Posts Tagged ‘Public Ignorance’

h1

Liberals Part 4: Australia has a legitimate government

27 January 2013

This is the fourth part of a series examining the Liberal Party of Australia. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 examine the party’s climate policies. This part debunks their allegations that the incumbent government is illegitimate.

Both sidesIllustration: Stephen Wight

There has been a persistent campaign by the conservative Coalition, led by Tony Abbott and his Liberals, assisted by most of the mainstream media, to create the perception that the incumbent Labor minority government, led by Julia Gillard, is illegitimate. Don’t get me wrong: I have a long list of disagreements with the government. But the implication it is somehow illegitimate is simply unjustified. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

2012: The year the world snoozed

31 December 2012

The Guardian described 2006 as “The year the world woke up” to climate change. If that’s the case then I guess 2007 was the year we rolled over and went back to sleep. Our alarm clock has continued to ring ever more loudly and clearly, but we just keep on hitting the snooze button – if we even hear the alarm at all. The events of 2012 have continued the pattern, both in Australia and around the world.

January

A diverse group of organizations warned there is a “carbon bubble” in global financial markets. Yawn… oh look, Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open!

February

Mining magnate and climate change denier Gina Rinehart tried to take over an Australian newspaper chain. Business news is so dreary… wow, congratulations to Queen Elizabeth II for reaching her Diamond Jubilee!

Australian ex-PM Kevin Rudd attempted to regain the top job and lock in a meaningless greenhouse gas emissions target. Hey, someone leaked a video of him saying the F-word!

March

Greenpeace exposed Australia’s plans to multiply its already-world-beating coal exports on a scale dwarfing its emissions at home, to which the government responded by passionately defending the industry. Soporific stuff… look, Clive Palmer is fighting with his soccer team!

Australia introduced a tax on coal mining profits that failed to raise any revenue. How dull… whoa, Sachin Tendulkar scored his 100th international century in cricket! Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Stop saying yes: Bright-siding

10 June 2012

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the Australian climate movement.

David Spratt at the blog Climate Code Red has recently spoken out against what he calls “bright-siding”: a misguided tendency for climate activists (and governments) to campaign on the arguable side-benefits of climate policies (eg. green jobs), rather than explain the urgent necessity of phasing out fossil fuels to avoid dangerous global warming. I generally agree with Spratt’s arguments, which are worth reading in full.

Spratt suggests the motivations for bright-siding include beliefs that people will respond best to messages about clean energy, climate change science is too depressing, and/or positive thinking is inherently beneficial. There is a misconception that dire warnings about climate turn off listeners, but this is based on one small study which has been misinterpreted (in fact, the message which didn’t work was that global warming is dire and unsolvable, and the message which did work was that global warming is dire but solvable). A related idea is that the public is constantly exposed to negative messages about climate change, but this is a myth.

A recent overseas study concluded “media coverage of climate change and elite cues from politicians and advocacy groups are among the most prominent drivers of the [US] public perception of the threat associated with climate change”. Astoundingly, US media coverage of climate change peaked in 2007 (following the release of An Inconvenient Truth and the IPCC AR4). Anecdotally, as media coverage has declined in amount it also became less negative. Americans’ concern about climate change has declined accordingly (though it is now rebounding). In an Australian context, the number of Australians who agree with the statement, “Global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs”, has fallen from 68% in 2006 to 36% today. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Americans Know Nothing About Climate Change

19 October 2010

A new survey of 2,030 American adults (weighted according to demographics and political party allegiance) confirms what previous surveys have suggested: that the American public’s understanding of climate change is dismal. The researchers graded the participants based on percentage of questions answered correctly (although some questions were harder than others). A majority, 52%, received an F. 25% got a D, 15% a C, 7% a B, and only 1% got an A.

I am not aware of any similar surveys of Australians — I hope we are not quite as bad, but there is a powerful climate change denial lobby here too. For context, it’s not just climate science about which Americans are ignorant; it is part of a larger problem of general scientific ignorance. Surveys have consistently found that about 40% of Americans think the Earth is only a few thousand years old; about 20% do not know that a year is the time it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun.

The results are pretty depressing considering that the US is a democracy:

  • Only 63% of Americans say global warming is happening. 19% think not, and 19% are not sure.
  • Only 50% say humans are the main cause of the current warming (compared to roughly 97% of publishing climatologists). 35% say natural changes are the main cause.
  • Only 39% say that most scientists agree global warming is happening; 38% think there is a lot of disagreement among scientists. (Clearly the contrarian line of “no scientific consensus” is working.) Read the rest of this entry ?
h1

Scientific Opinion versus Media Balance

2 August 2010

Renegade Conservatory Guy has created an infographic showing the discrepancy between scientific opinion on global warming and public opinion. I think this speaks for itself.