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One more reason that recent U.S. polling on global warming is down slightly

By Joe Romm on March 18, 2010 at 5:56 pm

"One more reason that recent U.S. polling on global warming is down slightly"

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A large majority of Americans continue to understand that global warming is real.  In fact, warming of the climate system in recent decades is “unequivocal,” according to comprehensive analysis of observations around the globe by the world’s leading climate scientists.

Most of the decline in understanding seen in recent polls comes from conservatives and conservative-leaning independents, who are incessantly hammered with the myth of “global cooling” in the conservative and mainstream media.

And, in a rather unfortunate coincidence, we’ve seen below average temperatures in parts of the United States over the last two years.  That’s particularly true during this uber-warm winter.

Accuweather’s Joe Bastardi admitted earlier this month:  “Earth continues warmest winter since satellite measurements started.” NASA’s recently released data confirms that December through February was the second warmest globally (after winter 2006/2007) since records began in 1880.  NASA also released a figure showing where it was warm and where it was cold around the globe.  Guess where it was cold:

NASA Winter 2010

Yes, during a blistering Dec-Feb planet-wide, it just happened to be relatively cool once again in the country with the biggest cumulative greenhouse gas emissions and with a political system unable to overcome a do-nothing minority of anti-science ideologues.  Uber-meteorologist Jeff Masters goes through the data in his recent post, “An upside-down winter: coldest in 25 years in U.S., warmest on record in Canada.”

Stanford communications expert Jon Krosnick notes that “One factor that can influence opinion is the perception of local changes in the weather.”  And since “June-August 2009 summer temperature for the contiguous United States was below average – the 34th coolest on record“:

As a result, when the November 2009 survey asked if average world temperatures were higher or lower in the last three years than in previous years, only 43 percent said higher, compared to 58 percent in the 2008 survey, which was conducted in the summertime.

As for the local weather’s impact on even more recent polling, consider that, as Nick Sundt blogged recently:

Winter 2009-2010 was only the second time in 16 years (since the cold winter of 1993-4) that the U.S. has had a winter colder than the long-term mean. The only other colder than normal winter during the 16 year period was the winter of 2000-2001.  The trend in the U.S. is towards warmer winters, with temperatures increasing an average of 0.17oF per decade between 1880 and 2010.

It’s unfortunate that public opinion on this crucial issue in the most recalcitrant country is significantly influenced by the temperature over about only 2% of the planet.  Now it is very likely to get very hot here on our current path of unrestricted emissions (see “Our hellish future: Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year “” and that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual!“).

But obviously the annual and seasonal temperature trends of the contiguous United States are far more erratic than that of the planet as a whole, and that makes public opinion here — which is already subjected to the world’s most intense disinformation campaign and generally poor media coverage — far more hard to predict.  The only good news is that in spite of the trendline on understanding of global warming, every major recent poll shows the public still strongly favors the transition to clean energy.

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20 Responses to One more reason that recent U.S. polling on global warming is down slightly

  1. MapleLeaf says:

    Joe, the global temperature map is not showing, at least on my Mac.

  2. Michael T says:

    @ MapleLeaf
    I have a PC, and I’m not seeing the map either.

    [JR: Weird. Worked in Firefox. I just uploaded it into climate progress. Let me know if that worked.]

  3. Brewster says:

    Works fine for me (Using IE 8)

  4. Came up fine for me. (Vista, IE 8, on Dell Inspiron hardware with Zonealarm AV and firewall. All my “stuff” is kept up to date.)

  5. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Map worked, IE.

  6. Michael T says:

    It works now. Thanks Joe.

  7. oxnardprof says:

    This map shows the anomaly from 1951 – 1990. I have noticed on some graphs that the anomaly is compared to 1961 – 2000 (I remember the 2000 final date, not the initial date.) Has the standard ‘changed’ to compare to the more recent period (up to 2000)? And if so, wouldn’t this reduce the apparent evidence of warming?

    (May be I am wrong?)

  8. dhogaza says:

    This map shows the anomaly from 1951 – 1990. I have noticed on some graphs that the anomaly is compared to 1961 – 2000 (I remember the 2000 final date, not the initial date.) Has the standard ‘changed’ to compare to the more recent period (up to 2000)? And if so, wouldn’t this reduce the apparent evidence of warming?

