Gallup poll shows catastrophic failure of media, conservatives still easily duped by deniers, scientists & progressives still lousy at messaging, Obama could get a better climate bill in 2010

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"Gallup poll shows catastrophic failure of media, conservatives still easily duped by deniers, scientists & progressives still lousy at messaging, Obama could get a better climate bill in 2010"

So the NYT‘s Andy Revkin blogs on the new Gallup survey, “Gallup: Rising View That Climate Risk Exaggerated?” and asks “What’s your take on what’s going on?” What’s your take on why Gallup finds “a record-high 41%” of Americans now say the “seriousness of global warming” is exaggerated.

[Yes, let’s put aside the irony of that question coming from the reporter who famously wrote an article, “In Debate on Climate Change, Exaggeration Is a Common Pitfall” that charged Nobelist Al Gore — the man most associated in the public mind with the climate warning — with exaggeration (a false charge, as I proved here).]

Here’s my take. Objectively, in the last two years, the science makes painfully clear that climate risk has grown sharply, far beyond what 99% of people I talk to realize, even highly informed people:

That means if the public has come to the reverse view, it must be due to the messaging and the media and the misinformers. Let’s look at all three — and why this poll vindicates my analysis that Obama can get a better climate bill in 2010.

The vast majority of scientists are consistently bad at messaging, rarely, for instance, straying far from their narrow area of expertise and easily out-debated in public fora by deniers who are not bound by the facts or by bizarre notions that you can only talk about what you are specifially the world’s foremost expert on (see “Why scientists aren’t more persuasive, Part 1” and “Part 2: Why deniers out-debate “smart talkers”).

The climate science activists (CSAs) — environmentalists and progressives — have, with one notable exception, downplayed the threat of global warming and key impacts (like extreme weather) for about a decade now. Indeed, in the mid-1990s, a foundation-funded effort used dubious polling data to convince many CSAs that telling the public the truth about global warming turned them off from the subject. As a result many CSAs switched over to positive message about clean tech, green jobs, and new technology. The CSA message splintered.

The conservative deniers, of course, never stopped their single-minded disinformation campaign (exposing a fatal flaw in the kind of static polling data the CSAs were duped by). The deniers have been especially persistent in pushing the “recent global cooling” myth — with the complicity of the media (see “Media enable denier spin 1: A (sort of) cold January doesn’t mean climate stopped warming“).

And, as I’ve explained, like most communicators, they are especially persuasive to those who share their world view — other conservatives and conservative-leaning independents (see “Deniers are still mostly duping only GOP voters” and “The Deniers are winning, but only with the GOP” and “The deniers are winning, especially with the GOP“). That’s especially true because, again, the CSAs largely backed off a strong, consistent message on the risks and impacts (see “Why do the deniers try to shout down any talk of a link between climate change and extreme weather?“).

Look at the key chart from the Gallup poll:

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Republicans are as dupable as ever. Democrats are as undupable as ever. Duped independents are up sharply in the last year (after being unduped for the previous decade) — but I wonder if that’s in part because self identified Republicans have dropped sharply during that time, which has moved many former Republicans into the independent category, where they are as dupable as ever.

[Does someone have access to the internals of their recent polls to confirm this or not?]

In 2006 and 2007, we did have a strong warning, first from Al Gore and then from the IPCC, on climate science, which the media did pick up on, and no doubt contributed to the general lack of duping among Dems and Inds those years.

But after that we had a very hard denier push on the global cooling myth whereas the CSAs drifted into largely irrelevant messaging (see The “Reality Campaign” still doesn’t have a coherent message“) — once again thinking that the messaging war was over like some overconfident guy on the deck of a ship that proclaimed “Mission Accomplished.”

And of course the conservative denier columnists also kept pushing hard on the “global warming is exaggerated” meme, abetted by see-no-evil editors (see “The day DC journalism died: Washington Post is staffed with people who found ZERO mistakes in George Will’s error-filled denial column” and “John Tierney makes up stuff, just like George Will — does the New York Times also employ several know/do-nothing fact checkers?“).

