by James Hrynyshyn, The Island of Doubt, October 23, 2009
Another depressing poll result from one of the more reputable sources:
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 4, 2009, among 1,500 adults reached on cell phones [excellent!] and landlines, finds that 57% think there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades. In April 2008, 71% said there was solid evidence of rising global temperatures.Why the drop?
Michael Dimock, the associate director of the Pew Centre, said the economic crisis and the struggles over healthcare reform had squeezed out climate change and the environment as issues of concern. "The public is just not as focused on global warming and environmental [issues] as they have been in the past." But James Hoggan, a PR executive and author of Climate Cover-Up, blamed an intense lobbying campaign against global warming legislation now before the Senate. "I would say a big part of this problem is this campaign to mislead Americans about climate science," he said. "This is a very sophisticated group of people who know how to create doubt and confusion and they have done a very good job of it."Both hypotheses are probably valid -- to an extent. But I have simpler explanation. Here're a couple of graphs that will explain it. First, the average annual temperature of the United States, as generated by a nifty little online tool at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.
It's a very short time frame because we're not trying to explain global warming and this is actually more data than we need. It's important to note that we're only talking about the United States here precisely because my hypothesis is that many if not most Americans only care about what's happening at home.
Here's the same graph, with the Pew numbers, expresses in percentages who accept that there is "solid evidence of global warming," superimposed on the NCDC data. I use these because they were the easiest to extract from the report. Support for anthropogenic global warming is also falling.
Back in 2005 and 2006, when the U.S. was breaking every record in the books for warm summers and winter, people were more likely to believe the scientists because there was no conflict with their own experiences. That's no longer true, so support for the science declines.
Figuring out how to get people to disregard their own sensory data in favor of graphs in a PowerPoint presentation, newsmagazine (or a blog post) is proving tricky. And just so we don't leave anyone with misleading impressions, here's a graph from NASA of global temperatures. The heavy red line is the five-year mean, which better expresses trends.
Link to blog post: http://scienceblogs.com/islandofdoubt/2009/10/explaining_plummeting_belief_i.php