Several public opinion polls of Americans’ attitudes suggest that much of the science of climate change is getting lost in the fury surrounding its politics.
A recent Pew survey, for instance, reports that the percentage of Americans who believe “solid evidence” of global warming exists dropped to 71% in 2008, down 8% from 2006 (mostly because more Republicans dispute the evidence). Even fewer – about 18% of Americans – say the issue warrants a “great deal of concern,” the lowest level among industrialized countries, and comparable only to China among countries surveyed.
Common Climate Misconceptions
Human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are the primary factor contributing to the warming of the Earth’s surface over the past half-century.
However, for the past few years global temperatures have been stagnant or slightly decreasing even as atmospheric CO2 concentrations have been increasing faster than ever. This situation has led some voices in the media and blogging world to challenge the relationship between the CO2 concentrations and warming. These critiques are flawed, however, as short-term changes in global temperature are driven by numerous factors going beyond CO2, and the recent disconnect between the two is not particularly unusual in light of their past relationship.
Four Experts Pass Judgment
Journalist Eric Pooley’s January 2009 Shorenstein Center critique and analysis of press coverage of climate change policy issues has generated substantial attention and on-going “buzz” in climate journalism circles.
After publishing freelance writer John Wihbey’s February 17 article and analysis of Pooley’s “discussion paper,” The Yale Forum asked four respected university-affiliated environmental and science writers their views on Pooley’s analysis: Their comments and Eric Pooley’s own reaction to those comments follow.
Media coverage of Seattle’s citywide effort to reduce the use of plastic bags became a story on the impact to low-income people.
A newspaper report of New York City’s climate adaptation plan to respond to a potential 12- to 23-inch sea level rise featured a photo of a submerged Statue of Liberty from the fictional disaster flick “The Day After Tomorrow.”
Mainstream Reporting Raising Doubts
A March 2009 Gallup Poll survey points to “the highest level of public skepticism about mainstream reporting on global warming seen in more than a decade” of Gallup polling on the issue.
Welcome to Journalism's Brave New World
With luck and the passage of time, the annals of climate change will neither note nor long remember (thank you, Abe Lincoln) the communications imbroglio that for some, and too many, characterized the last two weeks of February 2009.
There were blossoms amidst these weeds and thorns, no doubting that. Slogging through the abundant muck was the downside.
Common Climate Misconceptions
The recent brouhaha (see related story, this posting) initiated by conservative columnist George Will’s February 15th syndicated column centers in part around his assertion that global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979, belying concerns of melting ice caps.