On the other hand, other than perhaps Tom Friedman, no major national columnist regularly explains to the public the current scientific understanding of global warming and the catastrophe we are facing.

And of course many in the media figure they “did” catastrophic global warming in 2006 and 2007, so of course that ain’t news any more. And the media keeps downplaying or omitting the link between extreme weather occuring now and global warming (see CNN, ABC, WashPost, AP, blow Australian wildfire, drought, heatwave “Hell (and High Water) on Earth” story — never mention climate change and NBC News ignores climate change, blows the bark beetle story).

And of course the media tends to ignore climate impacts (i.e. the cost of inaction) when it discusses climate economics, while rarely failing to report the wild overestimations of the cost of action by conservatives and fossil fuel companies — thus again leaving the public with impression that the danger of global warming is being oversold (see Must-read study: How the press bungles its coverage of climate economics — “The media’s decision to play the stenographer role helped opponents of climate action stifle progress”).

What to do?

I doubt scientists and CSAs will suddenly improve their messaging — though I’m glad that some scientists at least are, very recently, becoming uncharacteristically blunt. And conservatives have doubled down on their self-destructive strategy of denial and disinformation (see “Hill conservatives reject all 3 climate strategies and embrace Rush Limbaugh — what does that radicalism mean for Obama, progressives, and humanity?“).

And the MSM remains, well, mainstream. They follow. They don’t lead.

Only one person can change this dynamic. So let me end with the discussion from my post, “The deniers are winning, especially with the GOP,” of a year ago — revised to take into account that one person.

BIG LIE

According to the United States Office of Strategic Services, Hitler’s strategy was based on the view:

people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.

In fact, Hitler himself defined the term “Big Lie,” in his autobiography Mein Kempf, as

a lie so “collosal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

I don’t think this useful term should be a banned from public use just because Hitler defined it first (sorry Real Climate). I certainly apologize to anybody who is upset by the analogy — I’m not trying to compare deniers with Nazis — there is no such comparison possible — nor does it apply to all of the people who advocate one of the 6 myths below. No, the “Big Lie” refers mostly to the strategy of the professional class of those who spread disinformation for a living.

I do think the term gets to a fundamental reason why global warming denial is so effective. The science has now become unequivocally clear that the health and well-being of billions of people (and most species) are at grave risk from continued unrestricted human emissions of greenhouse gases (see links above).

But who could possibly believe that so many credible-sounding people, including major public leaders in the conservative movement, would so strongly argue that

  1. The earth is not warming and/or
  2. Humans are not a major cause of whatever warming is occurring and/or
  3. The problem is not an urgent one because the impacts are distant and tolerable and/or
  4. The solution is painful if not impossible with existing technologies anyway and/or
  5. Adaptation is a better strategy than mitigation and/or
  6. It’s just too damn late!

It is hard to believe — indeed it is almost impossible to believe.

And it has proven almost impossible for the traditional media to deal with (see “Media enable denier spin 2: What if the MSM simply can’t cover humanity’s self-destruction?“)

When I last wrote on this I said “I don’t have any easy answers to offer in this post. Shaming the traditional media doesn’t seem to work because they are mostly shameless — indeed the vast majority of journalists wear it as a badge of honor that they are criticized equally by ‘both sides’.”

There is in fact only one answer. The Obama team must devote significant effort to undoing the disinformation and muzzling of the past eight years. No single institution drives more of the media coverage and framing of the major national issue than the White House and the executive branch experts on a subject. A 2007 report by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee concluded:

The Bush administration has engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming.

As I argued in Salon:

The goal of deferring the climate bill to 2010 is not merely to allow time to get China on board, but to undo the last eight years of disinformation and muzzling of scientists by the Bush administration. The American public — and media and cognoscenti — are not prepared for the scale of effort needed to preserve a livable climate. The Obama team needs to spend a considerable amount of time giving public speeches, holding informal meetings with key opinion makers, researching and publicizing major reports on the high cost of inaction and the relatively low cost of solutions. That simply can’t be done over the next few months, when the administration’s focus must be — and the media’s focus will be — on the grave economic crisis.

Failing that, we are stuck with the public roughly where the Gallup polling says.

