Skeptics noise broad; no deep effects on American opinions

A commenter with the handle Klem complained about my outlook on global warming issues, in a recent post about the desperation I see in the warming denialist world.  Klem finds my views not pessimistic enough:

Those purloined emails have ultimately destroyed the IPCC, it has no credibility with the public anymore. You seem like a smart guy but I can’t believe after this amount of time you still don’t understand this. And you say it’s the anti-warming camp which is desperate? Oops I think you’re in denial.

I’ve been involved in environmental issues since well before the first Earth Day.  Lack of understanding among the public at large is a constant issue, and not a recent development.  Lack of support for a clean environment rarely is an issue, however.  The old progressive era push for clean water, clean air, outdoor activities, and healthy living, continues probably stronger today than ever before.  No one defends smoking stacks as symbols of progress anymore.

Even petroleum companies spend millions in advertising to tout their “green” tendencies.  Big Oil doesn’t spend money like that if they don’t have clear indicators that it’s effective.

One indication of how deep is the desire for environmental protection is the mini-movement chronicled and maybe led by conservative writer Rod Dreher, known as “crunchy conservatism.” Dreher wrote about conservatives who, from most outward appearances — Birkenstock sandals, organic-food heavy diets, environmentally-friendly yards and homes — might be considered lefty environmentalists, but who adhere to conservative social and economic policies, and the Republican party (yes:  educated people who vote against their own best interests; go figure).

No matter how odd their views on economics, no matter how odd their views on their fellow humans, they recognize the basic benefits of the progressive movement on their own lives, and they would like to conserve those benefits.

Have the so-called skeptics changed those trends?  Did the stealing of e-mails convince most Americans that scientists are evil, conniving, and wrong?

Rather than take the denialists’ methods, the famous MSU technique*, how about we actually ask people what they think?

Recent polls with some depth on environmental issues show most Americans to be quite  level-headed about warming and other environment issues, and not so subject to the hot winds of talk-without-fact from Fox News, the Heartland Institute, or other paragons of science denialism.

Most Americans remain concerned about global warming

Pay attention to reality for a moment; the headline on the press release is, “Large majority of Americans still believe in global warming, Stanford poll finds”:

Three out of four Americans believe that the Earth has been gradually warming as the result of human activity and want the government to institute regulations to stop it, according to a new survey by researchers at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University.

The survey was conducted by Woods Institute Senior Fellow Jon Krosnick, a professor of communication and of political science at Stanford, with funding from the National Science Foundation. The results are based on telephone interviews conducted from June 1-7 with 1,000 randomly selected American adults.

“Several national surveys released during the last eight months have been interpreted as showing that fewer and fewer Americans believe that climate change is real, human-caused and threatening to people,” Krosnick said. “But our new survey shows just the opposite.”

For example, when respondents in the June 2010 survey were asked if the Earth’s temperature probably had been heating up over the last 100 years, 74 percent said yes. And 75 percent said that human behavior was substantially responsible for any warming that has occurred. Krosnick has asked similar questions in previous Woods Institute polls since 2006.

“Our surveys reveal a small decline in the proportion of people who believe global warming has been happening, from 84 percent in 2007 to 74 percent today,” Krosnick said. “Statistical analysis of our data revealed that this decline is attributable to perceptions of recent weather changes by the minority of Americans who have been skeptical about climate scientists.”

In terms of average Earth temperature, 2008 was the coldest year since 2000, Krosnick said. “Scientists say that such year-to-year fluctuations are uninformative, and people who trust scientists therefore ignore this information when forming opinions about global warming’s existence,” he added. “But people who do not trust climate scientists base their conclusions on their personal observations of nature. These ‘low-trust’ individuals were especially aware of the recent decline in average world temperatures; they were the ones in our survey whose doubts about global warming have increased since 2007.”

According to Krosnick, this explanation is especially significant, because it suggests that the recent decline in the proportion of people who believe in global warming is likely to be temporary. “If the Earth’s temperature begins to rise again, these individuals may reverse course and rejoin the large majority who still think warming is real,” he said.

Ah, the Fickle Public — it appears only a small fraction of the public is fickle, after all.  Shifts in public opinion on the reality of warming were driven by weather, not weather men.

The poll also specifically addressed the effect of the computer break-in that exposed a few thousand e-mail messages from climate scientists under attack by anti-green critics:


“Overall, we found no decline in Americans’ trust in environmental scientists,” Krosnick said. “Fully 71 percent of respondents said they trust scientists a moderate amount, a lot or completely.”

Several questions in the June survey addressed the so-called “climategate” controversy, which made headlines in late 2009 and early 2010.

“Growing public skepticism has, in recent months, been attributed to news reports about e-mail messages hacked from the computer system at the University of East Anglia in Britain – characterized as showing climate scientists colluding to silence unconvinced colleagues – and by the discoveries of alleged flaws in reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC),” Krosnick said. “Our survey discredited this claim in multiple ways. ”

For example, only 9 percent of respondents said they knew about the East Anglia e-mail messages and believed they indicate that climate scientists should not be trusted, and only 13 percent said the same about the controversial IPPC reports.

