|Peter Bahouth, Executive Director
July 5, 2011
Toss another skeptic on the barbie….
If, over the course of July 4th festivities, someone brought up your work, you may have experienced the demoralizing feeling that one can get from talking with the neighbors about the future of the planet.
Over the past few years, we have become all too familiar with the bizarre trend of public opinion on climate change. Despite the cascade of ever more certain science, the public is less likely to believe in global warming than it was just five years ago, a time when climate reports were far less terrifying then they are now. The Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication, delved into this in a recent poll. They not only asked citizens what they thought of climate change, they also asked them about how climate scientists felt about global warming. Only 15 percent of Americans chose the correct answer, which is that about 97 percent of American scientists say that climate change is happening and is mainly caused by human activities. The public is largely unaware of the consensus because that’s not what they’re hearing on cable TV or reading in blogs. They mostly get exposed to a much more conflicted view–and that’s of course not accidental.
Last week, Greenpeace continued its excellent work exposing the climate deniers by releasing evidence that Willie Soon, a U.S. a climate change skeptic who has also discounted the health risks of mercury emissions from coal, has received more than $1 million in funding in recent years from large energy companies and an oil industry group.
In 1998, API, ExxonMobil and Southern Company met with other oil companies and think tanks where they plotted and funded a Global Climate Science Communications Plan to undermine the climate science and support for the Kyoto Protocol that had just been agreed upon. “Victory will be achieved when… average citizens ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science.” “Uncertainty” was also their objective for the media. The leaked document detailed funding sources from corporate purses going to think tanks and front groups to news sources and outlets with messages counter to the rising consensus on the global warming crisis.
There is also a disconnect between public trust in climate scientists, versus what polls show the public believes. Just last week, NOAA published a major report confirming that the Earth’s temperature last year matched the warmest readings on record with impacts cascading around the world to affect glaciers, polar ice sheets, vegetation, food production and more. The report highlights 41 global indicators that together narrate the Earth’s climate story in numbers. Greenhouse gas concentrations are rising, scores of glaciers are shrinking, lake temperatures are going up and river flows are heavier. 75% of Americans said they trust the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and scientists broadly as sources of information on the issue, yet only 40% are alarmed or concerned about climate change.
There is real hope that as organizations continue the hard work of exposing corporate financing of campaigns to manipulate science and the media, the climate deniers will feel the effects of the real “climategate” and public opinion will begin to swing back to help support real change in policy. Until then, we’ll need to be patient with the neighbors.
Lastly, on behalf of the staff and our board we want to express our best wishes for Angela Anderson. We wish her every success in her new post as the Director of the Climate and Energy program for the Union of Concerned Scientists. Angela, thank you for everything you’ve done. We have absolutely loved working with you and we are so happy you are not leaving us, just leaving USCAN.
Peter Bahouth, Executive Director