And that means we are stuck with a too-weak climate bill in 2009 (see “Sen. Bingaman doubts “the votes are there this year to pass” a bill like Boxer-Lieberman-Warner“).

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27 Responses to Gallup poll shows catastrophic failure of media, conservatives still easily duped by deniers, scientists & progressives still lousy at messaging, Obama could get a better climate bill in 2010

  1. Ben Lieberman says:

    It’s time to turn the tables on the deniers and skeptics. The term denier in itself conveys almost nothing. Indeed the use of the term has the effect (probably often unintended) of making the whole “debate” seem bloodless and technical. Politicians and journalists who deny global warming are not merely deniers; they are enabling destruction. The challenge is to come up with a term that clearly applies to those reponsible for leading the denial campaign.

    I also think that the smear campaign of many years against Al Gore has had an effect. Conservatives have been trying to make global warming support part of identity politics. To combat global warming, we also have to find a way to decouple global warming from identity politics.

  2. jorleh says:

    This NYT paper is for sure one to be guilty to kill our species (and many more species too).

    Is NYT some anti-science champion?

  3. Ben Lieberman says:

    Environmentalists may have also erred in thinking that they had already won the public debate about the reality of human-caused global warming and then moved on to the discussion of solutions. Given the continuing campaign by supporters of global warming, environmental organizations cannot let up at all in continuing to make the basic reality clear even as they move to adance remedies.

  4. söve says:

    Conservatives have been trying to make global warming support part of identity politics.

  5. DB says:

    Hansen is in favor of ‘doing it right or not doing it’

    http://www.grist.org/news/2009/03/11/tax/index.html?source=twitter

    A cap-and-trade system, under which progressively stricter “polluting right” exchanged in a carbon market, is likely to be reinforced at U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen this December as the favored approach to slashing greenhouse gases.

    The system is already in practice in the European Union, and has been proposed by U.S. President Barack Obama for the United States.

    But Hansen is highly sceptical that it can work.

    “It takes about 10 years to negotiate it and get all the countries on board, and then you make all sort of compromises, so it turns to be very ineffectual,” he said.

    “If it’s going to be cap and trade, I’d rather nothing came out of Copenhagen. I’d rather take another year and two and get it right.”

    [JR: Unfortunately for Hansen, nobody in the Copenhagen process is interested in getting it “right” as he sees the policy solution — so delaying a year or two would accomplish nothing. He also seems to be making a strawman argument, since the U.S. is almost certainly going to have a cap and trade bill coincident with Copenhagen +/- 6 months. That said, I have argued we should wait a year internationally until the U.S. has a domestic bill and has had a chance to negotiate with China.]

  6. john says:

    I fear that this economic crisis will go on for years, sucking the wind out of other issues, including little things like saving the planet.

    What the Obama team has to do — and Obama himself has done this well, although not enough — is to integrate climate with the economic message. Americans must come to understand that economic recovery is impossible in a world dominated by climate change; and that recovery is enabled by the very things we must do to combat climate change.

    It’s simple. We can dedicate a steadily increasing share of our GDP to coping with the consequences of GW, or we can steadily increase our GDP by developing a clean technology base and avoiding those consequences.

    Schumpeter showed that historically, the vast majority of economic growth came from innovation and change, not from preserving locked in technologies.

    In short, the best way of dealing with the economic crisis is to green our way out of it.

    It took WWII to end the Great Depression; it will take a war on carbon of equal magnitude to end what is fast becoming a comparable economic crisis.

    In this context, deniers and delayers are closer to traitors and criminals than to the so-called opposition.

  7. Lewis says:

    Anyone who wants less government is likely to be a denier because even the most cursory understanding of the matter carries the inference of government intervention.

    It is simply a matter of choosing ideology and identity, as sove suggests, over facts. i.e. “Acceptance of AGW makes me a liberal tree-hugging sports hating hippy to cheap and lazy to earn a car to get himself to work.” or similar.

    The argument must shift to convince them that addressing the facts is the best course for their ideology. As mentioned on one of the blogs I poke my head into nothing invites government intervention like scarcity and crisis.

    The fight is an ideological one at this point.

