consensus

Attitudes on Global Warming

Yale University has for a number of years operated a climate change research project. The project studies not only the cause and implications of global warming but also the attitudes of Americans towards related issues. They have “attitude maps” with a resolution down to the county level.

Not surprisingly, it appears that attitudes break out on liberal/conservative lines. In locales that voted for conservative candidates, acceptance of the reality of anthropogenic global warming was lower than in those locales where votes tilted toward liberals.

Although most Americans,63% [55% for Pope County] believe global warming is happening, only 48% [42%] believe it is man-made. In Arkansas Pulaski, Bradley, and Chicot are the only counties where a majority believe human activities are causing the warming.

Among residents of Pope County, 52% believe that global warming will harm future generations. Nationally 61% share the opinion. A super majority of the citizens of the United States, 74% believe we should regulate CO2 . In Pope county the figure is 68%. The majority opinion disappears when the public is asked about a particularly effective regulatory mechanism – a revenue neutral, refunded to the public, carbon tax. Only 44% [42%] would support a carbon tax.

Interestingly even though a majority of the citizens of Arkansas favor regulating carbon emissions, we enacted legislation last month to frustrate implementation of regulations on CO2, and our attorney general has joined with 11 other attorneys general to sue the Environmental Protection Agency’s over the regulations. The people of Arkansas believe one way but our elected officials act another.

There is a dramatic difference when the attitudes of the general public and the scientific community are compared. As noted earlier only 48% of average Americans believe global warming is man-made. Among scientists that number is 87 % (from a recent poll by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, AAAS). This is a clear consensus yet the public believes otherwise. Only 44% answered yes to the question, “do most scientists believe global warming is man-made?”

The discrepancy is likely due to efforts by fossil fuel industries to spread confusion. It is an effective yet scurrilous method championed most prominently by the tobacco industry. For decades the tobacco industry was able to put off any regulation by stating that the risks of smoking were unsure, or that there wasn’t a consensus among scientists about the connection between smoking and lung cancer.

A common technique is to covertly fund “independent” scientists who do biased work. Willie Soon, an astrophysicist who published research intended to downplay human influence on global warming was funded to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars by fossil fuel industries. His source of funding was not disclosed. This conflict of interest is at a minimum a violation of ethical standards.

“Besides, as the vilest Writer has his Readers, so the greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believ’d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect… “ Johnathan Swift

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