Americans Giving Global Warming the Cold Shoulder

January 01, 1999  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Climate change

Is it bad news for the environment? Or for environmentalists?

A report from the nonprofit group Public Agenda claims Americans are losing interest in environmental problems, both national and global. A spokesman for the American Geophysical Union (AGU), for whom the report was prepared, claims it reflects the public’s frustration.

Addressing global warming specifically, he said declining concern reflected what’s perceived as an intractable problem. "Everybody’s heard about it. Everybody’s aware of it. Everybody thinks it’s a real and bad thing," he said. "Yet they don’t know what to do about it."

But there may be a better explanation; maybe Americans are finally catching on.

The report looked at public views in five categories: water pollution, toxic waste, air pollution, ozone layer damage, and global warming. In each area, the percent saying they worried "a great deal" dropped significantly from 1989 to 1997. With air pollution, for example, it fell from 63% to 47%. For global warming the percentage was cut by about half, from 35% to 24% worried.

Perhaps more telling, a late 1998 poll showed that while slightly over half of those surveyed considered themselves "sympathetic" to "environmental concerns," only 12% considered themselves active environmentalists.

All this shows declining worry over global warming is hardly unique; therefore the AGU explanation just doesn’t wash.

A better explanation would be that — depending on the category — the public is reacting to noticeable improvement or realizing things were never as bad as they were told.

For example, why should it be surprising that concern over air pollution is declining when EPA figures show that nationally air pollution has been steadily declining?

Conversely, the public’s greatest concern is water pollution. That’s sensible because progress against water pollution is difficult to measure.

As to global warming, maybe Americans are getting fed up with politicians, environmentalists, and the media fingering it for everything but Princess Diana’s death.

Heat waves? They’ve been attributed to global warming, naturally. But then so have cold snaps. As the cover of Newsweek warned a couple of years ago: "Blizzards, Floods & Hurricanes: Blame Global Warming."

Water levels are rising? Blame global warming. Falling? Blame global warming. Evidence of forest fires dates back millennia, but current forest fires, Vice-President Al Gore assured us this year are caused by global warming.

He’s clearly taken the advice former Clinton consultant Dick Morris publicly gave him in March saying that if he wants to replace his boss, Gore must invoke the earth’s warming to explain "fires in Florida, the mudslides in California, the floods in Texas, and the droughts in the Midwest."

"There’s a limit to how long you can push this," Massachusetts Institute of Technology meteorology professor Richard Lindzen told me. "It becomes a joke."

Global warming may or may not be real. Ground level temperature readings seem to be increasing yearly, but satellite readings are not. Yet even if warming is occurring, it doesn’t mean it’s our fault.

Throughout history, the earth has cooled and warmed. Ever hear of something called "the ice age?" As late as the last century there were readily noticeable temperature swings during a period of a few decades.

Though alarmists tell us repeatedly that a "consensus of 2,500 climate scientists" have said global warming is real, man-made, and dangerous, it’s flagrant fibbery.

This refers to a 1996 UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that had fewer than 2,000 people total, of whom only a small number were climate scientists. There was no poll, and counted among the alleged 2,500 are non-believers like Lindzen!

Meanwhile, you never hear about the 1997 survey of 36 official state climatologists finding that 58% disagreed with President Clinton’s claim that "the overwhelming balance of evidence and scientific opinion is that it is no longer a theory, but now fact, that global warming is for real." Nine out of 10 agreed that "scientific evidence indicates variations in global temperature are likely to be naturally-occurring and cyclical over very long periods of time."

Further, last year more than 17,000 scientists, about half of whom are trained in the fields of physics, geophysics, climate science, meteorology, oceanography, chemistry, biology, or biochemistry, signed a petition declaring, "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate."

The petitioners strongly urged rejection of the accord signed in Kyoto, Japan in 1997 committing the United States to drastic, incredibly costly reductions in emissions of these gases, declaring it "would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind."

How this justifies statements about global warming like, "Everybody thinks it’s a real and bad thing," is incomprehensible. Indeed, a poll right in the Public Agenda report shows that while half of Americans think global warming will be a problem in the future, only about a fourth think it is now and the other fourth think it will never have an impact or have no opinion.

In other words, three-fourths of the public think Clinton, Gore, Newsweek, and mainstream media are blowing hot air.

Now we know why Americans are keeping their cool. They’re realizing they’ve been hoodwinked.