  8. lgcarey says:

    Lewis is exactly right. The conservatives’ argument for “less government and more freedom” in this case is idiotic – they don’t recognize the real threat to freedom in the climate scenario. One of my greatest fears is that we let the situation go so late that really draconian government intervention will be necessary (if not welcomed). From my standpoint, the fight for CO2 reduction is as much about saving democracy as about saving the biosphere.

  9. paulm says:

    Very important point brought up here. Good post.

    Joe can you get this into the MSM…

    Its time to start using the courts here. Surly there is enough evidence now. We need to stop name calling and start charge irresponsible individuals and groups with criminal intent.

  10. Pete Best says:

    A year is 365 days and thats a lot of daily newspapers and media news to get through. Humans are not very strategic in nature come ordinary lives. What are we attempting to convince the public of anyway? This is a science and administration issue. They are elected to carry out strategy to make sure we the public are not in danger from pollution, or energy shortages etc. We are not able or capable to sort out the issue of AGW. If you are awaiting the public to wake up about AGW and start demonstrating for some action then that is just a bad system, bad government and a bad relationship between the two.

    Come 2100 (that 90 years away and all of us alive now will be deceased or senile) and its a lot of news days on the operational side of life, geez humans are tactical at best (2 years ahead). I mean come on it time for the Government to take action and incentivize the public and industry.

  11. paulm says:

    Bad news is now coming thick an fast …
    (see envo front page of guardian…)
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment

    Now if Stern go it so wrong then what do you expect of the others honorable leaders…
    Stern: I underestimated the dangers of global warming
    Economist says his 2006 groundbreaking report underestimated risk and accuses governments of not being ready for consequences of 6C temperature rise
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/mar/12/climate-change-scienceofclimatechange

    [pathetic bit here…paulm….]
    “Privately, many climate experts and officials say that the European target of limiting world temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels is no longer realistic.

  12. Wes Rolley says:

    I feel very powerless to influence the debate at the national level. Those lik Bill McKibben and Ted Glick who favor mass movement organization and highly publicized events seem to only involve the few who already agree with their views and methods… but nothing changes.

    Where I see real change happening comes from local communities. This is where I find the my own city government has a joint committee with the Chamber of Commerce to work through environmental questions; where the city government is sponsoring carbon diet clubs and the local (2x weekly) newspaper runs a periodic column called “green talk.”

    While we still need the focus on getting Washington to do the right thing, we also need organizational backing locally, creating our own change just in case the Senate would let Inhofe stage a filibuster for the benefit of the Koch Foundation.

    Wes Rolley: CoChair, EcoAction Committee, Green Party US.

  13. Two interesting research papers presented in Copenhagen today are

    “Why climate-change skepticism is so prevalent in the USA: the success of conservative think tanks in promoting skepticism via the media”

    “The effects of journalistic imbalance on scientific imbalance: special interests, scientific consensus and global climate disruption”

    =============
    S53.10
    Why climate-change skepticism is so prevalent in the USA: the success of conservative think tanks in promoting skepticism via the media

    Riley Dunlap

    Oklahoma State University, United States of America

    Not only has the USA been the major impediment to effective international policy-making on climate change, but multi-national public opinion polls reveal that Americans are less concerned about climate change than are citizens of other economically advanced nations. This “American exceptionalism” has been attributed to the fact that major media in the USA have been much more likely to portray climate-change as scientifically questionable than is the case for media in other Western nations—a point that has been documented in several studies. This presentation will discuss the role of the U.S. Conservative Movement,
    particularly leading conservative think tanks (CTTs), in promoting “climate skepticism” in mainstream media and thus influencing public opinion and policy-making on climate change in the USA. I will first document the multiple ways in which CTTs promote climate skepticism, highlighting their enthusiastic and efficacious sponsorship of the small number of climate skeptics in the scientific community. Then I will review evidence that illustrates the degree to which CTTs have managed over the past quarter century to gain access to American media in order to promote their overall views effectively and–in the process—have a major impact on the USA’s policy agenda. The overall goal of the presentation will be to shed light on why the USA has been an “outlier” relative to the rest of the developed world when it comes to climate change. I will end by suggesting that a new Administration that recognizes the need for climate-change policy, both at the national and international levels, will have a difficult time creating a consensus for effective policy-making due to the high degree of skepticism that has been implanted in American society.