That may explain why Anthony Watts’ logo for his Australian tour shows a kangaroo whose rear end has just been kicked (you can tell by the stars).

Climate skeptics butt-kicked in Australia logo

In cartoons, stars show where a character has been punched or kicked, right?

No agreement to control greenhouse gases came out of the Copenhagen conference last fall.  So-called climate skeptics patted each other on the back, claimed victory, and proceeded to send Christopher Monckton on his Bonnie Lies All Around the World Tour.  In cool light of morning, however, the facts can’t be silenced:  Warming continues, science shows the extremely high probability that humans cause it, official investigations show that climate scientists who had their e-mails stolen were victims of crime, not perpetrators, and climate skeptics failed to stop warming with their big-dollar, nice-banquet meetings with the Heartland Institute, or anywhere else.

If they are skeptics, they are pretty bad at it, falling like chumps for a story that fourth-grade science project made the case they have failed to make everywhere else, and for the story that one of their comrades was sent a bomb in the mail (it turned out to be a misdirected fuel filter).

No wonder Americans remain concerned about warming.


* Make S[tuff] Up

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19 Responses to Skeptics noise broad; no deep effects on American opinions

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Ignoring the evidence and pretending we’re only talking about polls is even more dangerous. I thought it telling that Sen. Inhofe recently confessed he thinks it’s all polls.

    I didn’t think I stuttered. My point here is simply that the polls show that, contrary to the claims of the denialists (you among them, it appears), Americans have not been persuaded to stone the victims of larceny.

    Stealing e-mails is not doing science. Falling for hoaxes is not doing science. In the end, the science matters.


  2. AM says:

    Ed, pointing to “polls” to support your opinion is a poor way to bolster your argument. Basically you are saying, “Everybody agrees with me, and the polls prove it”.

    Well I can point to a Gallup poll that shows only 30% of opponents to the TeaParty movement consider the environment a priority, below the Cost of Healthcare 33%, Unemployment 32%, and the Size and Power of Large Corporations 32%.

    Among Tea Partiers and “Neutral” parties the Environment/AGW fairs even worse.

    Most Americans may have bought the big lie about AGW, but that doesn’t make it a priority for them when it comes to policy issues, even for opponents of the Tea Party.


  3. Chris S. says:

    “You [sic] ego does not allow you to be wrong. It comes from running a fiefdom of rugrats. I’ve seen it before when I was on the school board. ”

    Sounds like Watts is describing himself here.


  4. Ed Darrell says:

    I’m not a cryptographer. I don’t know what it is you think I should “fess up” to. Can you explain?


  5. Anthony Watts says:

    Yeah sure, whatever, Ed.

    You ego does not allow you to be wrong. It comes from running a fiefdom of rugrats. I’ve seen it before when I was on the school board.

    I didn’t expect you to fess up, in fact I predicted it and wrote about it in advance.

    I’ll give you this, you are predictably entertaining with your slipperiness.


  6. Ed Darrell says:

    Anthony, you can be such a card! I had thought from your previous post that you had some significant point to make.

    You said:

    You apparently have not read the update, and clearly don’t understand the meaning of the stars.

    Turns out I did understand correctly that it was a cartoon. That the cartoon is ambiguous and may be interpreted in different ways appears not to have occurred to you. Sorry.

    I haven’t read any accounts of your trip to Australia. I fear that you followed the trail of serial-fictionalist Christopher Monckton, paid by the same people to tell the same falsehoods to the same enthusiastic audiences of warming denialists, in a nation plagued by environmental problems resulting from warming.

    I’ll wager you didn’t come in contact with many serious scientists down there, if any at all. So my interpretation of the logo, to mean that you may have obtained some accurate smarts, is sheer wishful thinking on my part.



  7. Ed Darrell says:

    Dr. Becker, you must be kidding. I find it rather macabre to joke about the Holocaust as you do, and that in an attempt to claim that climate denialism deserves more recognition as real science than it has earned.

    At this venue we treat all hoaxes as hoaxes; the severity and inherent evil of the hoax tends to be a product of how it is applied, and where, in pursuit of which ignoble ends. Denialism is denialism; the evil it is put to makes its significance.

    I do not think it fair to say that all warming denialists are anti-semitic. I see too little evidence of that. However, I’ll wager that a survey of denialists of global warming will turn up a much larger portion in that population who deny the Holocaust, than would a survey of the scientists who have done the work that points to warming.

