Archive for January 28th, 2010

Climate Change in the American Mind

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | January 28, 2010 2:49 pm

I started a post this morning on the release of the new national survey out of Yale and George Mason regarding public beliefs and attitudes on global warming, but CM beat me to posting it. Still, it’s important to emphasize my concern reading that public trust in scientists has decreased, while the number of Americans who do not think climate change will harm biodiversity is on the rise. Some more of the figures:

  • The percentage of Americans who think global warming is happening has declined 14 points, to 57 percent.
  • The percentage of Americans who think global warming is caused mostly by human activities has dropped 10 points, to 47 percent.
  • Only 50 percent of Americans now say they are “somewhat” or “very worried” about global warming, a 13-point decrease.
  • Sixty-five percent distrust Republicans Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sarah Palin as sources of information.
  • Fifty-three percent distrust former Democratic Vice President Al Gore and 49 percent distrust President Barack Obama.
  • The percentage of Americans who believe that most scientists think global warming is happening is now at 34 percent

So amid growing scientific evidence that climate change will have–and indeed, is already having–real impacts around the world, there is a dramatic and dangerous disconnect with the American public. Unfortunately, we continue to live in an increasingly Unscientific America–where partisan politics, media spin, religious ideologies, and special interests hamper progress.

MORE ABOUT: climate change

Are Americans Becoming More Distrustful of Science?

By Chris Mooney | January 28, 2010 11:04 am

Some alarming results just out from Yale and George Mason. Not only are Americans growing less convinced about global warming– either that it is happening or that it is human caused. We knew that already. But what’s more, Americans also appear less trusting of scientists in general, which is pretty alarming, as there have long been positive (if vague) sentiments towards the scientific community in this country:

The survey also found lower public trust in a variety of institutions and leaders, including scientists. For example, Americans’ trust in the mainstream news media as a reliable source of information about global warming declined by 11 percentage points, television weather reporters by 10 points and scientists by 8 points….

Finally, Americans who believe that most scientists think global warming is happening decreased 13 points, to 34 percent, while 40 percent of the public now believes there is a lot of disagreement among scientists over whether global warming is happening or not.

All of this amounts to nothing short of a complete PR nightmare. I am no public opinion specialist, but I wonder if we are seeing a trace of scandals like ClimateGate and GlacierGate in the data here. If so, it would be just more evidence (not that I needed it) that we are getting it handed to us by the skeptics, as never before….

Obama on Climate and Energy in the SOTU

By Chris Mooney | January 28, 2010 8:33 am

Here’s the part of last night’s speech that is directed at us nerds:

Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history – an investment that could lead to the world’s cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched. And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year’s investments in clean energy — in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries; or in the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels.

The new investments in science were wonderful–but will they be able to continue with the president’s proposed three year “freeze” on spending?

But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

I know greens are ticked about this part of the speech. The conjunction of nuclear, drilling, and clean coal made them understandably apoplectic. But it seems to me that now that Democrats have lost their supermajority in the Senate, it may be necessary to give some ground on these areas if we want a real energy plan to go through. And it sounds like Obama is willing to do that.

I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year I’m eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.

I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy. I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here’s the thing – even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future – because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.

Go Greg Craven–Obama made your argument!

I’m glad the president isn’t backing down on the Senate bill. I am not in a position to handicap the votes, but, let’s face it: George W. Bush would have gotten the bill through without a supermajority in the Senate. He did it again and again. If Democrats play tougher, and smarter, they can still put us on a path towards solving the climate problem.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Energy, Environment, Global Warming

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