    http://www.iop.org/EJ/article/1755-1315/6/53/532010/ees9_6_532010.pdf?request-id=a1f0d7e4-9c7c-408d-ba17-5cb1739bb4f9

    ==================
    Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions IOP Publishing
    IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 6 (2009) 532011 doi:10.1088/1755-1307/6/3/532011

    S53.11
    The effects of journalistic imbalance on scientific imbalance: special interests, scientific consensus and global climate disruption

    William Freudenburg

    University of California, Department of Environmental Studies, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

    It is now well-recognized that the supposed ‘skepticism’ toward the increasingly clear scientific consensus on global climate disruption was largely generated and kept alive by a small number of conservative think
    tanks, often with direct funding from industries having special interests in delaying or avoiding the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.
    At least in the U.S., however, it is still common to hear questions about whether emerging climate disruptions will be as severe as scientists currently expect. Such questions reflect a failure to understand the
    power of a phenomenon known as ‘the asymmetry of scientific challenge,’ or ASC. New findings and hypotheses pointing to the seriousness of anthropogenic climate disruption have been subjected to extensive
    criticism and scrutiny, while findings and hypothesis pointing in the opposite direction have received far less scrutiny.
    The net result of such a process, over time, can be a subtle but cumulatively significant ‘steering’ of consensus views — one that, ironically, is likely to operate in precisely the opposite direction from the one that has most often been suggested. Preliminary evidence suggests that the ASC phenomenon may well have been operating in the case of internationally accepted scientific estimates of global climate disruptions.
    Rather than being ‘too pessimistic,’ the consensus views expressed by organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change appear likely not to be pessimistic enough. In published work, the supposed ‘skepticism’ has been identified as an example of ‘Scientific Consensus’ Argumentation Methods — or SCAMs.

    http://www.iop.org/EJ/article/1755-1315/6/53/532011/ees9_6_532011.pdf?request-id=a15e093a-55fe-4e33-814f-63d9a4607da4

  14. Jonsi says:

    I agree with Lewis and others: we need to find a way to fit mitigation into the conservative ideology. A few years ago I fit into the “1% a year of GDP compounded over 50-100 years is a huge amount of money; it’s doubtful we can stop climate change, so it’s better to adapt and throw our money at other problems (Lomborg)” camp. How WRONG I was.

    Once I started reading about the economics and the opportunities that exist, I quickly flipped my script. I frame it like this: Doran et al. [EOS, 2009] found that 97% of active climate scientists and 90% of active Earth scientists believe in anthropogenic climate change, and that is poses risks to agriculture and water supplies. A consensus does not mean it is correct (to appease those who believe there is a debate or who argue a consensus doesn’t mean anything because it used to be a consensus that the sun went around the Earth, so a consensus means squat), of course there are things we do not understand, but given the motivations and talent of those working on this problem, there is a high probability it is happening and a high probability there will be costly consequences. Abatement strategies are low cost over the long term lifecycle. They create jobs, they make us more energy secure (and conserving coal and natural gas are actually long term national security strategies for our military and manufacturing bases who may require high density combustion sources of energy and heat), they increase work productivity, they result in a better living environment socially and in health, and for most industries, they will save money that goes straight to the bottom line of your business or your home after a generally quick return on investment. There are some up front costs, something that is difficult given the current credit crunch — but over a few years it comes out to be ~ 0.1% of GDP — meaning if your family makes 100k a year, it amounts to $100 annually. Regardless of climate change, we’ll need to invest in infrastructure anyway within a decade or two to combat diminished oil and coal reserves. For the cost of a pair of shoes, we know we can do it now and abate the risks that 95% of the experts in those fields calculate to have a high probability of happening, while taking advantage of what is going to be the greatest economic opportunity of the 21st century, leading the industries that can bring the remaining billions out of poverty.

    To me, that is a slam dunk case, at least one to be considered. Sadly, it is typically met with “who are you to legislate away my freedoms and to decide how I live my life?”