    Denialism is a disease all its own. I do not pretend to know the fully pathology to how a person falls victim. I have wondered in the past whether denialism is a virus, or other disease. You should read up on other denialism, I think, before you become a Poe wrapped in Godwin’s Law. To that end I highly recommend a post just today at the Sensuous Curmudgeon, about denialism among creationists and their own difficulties confusing their denialist stand with pro-Israel stands. Let me also recommend a post here at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub that discusses errors of astounding confusion with regard to racism and anti-semitism and creationism. And, you may want to see this one, regarding Darwin and eugenics, on a topic which features abuse of evidence similar to what warming denialists do. And this one goes to exactly the sort of abuse of evidence scientists find so vexing among warming change denialists, like the claim that because Michael Mann’s e-mails got pilfered, Mann must have done something wrong, despite Mann’s being cleared by three different investigations. Indeed, abuse of evidence features there as you abuse evidence here.

    If we note that you enjoy beer, we have not made the argument that you endorse the Beer Hall Putsch. Consequently, your later claims that we have claimed you a drinking-buddy of early Nazis, is silly, and wrong, and I invoke Godwin’s law.

    If I accuse you of denying the Holocaust, you’ll know it. Don’t trivialize the Holocaust with your bizarre claims that I mentioned it at all. I did not.


  8. Anthony Watts says:

    “I understand it’s a constellation, the same one from the Australian flag. ”

    You understand now. Such entertainment you provide Ed.


  9. David Becker, Ph.D. says:

    Anyone who uses the term “denialist” should be ignored. It is at the same time ad hominem and anti-semeti. the latter because its use is an attempt to minimize the Holocaust. I don’t like the term “warmist” much either, but it, at least, reflects a point of view on a scientific question instead of being a broadcast insult. I do wish that those who believe in CO2 induced global warming would take up the cause of the Phlogiston instead; it might save us all a lot of money.


  10. sHx says:

    I understand it’s a constellation, the same one from the Australian flag. Surely you’re not claiming it’s sacred.

    So, what is the meaning? Do tell.

    I must give credit to Ed for his rather imaginative interpretation of what the stars mean. However, if it really meant ‘skeptics getting butt-kicked’, then the stars would be under the kangaroo’s tail not over it.


  11. Ed Darrell says:

    I understand it’s a constellation, the same one from the Australian flag. Surely you’re not claiming it’s sacred.

    So, what is the meaning? Do tell.


  12. […] laughed out loud when I read this from Ed’s blog. Not only does he misappropriate the source of the logo, even though all he […]


  13. Anthony Watts says:

    We interrupt this blog for a news bulletin…

    “Ric, it was not I who put the Southern Cross on the kangaroo’s butt. Why are you carping at me?”

    Uh, Ed, it’s a pretty common design in Australia. This car decal for example:

    or this t-shirt

    or this flag:

    You apparently have not read the update, and clearly don’t understand the meaning of the stars. It’s quite hilarious really, your pwning. But happy 4th anyway.

    ….We now return to your regular scheduled flaming.


  14. Ed Darrell says:


    [Not the Jim Brock of Pleasant Grove Vikings fame, is it?]

    Can you show manipulation of peer review? I didn’t find it. If found discussions on how others may have unfairly manipulated peer review — but especially in Michael Mann’s case with three separate investigations, and with the House of Commons investigation, lawyers looking at those e-mails didn’t find what you allege. Can you show me the e-mails with the smoking guns, or are you going on conjecture?


  15. Ed Darrell says:

    Ric, it was not I who put the Southern Cross on the kangaroo’s butt. Why are you carping at me?


  16. JimBrock says:

    Au contraire: the most devastating revelation of the emails (purloined or not, admitted to be valid) is the manipulation of peer review. Reviewing each other, not asking for data to back up conclusions in a publication (per Phil Jones), refusing to provide data for others to study, freezing out critical papers, canning editors who permit contrary papers to be published, etc etc.

    Anti science, IMO. The loss of prestige is well earned.


  17. Ric Werme says:

    Re: the stars on Watt’s tour logo. Today is not a good week to be disrespectful of other nations’ flags, even if you dislike how the design has been used.


  18. Ed Darrell says:

    EAU? Is that the same as the Hadley Climate Research Unit? ( . . . ah, you mean East Anglia University — yes, that was the physical location).

    Hadley CRU is England’s agency to track global warming, the go-to bunch. They contributed heavily to IPCC. The most serious allegation denialists made was that the stolen e-mails revealed that Michael Mann had used bad data to make the famous “hockey stick” graph that appeared in an earlier IPCC report, “and therefore no warming.” That’s where the quote came from about doing a “trick” on the data.

    Subsequent to their stealing the data (which they haven’t denied, and I suspect can’t honestly deny), warmists claimed that all the books were cooked, and so there need be no further action to clean air to stop global warming. They’ve claimed all IPCC conclusions are false and wrong, and probably hoaxed, so scientists can continue to get the massive amounts of grant money available for research, in order to finance the scientists’ Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

    But you know, you’re right. There is no logical connection.


  19. Okay, Ed, I am not sure what the “purloined” e-mails have to do with the IPCC, since the e-mails were purloined from EAU. Right? Or am I missing something here?


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