers" and the "deniers" there was any actual concerted attempt on the part of anyone to deceive either the rest of the scientific world or the general public? If so, I would submit that you have no understanding of what scientists are about.

If scientists have an agenda to deceive, dig up some evidence and illustrate it for us. I'm afraid what you are doing instead is imbibing half-digested ideas from sites like TCS and failing to counter them with readings of actual scientific papers.

News summaries in the popular press don't count. You can't assume that a reporter is particularly knowledgable in the subjects he covers. They tend strongly to reinforce past impressions that the public has already found acceptable-- whether the subject is global warming, the state of the economy or the problem with Iran.

My experience has been that scientists are pretty good. They can be wrong in any given instance, of course. But the beauty of the system is that science is self-correcting. Mistakes have a tendency to be found and rectified. What you're seeing on this site is people with an agenda trying to tell you all scientists are either fools or knaves, out to delude us for their own dark purposes.

I don't think that's how we got to the moon.

Science by acclaim
Liberal-- This is a real revelation. You mean in a great democracy like ours we can't just decide what the science is by voting on it?

I thought we could just convince a bunch of people, get them to stamp their feet and yell loudly, and drown out all the people we disagree with. Then we could have the science we want, instead of the science they find when they look at the world.

we can't just decide what the science is by voting on it?
Well why not?

Anybody remember about 15 years ago, the great state of California voted that within 10 years, 10% of vehicles sold in the state would have to be non-poluting, (i.e. electric?)

Despite major problems with the science in that idea, (basically the chemistry of batteries,) Everybody voted, so it had to happen.

What we really need to do is to get people to vote for global cooling, and then the global warming problem will be easily solved.

And how about that moon mission fiasco
Elected representatives voted to spend money to put humans on the moon within ten years, despite major technical (not scientific, technical) problems.

What a disgraceful failure that turned out to be!

Your clubbing the wrong snake
But onto the right path. It is the scientist-politician who is the biggest problem. These guys make statements and are sought out as the leaders of their peer group. These statements are assumed to represent the group when, in fact, they do not. The creates a controversy as several scientists in the organization speak out against the "group" statements.

On GW, many on the left cite the group announcement as "reputable science" and many on the right grab onto the most divisive statement against the group announcement. On this issue I find that the scientists are deeply divided and the science is far from decisive. It is an area where "we don't know" most accurately sums up where science is at.

But don't beat up the scientists for doing their job; club the political snakes dressed as scientists who have an agenda and/or money to wring out of governments.

Truth, Uncertainty and the Consumer
“In fact, that's the very definition of science, that we turn to nature, not human authority, for truth”

While the “truth” about the past or the present can be measured and documented, the truth about the future is always unknown. What is at issue with Global Warming is not the fact of small increases in temperature or the small rises in ocean levels in the last couple of centuries, but the predictions of future events. Most Americans know that knowledge of climate and weather is incomplete. How do they know this? Because all of their life they have experienced storm warnings that never happened and disasters that were not predicted. Their experience tells them to be skeptical about predictions of the near future. And predictions of the far future are concomitantly more suspect.

Dr. Spencer presents the real issue correctly…how much wealth are we willing to spend to obtain what specific warming-reduction benefits. Most Americans are probably wary that we have sufficient knowledge and technology to take effective action…or that any specific proposed action would not in fact make matters worse.

Recent Gallup polls also show that about half of Americans are considering purchasing a hybrid automobile. It appears that American consumers and markets are in the process of addressing the Global Warming issue in their own way and for their own reasons. This is as it should be.

Typical insulting liberal post
You said - "For example, a majority believe in creationism and that the sun goes around the earth."

That my be true in your little liberal corner of the world, but it is in total disagreement with the people I know. Yes, the vast majority believe in some form of Creation and the majority of those believe in some combination of creation and evolution. I have never met a person over 20 who believes the sun goes around the earth. This is elementary science stuff and even my 9-year old knows better.

It is insulting to all the people with a God based belief to put these two together.

Scam
"Indeed, the success of climate alarmism can be counted in the increased federal spending on climate research from a few hundred million dollars pre-1990 to $1.7 billion today. It can also be seen in heightened spending on solar, wind, hydrogen, ethanol and clean coal technologies, as well as on other energy-investment decisions."

"Indeed, there is a strange reluctance to actually find out how climate really behaves. In 2003, when the draft of the U.S. National Climate Plan urged a high priority for improving our knowledge of climate sensitivity, the National Research Council instead urged support to look at the impacts of the warming--not whether it would actually happen."

http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110008220

Belief
" For example, a majority believe in creationism and that the sun goes around the earth."

