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'Climate Crisis' Claims Aren’t Moving Public Opinion Much

May 13, 2021

Climate Change Weekly #397

Opinion polls conducted over the past two decades show climate change consistently at or near the bottom of the public’s list of concerns. For instance, a United Nations poll surveying more than seven million respondents from 195 countries asked participants to rank their top 16 policy priorities. Quality education ranked first, and “Action Taken on Climate Change” ranked dead last, receiving 300,000 fewer votes than “Access to Telephone and Internet,” which finished 15th on the list.

This fact is making climate alarmists—those peddling the delusion that human-caused climate change is destroying the Earth—increasingly desperate. It seems to be having the same effect on members of the compliant mainstream media, who have jettisoned all pretense of objectivity and the search for the truth about the causes and consequences of climate change. News outlets are increasingly bowing to the demands of progressive radical environmentalists to refer not to global warming or climate change but instead to a “climate crisis” or a “climate emergency.”

Global warming and climate change can be objectively measured and assembled into unbiased datasets, though this has not always been done. “Climate crisis” and “climate emergency,” by contrast, are phrases with no scientific meaning, because they are normative, not descriptive. Any change from some idealized past state of the climate can be labelled a “crisis” or “emergency.” People or governments may or may not need to worry about a changing climate or a warming globe, but it’s all hands on deck during an “emergency” or “crisis.” Anyone pulling in a different direction or dissenting during a climate crisis is flirting with global disaster and must be suppressed.

This is an obvious attempt to repurpose the rhetorical and policy tactics of the coronavirus crisis for this older, equally government-centric global crusade.

A funny thing happened on the way to the climate stampede, however. Public opinion surveys show most people still refuse to enter climate emergency mode. Polls show even those people who think there is a climate apocalypse on the way are willing to pay astonishingly little to prevent it. This fact may limit the range of climate policies politicians can impose without risk of being turned out of office in the next election.

Despite a barrage of dozens if not hundreds of stories in print, online, on the radio, and on television daily, the number of people who believe humans are primarily responsible for climate change has changed little over time.

For more than a decade, public opinion surveys have consistently shown only a slight majority of those surveyed are “moderately,” “very,” or “extremely” certain humans are causing climate change. For instance, in a 2019 survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted by the respected polling service Rasmussen for The Heartland Institute, 48 percent of those polled said they believed human activities are primarily responsible for climate change. By contrast, 38 percent said they believed “long-term planetary trends” are primarily responsible for climate change, with 14 percent unsure. Two years of rabid propagandizing later, a new Rassmussen/Heartland survey of 2,000 likely voters finds the number of people who believe climate change is caused primarily by human activity grew by 7 percent, but so did the number of people who believe climate change is primarily caused by long-term planetary trends. Skepticism is growing even as climate crisis mode kicks in.

Another recent survey of 1,000 voters, conducted by MWR strategies on behalf of the American Energy Alliance, found 13 percent of those surveyed did not believe global warming was a problem at all, 14 percent thought it was a minor problem, and 23 percent thought it a moderate problem. Only 24 percent of those surveyed thought global warming constitutes a “crisis.”

Also remarkably consistent over time is the fact that people are unwilling to spend very much to prevent climate change, even if they think it is a crisis.

In a 2019 Washington Post/Kaiser Family survey, 60 percent of respondents said they believed the world had fewer than 10 years to prevent the worst effects of climate change, with a majority saying the world has two years or fewer to act.

Even so, 51 percent of those surveyed would be “somewhat” or “strongly” opposed to paying a $2 monthly tax on their residential electric bills to fight climate change. Similarly, 61 percent would reject a 10 cents per gallon increase in the gasoline tax to fight climate change.

The numbers opposed to electric bill fees and gas tax hikes rose sharply when the proposed fees were increased: 71 percent oppose a $10 monthly tax on U.S. residential electric bills, and 74 percent oppose increasing the gas tax by 25 cents per gallon. These relatively modest cost increases are far less than what the Biden administration’s climate change efforts will cost.

In the 2019 Heartland/Rasmussen survey, 63 percent said they believed it was very or somewhat likely climate change “will be catastrophic for humans, plants, and animals,” but only 34 percent of those who believe climate change is caused primarily by humans said the federal or state governments should limit air travel to help prevent it, and just 24 percent said governments should require people to limit their consumption of meat to fight climate change.

The more recent MWR survey produced similar results. While 47 percent of participants said they believed global warming was a “major challenge or problem” (23 percent) or a “crisis” (24 percent), and another 37 percent thought it was either a “moderate” problem (23 percent) or a “small problem” (14) percent—meaning 84 percent of those surveyed think global warming is a problem to a greater or lesser degree—people are still unwilling to give up much freedom or dollars to fight climate change.

The MWR poll found 80 percent of those surveyed do not believe the federal government should mandate the kind of cars people can buy, and 61 percent even rejected the idea that government should subsidize electric car purchases. Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed—almost triple the number of people who said climate change was not a problem at all—said they would be unwilling to spend even a single dollar to “achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2035,” and another 42 percent said they would be unwilling to spend more than $10 or less annually to achieve that result.

Addressing global warming directly, 37 percent of those surveyed by MWR said the amount of money they would be willing to spend “each year to address global warming” was zero, and another 44 percent said they would only be willing to spend less than $10 annually on it. The fact that 81 percent of those surveyed would be unwilling to spend even a piddling $10 a year to fight global warming means many of those who say they believe climate change is a major challenge or a crisis are unwilling to put much effort into fighting it.

Despite a big push by the Biden administration, Democrats and RINOs in Congress, and even some oil companies to adopt a carbon dioxide tax, only 28 percent of those surveyed by MWR support the idea, and 62 percent reject it outright.

