Why do so many americans doubt that global warming is real climate change, part iv news voicenews.com gas bubble disease


According to March 2015 data from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, fewer than two in three (63 percent) Americans think global warming is happening. About one in five Americans (18 percent) thinks global warming is not happening.

"One of the reasons these numbers have been stable in recent years may be because most Americans are simply not hearing or talking about the issue," said the Yale report. "Our survey finds, for example, that only 40 percent of the American public say they hear about global warming in the media at least once a month and only 19 percent hear about it once a week."

After Pollack laid out the science of climate change (see Parts I to III of this series), he addressed the issue of why such a large minority of the general public either doesn’t believe in climate change or doesn’t think people are causing it.

Agro-chemical companies denied the scientific link between pesticides like DDT and bird, fish and animal deformities. The tobacco industry questioned scientific studies that linked smoking and second hand smoke to lung cancer. The coal industry questioned the link between burning coal and acid rain.

One of the sources of misinformation about climate change has been the George C. Marshall Institute, formed in 1988 by three physicists to defend President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, known popularly as the Star Wars initiative. More than 6,500 physicists had come out against SDI. The goal of the institute was to debate the issue in the mass media, not in scientific journals, and in the process suggest to the American people that scientists were not unified on the issue. When the media did not include their viewpoint, they threatened to sue.

When the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the Marshall Institute shifted its pet issue from Star Wars to global warming. In letters to the editor and op-ed pieces, the institute fellows followed a strategy of layered disinformation. They argued that there was no proof for global warming and no consensus among scientists about it. They argued that if global warming was real, it was not manmade. They argued that if it was manmade, it was not necessarily bad, and in any case, Americans had the technological savvy capacity to adapt to it. Consequently, there was no need for governmental intervention, which they said would harm or destroy the economy.

It turned out that one of the Marshall Institute’s founders, physicist Fred Seitz had led a similar program at R.J. Reynolds, which spent $45 million from 1975 to 1989 to instill "reasonable doubt" in the public’s mind about the scientific link between smoking and cancer. Another institute associate, S. Fred Singer, had worked to question the link between coal burning and acid rain in the 1980s and the link between chlorofluorocarbons and the ozone hole in the 1990s.

Oreskes suggests that the scientists at the Marshall Institute were hardcore anti-communists who believed in the sanctity of free market economics unencumbered by the government regulation. But instead of making a political argument for their views, they camouflaged their politics and criticized the science of climate change. They saw fossil fuel as the root of all economic activity and of U.S. strength. In their minds, the U.S had won the Cold War in no small part because of its efficient use of fossil fuels; they would refuse to let it lose the peace as a result of government intervention to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The public’s skepticism about climate change represents a significant public relations victory for so-called climate deniers. The deniers contributed to the fracturing of what appeared to be a consensus on global warming in 1992 and to the emergence today of the warring camps, at least in the political realm.

Oreskes argues that the scientific building blocks of global warming began to be put in place almost at the beginning of the warming itself, in the 1850s, when John Tyndall established water vapor and CO2 as greenhouse gases. By the early 20th century, scientists predicted that a doubling of the CO2 in the atmosphere would trigger a global temperature increase of 1.5 to 4.5 Celsius degrees.

In 1957, Roger Revelle told Time magazine that "if the blanket of CO2 produces a temperature increase of only one or two degrees, a chain of secondary effects may come into play. As the air gets warmer, sea water will get warmer, too, and the CO2 dissolved in it will return to the atmosphere … possibly raising the temperature enough to melt the ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland, which would flood the earth’s coastal regions."