Thursday, January 7, 2016

Only 8% of Americans think climate change is "natural" but you wouldn't know it from the WUWT headline!**

Sou | 9:00 PM Go to the first of 10 comments. Add a comment
Science deniers at WUWT are complaining that a lot of Americans know more about climate change than WUWT conspiracy theorists know. It turns out that a lot of Americans still don't know much of anything at all about climate change, but the majority do know something. That's according to a poll reported by WUWT (and probably some other climate conspiracy blogs), as well as various media outlets. The poll was conducted by Monmouth University. Anthony Watts has a guest article by David Middleton. The headline reads:
Poll: 73% of Americans reject so-called AGW consensus (but you wouldn’t know it from the headline)
Now what that shows is that David Middleton, unusually for a science denier, understands that since around the middle of last century, the scientific consensus is that probably all the warming we've had is because of human activity.  What has shocked him is that the media reports it differently. He's appalled at a headline that reads:

Poll: 70 percent believe in climate change

So am I, but for different reasons. From where I sit (in Australia) it should read: "Poll: 70 per cent believe in climate change" or better yet: "61% in the USA know that humans are contributing to climate change".

David wants people to read the results differently. He would prefer that the headline showed that 22% don't think climate change is happening and 8% don't know whether it is or not.

No, that's not quite it.

What he wants people to understand is that only 27% of respondents know that humans are primarily responsible for climate change. (He pushed the point that the scientific consensus is with the 27%, which might explain the "thoughts". )

There are a lot of Americans (34% judging by the responses) who think that climate change is about half and half from human activity and natural causes. Add that to the 27% and you get 61% who think that humans have caused at least half the warming or more. That's not too bad, given we're talking about America, where people suffer disinformation from Fox News and denier politicians. It's not good either.

Where David fails is that he promotes the disinformation that only a "marginal" scientific consensus on that fact. If you call something between a 90% and 99% consensus marginal, then he'd be right. But you don't do you. You'd call that an overwhelming consensus, which is quite unusual in science. David doesn't "believe" that the consensus is anything like it is. He thinks that only just over half of climate scientists know that humans are causing global warming. He's not too bright and, if you couldn't tell already, he doesn't accept facts, preferring skewed disinformation from denier blogs.

What the poll found

Q. Do you think that the world’s climate is undergoing a change that is causing more extreme weather patterns and the rise of sea levels, or is this not happening?

Would you believe that 30% of Americans still don't know that the climate is changing? That seems like a lot.

Q. Would you say this is a very serious, somewhat serious, or not too serious problem?

Sixty per cent of respondents view climate change as being very or somewhat serious, while 22% don't even know that it's happening.

63% of Republicans are ignorant about climate change - they either don't think it's too serious, or don't even know that it's happening. Democrats are more informed on the subject, although 15% are in the same boat.

Q. Is climate change caused more by human activity, more by natural changes in the environment, or by both equally?

This is what David wants people to understand, that only 27% of Americans know that we're responsible for all the global warming since the middle of last century.

Strictly speaking I don't know that we've caused all the climate change. At the local level climate changes anyway over time. What we're responsible for is the climate change from global warming. We've caused all the warming of the past 65 years, and some of the warming since we started changing the land use - many centuries ago.

Now what David doesn't highlight, but I will, because it's the reason for my snarky headline, is that of the people who understand that climate change is real, 8% think "it's natural", while 61% know that we are at least partly responsible.

You can read the full report here. You won't be surprised that it's split along party lines, with Republican voters being most ignorant about climate change. Nor will you be surprised that the older one gets, the less likely it is that one knows about climate change. Nor will you be surprised to know that higher education gives a person an edge when it comes to knowing about climate. Still, by far the biggest signal that you may be a science denier is your voting preference. The other differences pale into insignificance when it comes to political allegiance. (There was no reporting by sex, though from other surveys, men are more likely to be ignorant about the subject than are women.)