After years of fearmongering and attempted indoctrination, people aren’t really that concerned about climate change when the rubber meets the road with action—or dollars in this case. This message should cause despair among the climate-alarm set, and politicians should heed it as they shape the nation’s energy policies.

—    H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: The Heartland Institute; Washington Post; American Energy Alliance


IN THIS ISSUE …

FRACKING FASLIFIES EXTREME WARMING SCENARIOS … OCEAN ACIDIFICATION FRAUD ALLEGED


FRACKING FALSIFIES EXTREME WARMING SCENARIOS

A new paper from the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) shows the shale revolution and global shift from coal to natural gas for electric power generation have made the worst global warming scenario offered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change extremely unlikely. Author Tim Worstall, a fellow of the Adam Smith Institute, writes,

The good news is that the worst predictions of climate change aren’t going to come true. The bad news is that they never were going to and we’ve been misled all these years.

The headline prediction was that carbon dioxide emissions were on track for something called Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5. This trajectory is what drives the near hysterical predictions of sea-level rise, warming itself, droughts, crop failures and the rest.

The world hasn’t been on the RCP 8.5 path since before it was first projected. On the contrary, emissions from energy production have been moving in a less carbon-dioxide-intensive direction for more than two decades, thanks primarily to the fracking revolution allowing abundant, relatively inexpensive natural to replace coal in electric power generation.

RCP 8.5 ignores the shift from coal to unconventional gas, the use of which is lowering CO2 emissions in most countries, writes Worstall. Despite this huge flaw, “Every year, thousands of scientists adopt it to make scary claims about future climate disasters while environmental journalists report these misleading claims to an unsuspecting public, unaware that the claims are based on a non-credible assumption,” Worstall writes.

Commenting on the continued use of RCP 8.5 as the “business as usual” scenario in climate change projections, GWPF Founder and Director Benny Peiser, Ph.D., said, “Scaremongering can do enormous harm to people and society. Scientists and journalists should stop using completely unrealistic energy scenarios that are simply not credible.”

Worstall’s analysis shows the most likely RCP is RCP 4.5, in which more severe, more frequent extreme weather events are highly unlikely and the climate changes that do occur are manageable. In this scenario, we get most of the benefits that accrue to a modestly warmer world, while avoiding most of the harms.

Worstall sums it up:

We simply are not on the path to the very high emissions of RCP8.5; we’re on something between RCP4.5 and RCP6. These are pathways in which technological progress largely takes care of matters. Climate change in this model is a chronic—i.e. long lasting—but not serious problem.

SOURCE: Global Warming Policy Foundation


OCEAN ACIDIFICATION FRAUD ALLEGED

Science and Nature are finally taking seriously research indicating papers claiming ocean acidification was negatively altering the behavior of fish cannot be replicated. The alarming results were caused by the use of shoddy or manipulated data, the researchers write.

The papers in question claim ocean acidification “has a range of striking effects on fish behavior, such as making them bolder and steering them toward chemicals produced by their predators,” The team of whistleblowers has asked three funding agencies and the journals that published the 22 papers to undertake misconduct investigations into the articles. Ocean acidification—actually a mild decrease in alkalinity—is a knock-on effect of the rising carbon dioxide (CO2) level in Earth’s atmosphere.

The original, alarming papers were career-making for several of the researchers involved.

The scientists now calling for the investigation examined the raw data files for two widely cited papers, one published in Science, the other in Nature Climate Change, and tried to replicate the findings. They found the claimed impact of carbon dioxide on the oceans and fish behavior are “statistically impossible,” suggesting the data was manipulated to demonstrate an effect that could not be detected. They did not say the original ocean research was outright fraud, instead writing that the original research had “methodological or analytical weaknesses” that resulted in the irreproducible results, in a 2020 paper published by Nature.

After the whistleblowers’ paper was published, multiple independent scientists and statisticians who reviewed the case at Science’s request found what they called “serious problems in the two data sets, as well as in two additional ones co-authored by one of the accused scientists,” Science reports.

“Some scientists hailed [the whistleblowers’ research] as a stellar example of research replication that cast doubt on extraordinary claims that should have received closer scrutiny from the start.” Science reports. “‘It is by far the best environmental science paper I have read for a long time,’ declared ecotoxicologist John Sumpter of Brunel University London.”

Four members of the group of seven that demonstrated the original ocean research was based on manipulated data have are requesting the Australian Research Council (ARC), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), which provided millions of dollars in funding for the original flawed research, investigate the 22 papers based on and by researchers who developed the manipulated data, as possible instances of fraud.

“In my experience, whistleblowers, myself as well as others, are shamed for talking to the media before an investigation has concluded misconduct,” Josefin Sundin of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, one of coauthors of the Nature replication paper, told Science. “But why is that? If an investigation even takes place, it can drag on for a very long time. If you know that data have been fabricated, why is it considered the right thing to do to stay silent about it for months and even years?”

Even before the whistleblowers published their Nature article exposing the irreproduciblity of the ocean acidification/fish behavior papers’ results, Andrew Baird, a reef ecologist at James Cook University (the university where the lead author of the original papers was a senior professor until recently) offered a “technical comment” informing Science that some of the claims made about corals by the authors of the original papers were impossible. Science ignored Baird’s comment, designating it as a “low priority for publication.” Choosing not to be ignored, Baird and his colleagues published their findings as a pre-print item.

Science seems to be taking Baird’s claims more seriously now.

The whole episode of claims and counterclaims “highlights issues in the sociology, psychology, and politics of science, including pressure on researchers to publish in top-tier journals, the journals’ thirst for eye-catching and alarming findings, and the risks involved in whistleblowing,” Science reports.

SOURCES: Science; Science

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org
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