Thursday, July 19, 2012

Oh, So You Believe In Global Warming NOW?

This is one clear example of the silliness on how the general public accept or believe in something. It appears that the recent heatwave and drought that has hit large parts of the US has caused many more people to accept the idea of global warming happening.

Between 2008 and 2010, comparing various polls (see graph), there was on average a 16% drop in the fraction of Americans who agreed with statements roughly equivalent to "global warming is happening." Since then, the data show American acceptance of the reality of climate change has been steadily rebounding, with 66% of respondents in the Yale survey agreeing that it is happening, up from a low of 57% in 2010.
This is one clear example where a lot of people cannot tell the difference between "climate" and "weather", and the difference between anecdotal evidence and scientific evidence. I hate to think that if we start to get a rather cool summer next year, these same people would change their minds and start to think the other way. In other words, forget about what it looks like overall, let's just go along with the latest whims, fashion, etc...

Scientists need to tell the public that this is NOT how we decide if there is global warming or not. We do not come up with such conclusion simply by looking at ONE data point! And frankly, the average temperature for the whole summer is equivalent to one data point!

I would not be surprised if this winter becomes exceedingly cold, and people start to think "where's the global warming now?"


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's not just the weather this Spring and Summer that people are reacting to, it's Katrina, ice extent in the arctic, the whole arc of news stories. It can't be avoided unless one watches only Fox, etc., and never talks to anyone. News sources do report extreme weather, because people are intrigued by them, and any slip towards implying "but it's not Global Warming" is an ad for the idea. The weather this week can legitimately be the straw that breaks someone's resistance in that context.

Global "weirding" of the weather to some extent may reflect how people are feeling their environment. Everyday interactions often include "the weather's just weird", and that opens the door to believing something new. It seems important to keep in mind that it's not just warming, it's also chaotifying.