From the WUWT comments

The "thoughts" gave interesting insights into the mind of science deniers. Almost no-one accepted any part of "human activity causes climate change". This is no surprise. A survey that Anthony himself took indicated that only 1.6% of WUWT readers accept climate science. Anthony can complain all he likes that he's "only a little bit pregnant", but his blog is for conspiracy theorists and science deniers of the extreme end of the spectrum. The commenters came up with all sorts of reasons to dispute the findings of the poll, mostly to reject the results. Some were cutely inconsistent (eg the 'overeducated and dumb' comment). Anyway, here are some of the "thoughts" in the form of 22 excuses why deniers don't have to "believe" the poll, including multiple reasons for rejecting the results outright:
  1. Wrong questions / questions were poorly worded. (here and here and here and here and here)
  2. The questions were rigged. (eg here and here)
  3. All polls are skewed (eg here)
  4. People answered dishonestly (eg here)
  5. They should have polled [something different] instead. (eg here)
  6. This is bad research [usually without a "because"] (eg here)
  7. Most respondents/Americans are stupid (eg here)
  8. The public will change their mind on a whim (eg here)
  9. Children are over-educated and dumb (eg here)
  10. College education is poor / people are under-educated (eg here)
  11. Climate change is untrue propaganda and "psych-ops" (eg here)
  12. Climate scientists "don't know nuffin'" (eg here)
  13. Most Americans are dumb / brainwashed (eg here)
  14. Climate change is political.
  15. Mainstream media /press is full of lies. (eg here and here and here)
  16. There's no scientific consensus or if there is it's meaningless (eg here and here and here and here and here and here)
  17. CAGW isn't real. It is a conspiracy - variously for world domination, vested interests and other miscellaneous conspiracies and the rest. (eg here and here)
  18. Global warming isn't happening. (eg here and here)
  19. Everyone knows that climate changes, but it's not our doing (eg here)
  20. Fraud (eg here)
  21. Religion (eg here)
  22. Obama (eg here)

Here are a few more "thoughts" on or off the subject:

Taphonomic asks a good question: 
January 6, 2016 at 10:30 am
This makes me wonder what the poll results would have been if these questions asked about “global warming” instead of “climate change”.

marlene calls the Republicans "schemers" - the ones who told George Bush to replace "global warming" with "climate change". (In fact, global warming causes the climates to change.)
January 6, 2016 at 10:32 am
Climate change is not global warming – that’s why the schemers changed the name.

kokoda has a different view. He mistakenly thinks the world isn't warming:
January 6, 2016 at 11:17 am
Climate Change = Global Warming; it is only people like you that fall into the alarmist trap of not understanding that simplicity. They shoved Global Warming down our throats for a long time, but the temps didn’t follow the hyperbole of a boiling earth AND they knew the PDO was going to flip AND they knew the AMO was going to flip AND they knew about the low sunspot cycle. 

Data source: GISS NASA

While Bryan A decides that global warming is human-caused and climate change is "natural":
January 6, 2016 at 12:20 pm
Not quite correct KOKO. Climate Change equating Global Warming is only in the political hype. Global Warming is supposedly Human Induced (though some human aspects certainly exist like Heat Island from urbanization) and Climate Change is what happens naturally as the Climate is never stable

Greg Cavanagh is another one who thinks global warming has stopped. He also doesn't know that it was Republicans who didn't want to use the words "global warming". Deniers are an ignorant bunch all round:
January 6, 2016 at 6:56 pm
No Bryan A, Climate Change is the replacement wording for Global Warming when warming failed to happen. You’re going by what you think it means, but Kokoda is correct, he has stated what it really means.

Alx decides that George Bush and his fellow Republican adviser Frank Lutz are in equal parts crooks and fools:
January 6, 2016 at 2:31 pm
Yes I agree, the obfuscation of Global Warming and Climate Change was purposefully political.
“Schemers” is probably an accurate description, I might expand to say schemers made up in equal parts crooks and fools. 

Hugs "believes in" weather and doesn't "believe in" global warming. Such faith.
January 6, 2016 at 10:49 am
I believe in weather. I don’t believe in catastrophical anthropogenic global warming.
Wrong questions asked as usual.

co2isnotevil "believes in" political bias:
January 6, 2016 at 10:54 am
Whenever I run across someone who believes in CAGW, it doesn’t take long before they are either convinced they are wrong, or are consumed by reasonable doubt. The only ones who fail to see reason are those with a strong political bias which is the main reason why climate science is so incredibly wrong in the first place and unfortunately, many climate scientists fall into this category. 

