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"Why Don't Americans Believe in Global Warming?" - Sierra Daily
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Sierra Daily

Feb 11, 2011

"Why Don't Americans Believe in Global Warming?"

So good of The Economist to chime in--in its own blunt British manner--to our ongoing discussion of the psychological mechanisms at work in climate-change denial. To review, it shouldn't be hard to make the case that the earth is warming. Climatologists are virtually unanimous on the subject, and people all over the country are experiencing exactly the kind of extreme weather events predicted in climate-change models. Yet according to a recent Rasmussen poll, 38 percent of Americans remain unconcerned about the issue. Among those who concede that global warming might be happening, a larger percentage (44) think it is due to "planetary trends" than those who (correctly!) believe it to be due to human influence (40).

Wazzup with that?Economist columnist "E.G." lays out the possible explanations:

Psychological: The consequences of climate change are too awful to contemplate. Therefore, we're denying the issue, as we used to deny monsters in the room by hiding under the blanket. If you don't look at it, it can't look at you.

Economic: The costs of a large-scale effort to fight global warming are too steep to bear. Therefore, we're trying to ignore the issue, or pretending it doesn't exist, or we believe that the economy (including development) is more important.

Political: The fact that Democrats are always hammering on about climate change and Republicans aren't suggests that this is a political issue, not a scientific one. This creates a feedback loop: if climate change were real, why is it so polarising? Because it's so polarising, it must be slightly suspicious.

Epistemological: Why should we believe in climate change? Where's the evidence? All we know is what scientists say, and scientists are sometimes wrong. And don't even get me started on Al Gore.

Metaphysical: God isn't going to let millions of people die in an epic drought.

Ouch. The author concludes, however, that the most likely path forward is building support for renewable energy, which happily "doesn't have the political or epistemological baggage of climate change." While the Rasmussen poll shows only 58 percent of the populace believing in global warming, 66 percent think that renewable energy is the way to go.

--Paul Rauber

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