I'm not sure a majority believes the sun goes round the earth, but many believe the earth revolves around them.

One reason creationist can persist is that it is a belief and the science has not answered many 'simple' questions such as how a species can 'suddenly' appear.

The World is coming to an end!! I agree
Fortunato, you have made a very good point. Apply it to reducing pollution (something I'm strongly in favor of) and we might shut up the people on both sides of the GW debate.

Not that it matters to you what I think, but your little sarcastic post was very good. Way to go!

Specifics, please
Who exactly are you smearing? Names, please, and documentation showing their lack of integrity. If you don't have this, please do not throw these kind of accusations around.

Let's check the logic here
A scientific issue exists: will human-caused major increases in greenhouse gas cause potentially castrophic climate change.

do we:
a) do nothing and hope for the best; or
b) fund research to get answers.

Get ALL the answers
"Earlier this year, Texas Rep. Joe Barton issued letters to paleoclimatologist Michael Mann and some of his co-authors seeking the details behind a taxpayer-funded analysis that claimed the 1990s were likely the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the last millennium. Mr. Barton's concern was based on the fact that the IPCC had singled out Mr. Mann's work as a means to encourage policy makers to take action. And they did so before his work could be replicated and tested--a task made difficult because Mr. Mann, a key IPCC author, had refused to release the details for analysis. The scientific community's defense of Mr. Mann was, nonetheless, immediate and harsh. The president of the National Academy of Sciences--as well as the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union--formally protested, saying that Rep. Barton's singling out of a scientist's work smacked of intimidation.

All of which starkly contrasts to the silence of the scientific community when anti-alarmists were in the crosshairs of then-Sen. Al Gore. In 1992, he ran two congressional hearings during which he tried to bully dissenting scientists, including myself, into changing our views and supporting his climate alarmism. Nor did the scientific community complain when Mr. Gore, as vice president, tried to enlist Ted Koppel in a witch hunt to discredit anti-alarmist scientists--a request that Mr. Koppel deemed publicly inappropriate. And they were mum when subsequent articles and books by Ross Gelbspan libelously labeled scientists who differed with Mr. Gore as stooges of the fossil-fuel industry.

Sadly, this is only the tip of a non-melting iceberg. In Europe, Henk Tennekes was dismissed as research director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society after questioning the scientific underpinnings of global warming. Aksel Winn-Nielsen, former director of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization, was tarred by Bert Bolin, first head of the IPCC, as a tool of the coal industry for questioning climate alarmism. Respected Italian professors Alfonso Sutera and Antonio Speranza disappeared from the debate in 1991, apparently losing climate-research funding for raising questions.

And then there are the peculiar standards in place in scientific journals for articles submitted by those who raise questions about accepted climate wisdom. At Science and Nature, such papers are commonly refused without review as being without interest. However, even when such papers are published, standards shift. When I, with some colleagues at NASA, attempted to determine how clouds behave under varying temperatures, we discovered what we called an "Iris Effect," wherein upper-level cirrus clouds contracted with increased temperature, providing a very strong negative climate feedback sufficient to greatly reduce the response to increasing CO2. Normally, criticism of papers appears in the form of letters to the journal to which the original authors can respond immediately. However, in this case (and others) a flurry of hastily prepared papers appeared, claiming errors in our study, with our responses delayed months and longer. The delay permitted our paper to be commonly referred to as "discredited." Indeed, there is a strange reluctance to actually find out how climate really behaves. In 2003, when the draft of the U.S. National Climate Plan urged a high priority for improving our knowledge of climate sensitivity, the National Research Council instead urged support to look at the impacts of the warming--not whether it would actually happen."

Yes, let's get all the answers not just the politically correct ones.

The best quick and cost effective action America can take to curb future CO2 emissions
Americans, due to their affluence and heedlessness about the environment, generate far more CO2 per capita than Mexicans.

Our open border to the south permits hundreds of thousands of Mexicans to come north and take up our evil CO2 generating ways.

Closing that border would significantly reduce future CO2 emissions.

Yet I hear no environmentalist cries for border control.

hansen for one
.

science a seamless community
roy, your tinfoil hat must be getting a little tight.
Science has always been a contentious field, filled with egos and agendas.

LG makes up lies
like a good liberal should.

