An interesting recent post on DeSmogBlog, A troubling trend in Global Warming Denial on the internet, Kevin Grandia tracks Google blog search traffic in 2008 for terms related to global warming skepticism:
Be sure to check out the original post for some telling charts that illustrate Grandia's basic point: "This trend should be troubling to U.S. policymakers and campaigners wanting to implement new greenhouse gas reduction strategies."
It seems to me there could be several important questions that could undercut to that conclusion. How much is Google blog search traffic up overall, and does the increased search volume on those terms just reflect an overall increase in search volume? Is it a trend wholly related to the campaign season, when global warming got enough ink to set some skeptics' minds reeling?
Whatever the overall trend, the search traffic is a clear indication that the global warming denial conspiracy theory lives on. If there's a document that spells out the stages of a conspiracy theory, I'd love to see it. I'd bet this one is in its last stage, when its adherents stick to their guns, but become marginalized to the point of insignificance.
We have a president now who has proclaimed the rule of science in policy making, and scientists are nearly unanimous in their assessment of the threat of global warming. A new University of Chicago survey of more than 3,100 international earth scientists climate scientists, geologists, meteorologists, and the like shows that 90% agreed that the mean global temperature had increased in the past 200 years, and 82% agreed that human activity was a major reason. (Press release.)
If you just single out the climate scientists, 97% agree that humans are largely responsible for global warming. It's the meteorologists whose training focuses them on passing weather phenomena, but whose position in society gives them the most direct access to the American public & and petroleum geologists who make their living exploring for fossil fuels to burn that account for any doubt. Just 64% of meteorologists and fewer than half of petro-geologists believe humans are responsible for global warming.
"The petroleum geologist response is not too surprising, but the meteorologists' is very interesting," Peter Doran, the lead researcher, said. "Most members of the public think meteorologists know climate, but most of them actually study very short-term phenomenon." ...I guess the take-home message is, the more you know about the field of climate science, the more you're likely to believe in global warming and humankind's contribution to it."
In other words, to the extent that the public remains doubtful about the need for action on global warming (just 58%, according to a recent poll, believe humans cause global warming), the problem is one of communicating scientific understanding. Those in the know understand the magnitude of the problem and the need to act. Those who do not, look for reasons to doubt.
We can expect, given President Obama's choices to fill his cabinet, and his own statements on the subject, that he will be using the bully pulpit to educate those Americans who need convincing. That may well make the conspiracy theorists grow stronger, but only as they are marginalized to insignificance. Does anyone really doubt that we put a man on the moon?
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