Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Public Opinion on Global Warming

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been holding hearings on the Bush Administration's "orchestrated campaign to mislead the public about climate change".

At the House hearing, two private advocacy groups produced a survey of 279 government climate scientists showing that many of them say they have been subjected to political pressure aimed at downplaying the climate threat. Their complaints ranged from a challenge to using the phrase "global warming" to raising uncertainty on issues on which most scientists basically agree, to keeping scientists from talking to the media.

The survey and separate interviews with scientists "has brought to light numerous ways in which U.S. federal climate science has been filtered, suppressed and manipulated in the last five years," Francesca Grifo, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the committee.

Grifo's group, along with the Government Accountability Project, which helps whistle-blowers, produced the report.

Drew Shindell, a climate scientist with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said that climate scientists frequently have been dissuaded from talking to the media about their research, though NASA's restrictions have been eased.

Prior to the change, interview requests of climate scientists frequently were "routed through the White House" and then turned away or delayed, said Shindell. He described how a news release on his study forecasting a significant warming in Antarctica was "repeatedly delayed, altered and watered down" at the insistence of the White House.

These articles were found linked at the

Global Warming: A Divide on Causes and Solutions

Pew Center: Less Than Half of Americans Believe in Human-Induced Warming

The unusual weather affecting the nation this winter may have reinforced the widely held view that the phenomenon of rising temperatures is real (77% of Americans believe that), but the public continues to be deeply divided over both its cause and what to do about it. But there is considerably less agreement over its cause, with about half (47%) saying that human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels, is mostly to blame for the earth getting warmer.

Moreover, there are indications that most Americans do not regard global warming as a top-tier issue. In Pew's annual list of policy priorities for the president and Congress, global warming ranked fourth-lowest of 23 items tested, with only about four-in-ten (38%) rating it a top priority. A survey last year by the Pew Global Attitudes Project showed that the public's relatively low level of concern about global warming sets the U.S. apart from other countries. That survey found that only 19% of Americans who had heard of global warming expressed a great deal of personal concern about the issue. Among the 15 countries surveyed, only the Chinese expressed a comparably low level of concern (20%).

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 10-15 among 1,708 Americans, finds a majority (55%) saying that global warming is a problem that requires immediate government action. But the percentage of Americans expressing this view has declined a bit since August, when 61% felt global warming was a problem that required an immediate government response...

The political divisions are still greater over the issue of whether global warming is a problem that requires immediate government action. About half of moderate and liberal Republicans (51%) express this view, compared with just 22% of conservative Republicans. The differences among Democrats are somewhat smaller; 81% of liberal Democrats, and 61% of moderate and conservative Democrats, say global warming is a problem that requires immediate government action.

There also are striking educational differences in partisans' views of global warming. Among Republicans, higher education is linked to greater skepticism about global warming -- fully 43% of Republicans with a college degree say that there is no evidence of global warming, compared with 24% of Republicans with less education.

But among Democrats, the pattern is the reverse. Fully 75% of Democrats with college degrees say that there is solid evidence of global warming and that it is caused by human activities. This is far higher than among Democrats with less education among whom 52% say the same. Independents, regardless of education levels, fall in between these partisan extremes.


My guess about the difference in Democrats and Republicans - the college educated and not have reversed opinions - is that the college educated of both groups may be more likely to read the news - only they are reading different news. Republicans may be more likely to read the Wall Street Journal and such things which would be more likely to downplay the human element and problem in general - people who don't want to hold corporations and human activities (like consumerism) accountable. Democrats with college degrees are probably more likely to read other news sources which are more open to criticizing the corportae model - and it's resulting problems.

Another article about the upcoming IPCC report shows reason to be concerned by the way the report downplays the issue - that will cause people to be less concerned than they might be.

Melting ice means global warming report all wet, say some experts who warn it'll be even worse

Scientists Criticize Upcoming IPCC Report as Understated

Later this week in Paris, climate scientists will issue a dire forecast for the planet that warns of slowly rising sea levels and higher temperatures.

But that may be the sugarcoated version.

Early and changeable drafts of their upcoming authoritative report on climate change foresee smaller sea level rises than were projected in 2001 in the last report. Many top U.S. scientists reject these rosier numbers. Those calculations don't include the recent, and dramatic, melt-off of big ice sheets in two crucial locations:

They "don't take into account the gorillas Greenland and Antarctica," said Ohio State University earth sciences professor Lonnie Thompson, a polar ice specialist. "I think there are unpleasant surprises as we move into the 21st century."

Michael MacCracken, who until 2001 coordinated the official U.S. government reviews of the international climate report on global warming, has fired off a letter of protest over the omission...

The early versions of the report predict that by 2100 the sea level will rise anywhere between 5 and 23 inches (12.7 to 58 centimeters). That's far lower than the 20 to 55 inches (51 to 140 centimeters) forecast by 2100 in a study published in the peer-review journal Science this month. Other climate experts, including NASA's James Hansen, predict much bigger sea level rises...

In the past, the climate change panel didn't figure there would be large melt of ice in west Antarctica and Greenland this century and didn't factor it into the predictions. Those forecasts were based only on the sea level rise from melting glaciers (which are different from ice sheets) and the physical expansion of water as it warms.

But in 2002, Antarctica's 1,255-square-mile (3,250-square-kilometer) Larsen B ice shelf broke off and disappeared in just 35 days. And recent NASA data shows that Greenland is losing 53 cubic miles (221 cubic kilometers) of ice each year twice the rate it was losing in 1996.

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