If you can point to a poll that shows a majority of americans believe the sun goes around the earth, I would love to see it.

Until then, I will just presume that you are allowing your normal hatred of those who disagree with you to cloud your judgement.

isn't it you AGW fruitcakes
who are telling us that the issue is settled because the majority of your scientists believe in it?

big difference
With the moon mission, all the scientists said the goal was tough but acheivable.
With the zero emission cars, all the scientists said that the goal was not acheivable.

one of the basic features of liberals
is that they truely believe they are smarter, wiser, more moral, and probably better looking, than everyone else.

(Have you ever read Thomas Sowell's "The Vision of the Anointed"?)

Yes I have…
and Ann Colters "how to talk to a Liberal; but only if you must". I found both interesting and entertaining.

One question; are all liberals crazy or are all crazy people liberal?

try reading
marjon's point was that they have stopped funding to get answers, but rather they assume the answer that they want.
Much like you usually do.

Look what happened to Lomberg
Scientific American published an attack piece, and refused him an opportunity to respond. When Lomberg responded on his web site, SA went to court to force him to remove his web site.

A Dutch committee convicted Mr. Lomberg of scientific fraud, based solely on the SA article. Once again refusing to give Mr. Lomberg a chance to respond. (A court later forced the committee to rescind it's finding, based on misconduct, of the committee.)

Those who oppose the conventional wisdom, risk having their careers ruined.

Source please!!!
If the whole idea is too difficult a concept for you to grasp, provide your documentation of their integrity.

It's not the concept
It's the facts. Who's done anything unscientific or unprofessional?

Oops, disregard.
Wasn't thinking. I promised to give you unfettered responses.

Another made-up fact
All the scientitsts said this? All of them ? Or even many of them?

Who? When? What's your source?

Hansen has done what that is questionable?
What happened was Hansen objected to being censored by a 20-something political appointee who lied about his college degree. The political hack has been fired. But Hansen's in the wrong??

A political test for science!
What a great idea. Science is now what Republican legislators say it is.

What's the source of this screed?

And you never will!!
Part of the reason is that an open border is a liberal issue, as is GW and CO2 emmissions. Part of the reason is that the U.S. is actually quite efficent overall and I would check those per-capita numbers.

can't you at least stay on subject
First I will deal with your latest half truths.
True Hansen did complain about being muzzled. He did so both at a major speech attended by thousands, and another time in a major press conference. I always thought people who are being censored, have difficulty getting their message out, yet Hanson has never had any trouble getting his message out.

What Hansen lied about was the state of global warming science. He told congress that it was proven, at the same time he was writting professional papers full indicating just the opposite.
Hansen also gave a speech in which he declared that it was ok for scientists to lie to the public, because they needed to get the public scared enough that they would demand congress increase funding in climate research.

yes all
the same place you sourced your claim that scientists thought that going to the moon in 10 years was impossible

A perfect example...
of why polls are useless. They may be used by politicians but are of little to no use in the earth sciences.

The fact that a population feels one way or another about a scientific issue is meaningless. One should base scientific policy on science, not the meandering and useless numbers of a poll. This poll, if it has any validity at all, is a mere representation of the marketing of climate change and not the actual facts and evidence behind it.

The proper tactic...
would be to prove his facts wrong Fortunato. Merely demanding a source is sophomoric but that seems to be the only tactic you know.

Please address the facts presented. Where Lomberg and the other named scientists silenced? I can Google them all and find out that they indeed were. There is an extreme political intolerance towards climate change skeptics that you really don't wish to see. Not surprising coming from you but it is quite amazing that you are on the internet yet have no idea how to perform a web search.

Or What Democrat Vice-Presidents say it is
All of which starkly contrasts to the silence of the scientific community when anti-alarmists were in the crosshairs of then-Sen. Al Gore. In 1992, he ran two congressional hearings during which he tried to bully dissenting scientists, including myself, into changing our views and supporting his climate alarmism. Nor did the scientific community complain when Mr. Gore, as vice president, tried to enlist Ted Koppel in a witch hunt to discredit anti-alarmist scientists--a request that Mr. Koppel deemed publicly inappropriate. And they were mum when subsequent articles and books by Ross Gelbspan libelously labeled scientists who differed with Mr. Gore as stooges of the fossil-fuel industry


http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110008220

Moon Mission
The Apollo Program was fine example of what the US engineering can accomplish.

However, given the motivation for the program, beat the Soviets to the moon, a battle in the cold war, I am suprised you would mention it.

