Global Warming Skeptics Gaining Ground

An iceberg shown in North Bay, Rothera Point, Adelaide Island, Antarctica.  Credit: AFP/Pete Bucktrout.
An iceberg shown in North Bay, Rothera Point, Adelaide Island, Antarctica. Credit: AFP/Pete Bucktrout.

(   Several recent studies have indicated that those who believe global warming is not caused primarily by human activity – often labeled “skeptics” – are gaining ground in convincing the public that global warming fears are not as significant as some claim.  Although many in the scientific community maintain global warming is caused primarily by human activity, a small but growing group of climatologists and other scientists are gaining traction in convincing the public that the debate is not as settled as Al Gore and other global warming alarmists would have them believe.

Recent Polling:  Gallup

A recent Gallup poll illustrates the trend well.  While a majority of Americans still believe global warming is a serious concern, a record-high 41% now say it the seriousness of global warming is exaggerated.  This represents the highest level of public skepticism of the mainstream reporting about global warming in more than a decade of Gallup polling on the subject.

A record-high 41% of Amiercans now say that the mainstream claims regarding Global Warming are exaggerated.  Credit:  GALLUP
A record-high 41% of Amiercans now say that the mainstream claims regarding Global Warming are exaggerated. Source: GALLUP

The most recent peak in skepticism came around 2004.   The most recent peak of agreement with the mainstream portrayal of the seriousness of global warming corresponded with the 2006 release of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.  But the impact of that film appears to have waned while the influence of those expressing doubt about the seriousness of the threat has increased.  The percentage of Americans who now say the media portrayal of the seriousness of global warming is correct or underestimated is actually lower than it was prior to the release of Al Gore’s film.

While Republicans remain the largest proportion of global warming skeptics, the poll indicates that the percentage of Americans who state that news of global warming is exaggerated has increased in all segments of the political spectrum.  The largest increase in party affiliates stating news of global warming is exaggerated came from Independents.  The number of Independents who say the reported seriousness of global warming is exaggerated increased more than 50% in just two years, from 28% in 2007 to 44%just two years later.

While Republicans remain the most skeptical political group regarding claims surrounding global warming, the skepticism of Democrats has also increased in recent years.
While Republicans remain the most skeptical political group regarding claims surrounding global warming, the skepticism of Democrats and Independents has also increased in recent years. Source: GALLUP

The number of Americans who thought global warming is already affecting the planet has also fallen, from 61% in March last year to 53% this year.  And a record high 16% of Americans told Gallup pollsters that they believe the effects of global warming “will never occur.”

The poll results suggest “that the global warming message may have lost some footing with Americans,” Gallup analyst Lydia Saad said.

“Americans generally believe global warming is real … (but) most Americans do not view the issue in the same dire terms as the many prominent leaders advancing global warming as an issue,” she said.

The Gallup poll was conducted March 5-8, 2009 via telephone interviews with 1,012 national adults, aged 18 or older.  For the full results of the poll and the survey methods, see the Gallup Poll:  “Increased Number Think Global Warming is “Exaggerated“.

Rasmussen Reports

Another recent poll supports the Gallup conclusions that the American public is growing wary of global warming fears.  The Rasmussen poll indicates that a majority of U.S. voters – 54% – say the news media make global warming appear worse than it really is. Only 21% say the media present an accurate picture.

Common to the Gallup poll concerning the reporting of global warming concerns, Rasmussen found Republicans are more critical than Democrats.

Seventy-nine percent of GOP voters say the media paints a darker picture of global warming that the reality merits, and 63% of voters not affiliated with either party agree. Democrats, however, are much more closely divided: 27% say the media make it look worse than it is, 22% better, and 34% say the media present an accurate picture.

While Al Gore is often touted as the fact of the global warming movement, only 36% of voters believe he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the environment and global warming.

Voters appear to be shying away from the idea promoted by Gore and others that human activity is the cause of global warming and are viewing it instead more as the result of long-term natural planetary trends.

An earlier Rasmussen Reports poll indicated similar erosion of the global warming alarmist viewpoint.  In the January poll, 44% of U.S. voters said long-term planetary trends are the cause of global warming, compared to 41% who blame it on human activity.

Political Climate

While skeptics appear to be gaining ground in public opinion, they appear to be losing any foothold they may have once had in Washington.  With the Obama administration pledging to fight global warming with greater funding and manpower than any previous administration, the upcoming year may be a difficult one for skeptics.

The National Academy of Sciences and many major scientific bodies believe that global warming is caused primarily by human activity – particularly, carbon emissions.  However, the current economic climate may force the global warming issue to the back burner.  As is often the case, both public opinion and legislators’ attention to environmental issues declines when more pressing issues take center stage.  The same occurred during the Cold War in the 1980s, the period following 9/11, and more recently, the financial system meltdown.

Still, the alarmist movement is strong.  Already, House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) has lost his gavel, in part because he was perceived as weak on tackling the issue of global warming.

As reported recently by the Politico, while the Obama administration pledges more aggressive action to combat what it sees as the primary cause of global warming – human activity – a growing lobby of scientists who doubt that focus may gain enough strength to at least delay any significant action by the Obama administration.  The Obama administration’s primary focus is on cap-and-trade legislation – the very type of legislation that may be less favored in rough economic times, as the legislation could impose significant increased costs to businesses which are attempting to regain footing in the midst of a recession.


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