Researchers at George Mason University and Yale University bring the grave news that "belief in global warming" is at a "six year low".
I. Do You Believe?
The study [PDF] comes courtesy of principle investigator Professor Anthony Leiserowitz, an environmental scientist at Yale. Other principle investigators include Professors Edward Maibach and Connie Roser-Renouf (GMU communications professors, specializing in climate). Geoff Feinberg, a Yale university employee who lacks a Ph.D but was a private sector polling specialist on environmental issues also contributed to the work.
Another odd addition was psychopathology researcher turned climatology investigator Professor Seth Rosenthal, a member of Yale's climatology team. Rounding out the team was Professor Jennifer Marlon, a PhD expert in geography who currently teaches climate science at Yale.
The first oddity -- which you may notice -- is that there's nary a Ph.D credentialed climatologist in the field. I think this is worth noting as critics of the more alarmist brands of "global warming" rhetoric are often attacked for not holding climatology degrees, despite the fact that many of them hold master's degrees or doctorates in related fields, such as physics or civil engineering. ...
This is a rather lengthy article but it is the conclusion that caught my eye.
IV. More Science, More Debate, Less Politics
There's a need for research. But surveys on public opinion asked in shrill black and white terms offer little help to a legitimate debate.
And as much as there's a need for research, there's an equal age to push to remove this issue from a political debate. Until someone can come up with a financially sound approach to emissions control, the government needs to step back and let the private sector handle its own affairs.
Mankind is changing the climate in numerous ways, many of which surpass even strong warming on a local basis. From desertification to water cycle changes due to deforestation, many serious manmade climate changes are overlooked due to global warming's chokehold on media attention.
Instead of focusing on querying public beliefs and condemning (or praising) "nonbelievers", let us instead focus the dialogue on constructive solutions to both adopt a sensible path to alternative energy (e.g. algae, nuclear power, solar), so that when fossil fuel supplies do near exhaustion, we're prepared. And let's acknowledge that climate change -- manmade or not -- has always been occurring on planet Earth.
Last, but not least, let's not blame the media for putting things in alarmist or overly skeptical terms, when researchers themselves often resort to the same extremes for funding. After all, most members of the media have at least a bachelor's degree in a technical subject. Like many who publish climate research, we lack a Ph.D in climatology. But so long as we express our opinions respectfully, keeping an open and questioning mind, I see no reason why the media's opinions are more or less valid than non-climatologist thinking heads in academia. To suggest otherwise is simply elitist "ivory tower" type thinking.
I have no doubt the climate is changing. I don't doubt that human activity plays a role. I am not certain how big that role is. Based on significantly errant predictions about climate (temps have remained stable for 15 years and are now outside the 95% confidence level of modeled scientific predictions), I don't have confidence that scientists have a good grasp on the climate yet. Some are suggesting the 15 year hiatus in warming could last another 15 years. Furthermore, calculations about CO2 emissions all assume GDP growth and energy use are perfectly coupled. Yet, evidence is emerging that the two are decoupling and that GDP is taking less energy per dollar of GDP. That means less than predicted CO2. As with the temperature predictions, my confidence level in scientists’ ability to predict specific impacts is not high, but it is not zero. In short, I'm not greatly worried ... yet.
With all that said, there is a lot in there I could be wrong about. Maybe by a little. Maybe by a lot. There are significant unknowns. And that means we are looking at a risk management question. Rather than feeling the need to cling exclusively to one pole or another ... alarm or denial ... I'm hedging my actions against the idea the the challenges are not threatening. It doesn't hurt that there are some significant advantages to nuclear and renewable energy beyond climate concerns. That makes me willing to hedge even more in that direction. What I find most disappointing is those who think total alarm or total denial are the only strategic options that may be considered. For them, it is most often about making ideology prevail versus dealing prudently with challenges.
What I am articulating is not a "moderate" position between two extremes or some attempt to find a "third way." I see at as realism ... decision-making in the face of uncertainty and recognizing climate change remediation is more than a one dimensional challenge. I see what I'm advocating as an alternative way to todays default option, unwavering allegiance to exaggerated claims of certainty by alarmists and deniers.