    Different groups use different baselines, and that seems to have to do with when they first began to make their temperature reconstructions.

    No, this doesn’t change the trend at all, which is the slope of a line when you do an OLS fit (it doesn’t matter whatever fit you use, but a linear regression is the simplest to use as an example.

    For any baseline B, the slope of a line from point p0 at the left end point and point p1 on the right endpoint, offset by B is computed like this:

    S = (p1 – B) – (p0 – B)

    This can be simplified to:

    S = p1 – p0

    So you can see that the choice of baseline doesn’t matter at all.

    Don’t worry too much about not recognizing it (if I read your question correctly).

    Science blogger of the year Comical Tony Watts insists that this computation is different for different values of B …

  9. Zach Angelo says:

    Got a good look at the map, thanks for posting that.

  10. Michael T says:

    Using the Yahoo weather feature, I checked some of the weather anomalies over northern/eastern Africa this week and some of the high temps are in the 110 range (F). India, in some places, had high temps in the 90s and low 100s. This of course is weather, so I can’t blame global warming. Still these are big positive anomolies observed over Africa, middle east and India the past few months. If only some of that heat would make it over to Washington D.C.

  11. From Peru says:

    Degrees CELSIUS, please!

    It is annoying for people outside USA to make the Farenheit-Celsius conversion (USA in the only place in the world that still uses English Imperial units. Elsewere, we use degrees CELSIUS, METERS and KILOGRAMS)

  12. wag says:

    FYI – the science of climate change is the Economist’s cover story this week. Here’s the headline and teaser:

    Spin, science and climate change
    Action on climate is justified, not because the science is certain, but precisely because it is not

    http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=15720419&fsrc=nlw|hig|03-18-2010|editors_highlights

  13. Michael T says:

    From Peru says: “Degrees CELCIUS, please!

    From earlier this week:

    Khartoum, Africa:
    112F = 44C

    http://weather.yahoo.com/img/afr_outlook_en_GB_440_dmy_y.jpg.html;_ylt=AghCulBuhxdm0X.FFNCxQbeji.AA

    Ahmedabad, India:
    105F = 41C

    http://weather.yahoo.com/img/asia_india_outlook_en_GB_440_dmy_y.jpg.html;_ylt=AqO8UoJe5XoX823KdaAIYg6ji.AA

    I don’t know what the average temps for these locations are, but I would imagine they’re well above normal, especially for the time of the year. Just my guess.

  14. Dear Joe,

    More scientific data, when climate science has been sullied in people’s minds, not just in America, has diminishing benefits. The denial of the anti-science crowd has already fossilized into “fundamentalism”. That’s our common enemy. Lots more people who are sitting on the fences, are looking for ideas and leadership on how to combat various kinds of fundamentalism – as vividly articulated by David Orr, Author of “Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse”. He writes:

    “The enemy…is fundamentalism, and the problem is you can have technological fundamentalist, economic growth fundamentalist, you can be a New York City cosmopolitan fundamentalist! It wears lots of different faces! That’s a great question though.”

    In my experience of sharing climate science data with my friends and networks worldwide since 2004 and urging them to curb their footprint, i have observed that people are lots more concerned about other kinds of “fundamentalism” and as a reaction, reject climate science data, as a threat to their already shrunk free space.

    My concern is that continuing to push more and more science data, is turning out to be another form of fundamentalism. What people really need are smart systemic solutions – which also responds to the other sinister forms of fundamentalism, that are already occupying people’s minds.

    If we stretch too far, this kind of becomes a trap, where most of our scientifc resources are going to be exhausted in gathering more data and more accurate models, at a time when we need to actively work on mitigation and adaptation and to work together on smart, systemic solutions.

    This also requires that we focus our energies on softer states such as India, where you may find a natural support for smart lifestyles for low carbon or even carbon-negative.

    With the dollar still going strong on the cheaper rupee, if we can mobilise sufficient funds – my estimate is of less than 50 million dollars (more than that can actually boomerang), we can create a significantly large model of what a carbon-negative economy looks like, within next 5 years.

    The starting point in my systemic assessment has to be women’s and children’s empowerment as the key to humanising various strains of fundamentalism and to transform them into positive energies. With this purpose, I just conceptualised Shiva Foundation for Women’s and Children’s Rights. I would invite all to share your views and participate on its Facebook page here : http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=352368716340&ref=ts.

