How Do You Convince People of Global Warming in a Snowstorm?

By Knickerbocker, Brad | The Christian Science Monitor, February 28, 2010 | Go to article overview

How Do You Convince People of Global Warming in a Snowstorm?


Knickerbocker, Brad, The Christian Science Monitor


Criticisms of climate change science are piling up as public concern wanes. But evidence of global warming continues to accumulate.

The dead of winter - especially this winter with its massive snow storms in the eastern United States - is not the easiest time to make the case for global warming. Short-term weather events and long- range climate change are not the same thing, of course, but it's hard to separate them in the public's mind.

But it's even harder these days to convincingly argue that climate change is a reality.

"Gloomy unemployment numbers, public frustration with Washington, attacks on climate science, and mobilized opposition to national climate legislation represent a 'perfect storm' of events that have lowered public concerns about global warming even among the alarmed," says Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change.

Yale and George Mason University recently polled on the question. Since 2008, the number of people who don't believe global warming is happening has more than doubled to 16 percent. At the same time, those "alarmed" at the prospect of climate change has dropped from 18 percent to just 10 percent, and those who say they're "concerned" has dropped from 33 percent to 29 percent.

As often happens, shifting attitudes change the political dynamic.

At the environment web site Grist, Amanda Little writes, "Sen. James Inhofe (R) of Oklahoma, one of the world's most vociferous climate skeptics, is practically giddy these days."

In the wake of recent scandals and heightened criticism of climate scientists, Inhofe is leading the charge against the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with former Vice President Al Gore.

"There is a crisis of confidence in the IPCC," Inhofe said in a Senate speech earlier this month. "The challenges to the integrity and credibility of the IPCC merit a closer examination by the US Congress."

IPCC under the gun

"The IPCC clearly has suffered a loss in public confidence," Stanford University climate scientist Chris Field, who chairs one of the IPCC's four main research groups, told the Associated Press on Saturday. "And one of the things that I think the world deserves is a clear understanding of what aspects the IPCC does well and what aspects of the IPCC can be improved."

IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri says the UN body will appoint a panel of independent experts to review its reporting procedures.

Meanwhile, action in Congress on climate change has essentially stalled. The cap-and-trade approach approved by the US House of Representatives is likely to be jettisoned, reports the Washington Post, as key senators look for a new way to tackle carbon emissions.

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