I do believe it is important to explore and settle the mooon and Mars and anywhere else we can in space.

But when the motivation is for something else, the cold war, funding gets cut when the goal is acheived. Three more Apollo missions were planned. And look what was the result, we have to depend upon the Soviet space program to send astronauts into space.

If a similar program were to be initiated to do...something...to comabat global warming, wouldn't it be a good idea to establish a long range plan and goal so that 50 years from now we can say it wasn't a waste of money?

BTW, the next US moon mission is planned 40 years after the last one.

Yawn
You must have had a late night, Mark. This one's kind of sad even for you.

Smithsonian Warming
Smithsonian Opens Global-Warming Exhibits
AP, April 12, 2006

The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History opens a pair of exhibits on Saturday: "Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely," and "Atmosphere: Change is in the Air," discussing what is happening to the climate and how it affects people living in the planet's northernmost areas...

...Robert Sullivan, the museum's associate director for public programs, said "This is not a political position, it's just scientific data. There have been some suggestions that the data is unclear; well, the data is not unclear" -- standing near a map of Greenland illustrating the melting of that island's giant ice cap.

In addition to Smithsonian staff, scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and the National Science Foundation took part in developing the exhibit. It will remain at the museum until November and there are plans for it to travel to other museums...

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,191493,00.html

A quote from who?
And bully how? That's what this (unidentified) guy says: who is he, and what back up does he have?

That's your opinion and it's a smear.
Hansen's an internationally recognized expert in the field, expressing his best opinion about his subject. For you to call him a liar because you disagree with him is even more repulsive than your usual low standard.

As for this:

> Hansen also gave a speech in which he declared that it was ok for scientists to lie to the public, because they needed to get the public scared enough that they would demand congress increase funding in climate research.

document this: what speech, when, what specifically did he say.


Chrysler blasts Big Oil
Auto executive turns up heat in growing feud
Detroit News, April 11, 2006

The blunt remarks by Jason Vines, vice president of communications for DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, are likely to fuel tensions between Big Oil and the auto industry that have been rising along with gas prices.

"Big Oil would rather fill the pockets of its executives and shareholders, rather than spend sufficient amounts to reduce the price of fuel, letting consumers, during tough economic times, pick up the tab," Vines wrote on a company blog, www.thefirehouse.biz, used to communicate with journalists and financial analysts...

...The auto and oil industries have sparred over many issues over the years, such as WHO SHOULD PAY FOR ANTI-POLLUTION REGULATIONS. But they usually tend to fight behind the scenes. "Now that the auto industry is taking a huge hit with gas prices and higher heating oil prices, you see a more aggressive response coming from auto executives saying we've got to fight back," said Mario Morrow, a media and political consultant who has his own firm, Mario Morrow and Associates, in Detroit.

...The ALLIANCE INCLUDES DETROIT'S AUTOMAKERS AS WELL AS FOREIGN-based manufacturers such as Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG and BMW. Chrysler has gone out in front on this issue, Morrow said, but he expects other automakers to join in -- "I believe you'll see a consortium of forces coming out to beat up on the oil industry."

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060411/AUTO01/604110394

Ask the MIT professor

Read the article

The point is clear
getting to the moon was an engineering challenge. So is reducing greenhouse gas. Setting goals after talking to scientists can work save your thoughts about the cold war for somewhere that they're relevent.

I have
who wrote it?

M. Lindzen is Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT

Consensus is cognitive cloning
Lying scientists that propagate their illusions via media as useful idiots cause the worrying for global warming.
So, I tell you once again, because I haven’t got any comments on this explanation.
The fact is that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is self-regulating depending on thermodynamics and physics.
The CO2-concentration cannot increase over a level related to weight and temperature of CO2.
CO2 solves in water and is pressed down by the partial pressure of the emitted CO2-gas.
By compression of the CO2-gas its temperature increases which is warming the ocean’s surface (0,06degC/10 yr.) down to 40 meters. There the water-pressure is about 400 atm and the CO2-gas become heavier than water that transforms to liquid CO2 that sinks to the bottom.
This is the unknown sink where all the manproduced 7 billion tons CO2 per year disappear.
This little warming of the oceans is warming the air that have increased the concentration of CO2 from 0.035% to 0.038%.
Maybe this low warming of the oceans' surface gives energy to all the hurricanes of the later years.
But there is no greenhouse warming.

Ingvar Astrand, Sweden
http://www.theuniphysics.info

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