    Regards,
    Chandra Vikash
    Bangalore

  15. Here is another poll from the Public Media:

    “4 in 10 Americans cannot name a fossil fuel
    6 in 10 cannot name a renewable energy source
    56%: nuclear energy causes global warming
    32%: solar energy causes global warming”

    National random sample, 1,001 adults over 18; 90 questions: Designed to explore public’s evolving views on energy and climate change A case study showing why the traditional model of “informing the public” is flawed”

    full presentation here:
    http://www.publicagenda.org/files/powerpoint/AAAS_JJ_021910.ppt

    best,
    Alex

  16. Greg says:

    Joe,

    Stu Ostro over at the weather channel has just posted his synopsis of the winter weather pattern we just came out of. It may be helpful for all of us to explain to deniers. His descriptions of “high-latitude blocking” increasingly point to change in the long-term atmospheric pressure patterns.

    http://www.weather.com/outlook/weather-news/news/articles/winter-rewind-blog-relentless_2010-03-19

  17. mauri pelto says:

    Well put the recent winter has left many people, and I have heard from them, how important global warming can really be with such a winter. March may quickly put this in the past. I told my students on March 3, there is nowhere in the United States that will be cold in the next week. Like a broken record this statement has continued March 10 and March 17. The result has been what I believe will be a historic melt off rate for snowcover. On March 1 the National Weather Service National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center noted that 47.8% of the US had snowcover. By March 18 it is 17.9%. This is exceedingly rapid. The numbers for North American snow cover extent decline for March will I predict be eye popping. Oh, and I got stung by a bee yesteday, March in New England!

  18. mike roddy says:

    Chandra, #16, interesting post. I would support the idea myself, but unfortunately Americans won’t pay much attention to a case study in a very different environment. My suggestion is to get the brilliant scientists and engineers in Bangalore and Delhi together for your own Manhattan Project to reduce the cost of solar thermal.

    Key elements will be better microprocessors and controls, and lighter steel (90 ksi) with better geometries for the heliostats and supports.

    I’d like to see us address our own fundamentalists. Someone should go to a small town in Oklahoma, one of those that votes 90% Republican and has a big box church- but high unemployment and massive flight to the cities. Establish a program to retrofit their Ford 150′s with batteries, power their homes and offices with wind and solar, and teach them to love soy burgers. The person who even proposed it there might get murdered, but if something like that succeeds, people will really pay attention.

  19. “unfortunately Americans won’t pay much attention to a case study in a very different environment.”

    Mike, you raise a key issue. Do Joe and other CP readers also think so? That will be interesting to know.

    Speaking for myself, I pay attention to what’s happening around the world and yet, feel the need to focus our energies in transforming one region as a model for an ambitious carbon-negative development, with smart lifestyles, as people care for. I naturally believe that we, each one of us, inherit Earth as a Whole, as I debate on one of the blogs on Center for Climate Justice & Equity here: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=157191914123&topic=10852 .

    I believe that this is a tremendous design challenge. It’s not about component techlogies but it’s about the whole system design and at the heart, it’s about what Kenichi Ohmae calls the Human Factor, as he writes about Toyota’s philosophical failure : “What the company is missing is the human factor — a single person who has a comprehensive understanding of the details of the engine and how the parts interact and work as a whole.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/25/opinion/25iht-edohmae.html

    I do that b’coz I realise that this is Global Warming, not America or Chile or China or India Warming. Nationalistic fundamentalism is at the heart of the anti-science epidemic. It’s essentially a rejection of the national governance system.

    It’s not about climate science, anymore. What most people fear is the big, ugly governments with bigger tax claws lurking behind climate change legislation. They would like to see how an alternative development model offers smarter lifestyle options, that doesn’t bleed them with taxes and colossal frauds. – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/simon-johnson/senator-kaufman-fraud-sti_b_500146.html. No one accepts, nor do I believe in, carbon tax or any other tax under a fraudulent administration.

    I will be equally happy if there is a proposal to create such a model in America, that Joe and other progressive people staying in America, believe in.

    Can we fix, what’s broken?

    Regards,
    Chandra Vikash
    Bangalore