  15. john says:

    Wes:

    There may have been a time when we could tackle this issue one community at a time, but that time is long gone.

    We need massive and immediate change, without laggards and without exception.

    Anything else and we suffer the tragedy of small victories and the illusion of progress that engenders.

  16. You say:

    “And the MSM remains, well, mainstream. They follow. They don’t lead.”

    Yes. That is, I think, most of the problem.

    See http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1978

  17. MarkB says:

    Notice the decline in concern is mostly among conservatives (I would bet the change in Independents are among those with conservative leanings). I think much of that was “soft” concern – meaning that as long as Bush/Republicans were in office preventing meaningful action, many conservatives were willing to concede there was a problem. Now, with the horrid economic situation and clear shift in political leadership, many conservatives are more prone to disinformation on the issue. Also, a cold month or two in populated areas of the country may have some effect.

    The problem with the issue is that it’s seen as a political issue among passive observers. Al Gore supports the science. Inhofe and other Republicans don’t. People mistake this dissent with the view of the scientific community. This is why I think someone like Tom Brokaw (anyone see him on Letterman last night?) would be more convincing to the majority than Al Gore. Don’t get me wrong – Gore did a fine job with AIT, but 1/3 or more of the country has a strong hatred for him – perhaps because he won the majority of the vote in 2000 and the result of the Bush years was a complete disaster for our country. So as long as it’s framed as “Al Gore’s side”, there’s going to be major dissent and mistrust. The media really needs to step up to the plate and avoid the false balance presentation.

  18. Kenneth Piers says:

    I am afraid that we are going to do nothing about climate change that will be of any use whatsoever – for many reasons. We have a gassy fatbag on the airwaves with an audience of 20 million non-thinkers who constantly hear that climate change is a hoax. We have GOP congressmen and senators who know nothing of science going around saying climate change is a political conspiracy of the left. And admitting that it was a serious issue would require that we change our behavior. Denial is so much easier and convenient. Most climate scientists are far too cauatious in saying that the most recent findings of IPCC are both far too conservative and already out of date. And the rest of the scientists, other than perhaps a few of us who are mainly educators, are much too busy with their research specialties to get involved in a discussion outside of their specialty. Yesterday my dentist – a former student of mine and an intelligent man – asked me what I thought of climate change (I have been teaching about climate and other sustainability issues for many years). I told him that I thought that we were screwed and that the planet was likely to roast. He was very surprised and asked me why. After explaining the basics of the science and evidence of climate change he seemed shocked, saying that nothing he had read (which is mainly media reports and commentaries by the skeptics) suggested that the scientific climate community is about 99-1 convinced that climate chnage is an impending disaster. So even though we have very little time to come to any action that might be meaningful, I am fearful and quite convinced that we will just fritter away that time as well. Probably in fewer than 30 years the great human depopulation will begin.
    Ken Piers
    Grand Rapids, MI

  19. MichaelHauber says:

    There is an obvious connection between GISS temp trends for USA and the results of the Gallop poll. The previous peak in skepticism was 2004 which was also a cool year for USA.

  20. Gail says:

    My theory is somewhat falsified by the fact that people in other countries are more attuned to the real dangers of climate change, although, perhaps not.

    Granting that politicians, oil companies, and deniers funded by them, have done their unholy best to discredit the science of climate change, I think there may be an increase in people who disbelieve, even in the face of mounting evidence, simply BECAUSE of the mounting evidence. The predictions that are the most recent are so horrific, so monstrous, so soul-destroying to contemplate, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is leading more people to fiddle while Rome burns.

    Particularly in America, where there is in addition, enormous guilt in the picture. It’s more likely that someone who lives with a smaller carbon footprint would recognize and condemn reckless burning of fossil fuel than someone who can hardly imagine living a more modest and sustainable lifestyle having indulged in it for years.

  21. Roger says:

    O.K. Here it is. After two years of careful thought, I think I’ve figured out why we haven’t been able to react appropriately to this problem. You could simply say it’s a ‘black swan’ event–incomprehensible to most folks.

