Fact, fiction, and our political addiction
Global climate change and its entrance into mainstream politics
Just joined from our capital city, I guess a penny for my thoughts might be good?
I'm somewhat in a personal state of fear after reading State of Fear by Michael Crichton; even though it's a piece of fiction, it opened my eyes to the sort of information seen about global climate change: a reality check, if you will. Crichton puts forth a great deal of information in his book, much of it seeming to debunk the theory of global warming as a 'normal trend in the grand scheme of a constantly changing and dynamic planet.' As to whether these views shared by the characters in the book are his own as well, I can only speculate, but I see now why there are many that are somewhat hesitant to believe climatologists' cries.
The reason, to me, is largely miscommunication, or largely a lack of communication: the fact that the data collectors are not those who speak to the public; the fact that scientists do not publish their information directly to the masses, but instead in scientific journals to their peers. This might now be an obvious fact, but by the time raw information hits the ten o'clock news, it's been through edits, reedits, simplifications; it's been washed free of the true story, and media outlets report on what's left, usually a grossly misconstrued two minute piece, the bottom screen crawl reading "Snowpocalypse across the eastern seaboard: move over global warming."
And even though only a small minority of scientists do not believe in the phenomenon (11% according to information from a visualization by David McCandless and Helen Williams, found at http://leisureguy.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/climate_consensus_550_3.gif), how many Americans remain unmoved? Although most do believe global warming is real, this percentage is actually decreasing. According to Gallup:
A majority of Americans still agree that global warming is real, as 53% say the effects of the problem have already begun or will do so in a few years. That percentage is dwindling, however. The average American is now less convinced than at any time since 1997 that global warming's effects have already begun or will begin shortly.
Meanwhile, 35% say that the effects of global warming either will never happen (19%) or will not happen in their lifetimes (16%).
The 19% figure is more than double the number who held this view in 1997.
The average American is now less convinced? This seems almost impossible, but the trend is visible. I believe the reason lies in the fact that global warming is now a largely politicized topic. It is no longer only the proclamation of scientists that humanity must change its behavior, rather it is the promise of politicians that we will use more renewable energy, and build a more sustainable future. And although it is admirable that some on the Hill are engaged in the issue, it has opened global warming to an onslaught of doubt, transformed efforts for sustainability into arguments about budget, and turned the public's approval of all things "green" into a gradient across our political spectrum. It's a double edged sword: no or little attention to a highly specialized, scientific topic, or large exposure to a much simplified conglomerate of scientific ideas?
Is this good? For better or for worse, it's become our current situation, and although I can't even begin to think of, much less offer, any solution, it's interesting topic to... shall we say... pontificate on. I'll leave you all there as I step lightly off my soap box with hopefully more to post soon!