    Let me try to briefly explain. None of our ‘systems’ have evolved in such a way for us to ‘know’ how to deal with the problem. So, we struggle.

    Start with the human brain. As an infant, one has a sense of ‘now.’ As an adult, many of us have a longer sense of time scales, but these are good for no more than a few decades. So, when we’re told of some very dire consequences in 2100, it’s hard to relate. Add to this the fact that some people don’t care about 2100 because they won’t be around then, and they don’t care about those who will. Finally, in the brain compartment, you have the problem that human nature is not to learn by being told, but to learn by experience, hot stove-style–and that doesn’t bode well here!

    Moving on from the brain–one can think through the other ‘systems’ we have, and consider how well they’ve been ‘designed’ to deal with a problem as massive and as gradual as anthropogenic climate disruption.

    Think about our legal system. We’ve developed, from experience, laws that exclude from free speech the right to shout ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre. Why? Because we saw that people could get hurt in the panic that might ensue. Now, s-l-o-w d-o-w-n the clock from today’s so-called ‘internet time’ to something I’ll call ‘climate time.’ Then picture a U.S. senator operating a full-time climate change denial shop out of his office. Given the benefit of yet-to-be-seen experience, this would be made illegal very quickly. But we can only hope that the ghost of climate future might visit Oklahoma to help Scrooge understand his wicked ways.

    It grows late, and short comments rule, but I urge Joe, and fellow readers, to think through these other systems too (not that I’m against them in any general way): 1) Our economy, wherein, to a large degree, corporations tell customers, through advertising, what they want–with a view towards maximizing next quarter’s earnings (think GM); 2) Our government, wherein our elected officials, rather than lead, often look back to who it was that helped them get elected, or (especially in this case) what a naive, largely under-informed constituent seems to want. And so on, and on…

    What to do? I agree with Joe, having concluded a while ago that, given the magnitude and under-appreciated urgency of the problem, there is only one person who can get things turned around quickly enough to give us decent odds of avoiding a future climate catastrophe, namely Obama.

    Bottom line: President Obama should go on national, prime-time television to carefully explain, with the proper blend of motivating fear and soothing hope, that we must, as a nation, declare war on manmade climate disruption. His plan for how we can constructively deal with this problem, if done right, could unite us, while also stimulating the economy.

  22. Pangolin says:

    A massive portion of the US economy is simply wasted on advertising driven “consumer products.” Broadcast media has paid the rent every month from day one with advertisements for cars, travel, various petroleum products and generalized “shopping.”

    The mainstream media is dependent upon fossil fuel revenue to operate. Accurate reporting on Climate Change directly challenges their revenue stream. They simply can not point out the lies of the deniers. They are PAID to promote those lies.

    I feel that we are going to wait until events are deeply tragic before major Climate Change remediation becomes a priority on par with the US military budget. For most of us that means years of preparing, gathering tools, learning and distributing knowledge and prototyping methods.

    The Climate Change “Pearl Harbor” has yet to happen.

  23. Gail says:

    Pangolin, it has yet to happen unless you live in New Orleans, or southern Australia. Or Argentina, where 1.5 million cattle have starved to death this season from drought. Very, very soon it will happen everywhere, unfortunately.

    And it will be interesting to see what will ensue.

  24. papertiger says:

    Do you know how much the compressive uplift of the Loma Prieta earthquake raised the Santa Cruz mountain range on average?

    The coastal range which lifts straight out of the sea was created by earthquake. Subduction of the Pacific plate as it slips under the North American plate to be exact.
    As each earthquake rocks California the coastal range gets a little bit higher.
    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/states/historical_state.php#california
    There’s just a partial list of 20th century quakes.
    And you bunch of bozos are going on about millimeters of water by the end of 2100?
    Climb out of the clown car.

  25. vanderleun says:

    But they like the clown car and they fit in so well.

  26. peynir says:

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  27. wayne says:

    the truth is there is no intelligent info to support this other than this commie need to bring the one world Gov into effect, there is however one reason if the world begins to warm, why this could be, but it takes a little smarts other than the kind most of these folks have, the more people that believe this, the bigger hell will become , and the greater and hotter the fire will be….Global Warming