Bartleby should really like the Cook13 study, which examined scientific abstracts (as well as asking scientists what their papers said)
January 6, 2016 at 1:17 pm
David I’d like to point out something very important IMO that has been created out of whole cloth by eco-terrorists an shouldn’t be promulgated; the idea that a scientific consensus can be determined by polling scientists for their position on some issue (“Crest gives you whiter teeth”).
Scientific consensus is is formed by repeated experiments. A scientist presents a hypothesis (“human released CO2 raises the Average Global Temperature”) and proceeds with an experiment that both disproves the null hypothesis (“natural variation causes a rise in AGT”) and supports the hypothesis advanced. When that experiment is determined valid and repeated by other scientists, a scientific consensus is formed.
Scientific consensus is not a popularity contest and it isn’t a democracy. I think it’s importat to get that message out.

**PS Do I really need to explain that the headline is merely mocking WUWT's headline? I'm certainly not claiming that 92% of people in the USA understand or accept the fact of global warming and climate change. 


  1. That comment by co2isnotevil is a corker. Firstly he is able to convert anyone who believes in science to the denier standpoint. And then sometimes he isn't but its down to 'political bias' on their part. The idea that he is unable to put together a rational argument because he is wrong, that the political bias is his, never enters his head.

    And I like his handle. Gases are not evil. The evil comes in the form of pollutocrats.

    1. CO2isnorevil is George White- another layperson Dunning-Krugerite who believes he knows better than all the scientists.

      His website:


  2. The pause-that-wasn't certainly stands out on that 30-year GISTEMP plot. I wish more researchers had paid more attention to the statistical insignificance of shorter-term trends within that period instead of feeling pressured to come up with a range of ad hoc hypotheses for the apparent hiatus from 1998 to ~2013. Note that discovering new and unexpected forcing/cooling effects or deep ocean circulation systems is entirely part of the scientific process... serially suggesting that each might be the explanation for a statistically-insignificant trend isn't.

    If I knew for a fact that everything I publicly spoke or wrote about a topic would be screened by hostile and unethical readers looking to misquote or misrepresent me, I would be exceptionally careful about my phrasing.

  3. Evolution Science had the same problem last century, no successful/coherent explanation could be given for the similarity of fossils in south America and Africa (apart from "design")

    1 - nill to the anti-evolutionist

    The answer to the problem was Plate Tectonic / Continental drift theory

    so beautifully simple when you see it!!!!

  4. Including a "50-50" choice as a survey response attracts some people because it superficially sounds reasonable, though it corresponds to none of the science or to the anti-science either for that matter. On our own surveys I've preferred a simpler choice of climate change happening now, caused mainly by human activities; climate change happening now, caused mainly by natural forces; or climate change is not happening now. National surveys get consistent results around 54% now/human (agreement with the scientific consensus), though I think that is gradually rising. On our New Hampshire time series it's recently (summer & fall 2015) been up to 60%. See Fig 1 & 2 here for earlier US & NH results (not paywalled):

  5. It is all very simple really. The misinformers posing as sceptics know quite well that the general population of any western democracy quite happily vote against their own best interests by voting for conservative governments that then sell off the common assets to their mates at bargain basement prices. This is achieved by a constant barrage of biased reporting in the MSM. This is why the BBC and ABC are constantly wrongly called biased. These same voters cannot see they then pay ad infinitum for access to their previously owned assets.

    Destroying the quality of public education is an important factor as this makes most people ill equipped to critically examine the reality of what is the truth.

    It is not about reality folks, just lie and lie repeatedly until the information poor majority think it is the truth.

    Then just call all the educated and informed people 'elitists' with a hidden agenda and this will inoculate the majority of the ignorant masses to evidence and logical argument.

    For this to work a majority is only a bit more than 50%.

    This is why scientific consensus is repeatedly called crap and any survey of 'ordinary' people that goes against the meme being pushed by these liars is misrepresented and distorted.

    A psychopath will not be embarrassed by calling him/her out on his/her hypocrisy and out and out lies but will simply double up with even more outlandish claims.

    My parents taught me when I was quite young that it is up to all of us to learn as much as possible about our universe as our survival depends on it. They also taught me that knowing how to do all the basics such as cooking and cleaning was also very important.

  6. I guess the 22% who say climate change is not occurring could include all the "pause"-believers, since the question is in the present tense.

    One wonders what Watts would say? His blog is so full of mutually contradictory positions on the subject.

  7. over-educated and dumb

    That is perfectly possible. The best known example would be US presidential candidate Ben Carson. I have met several people with PhDs who are terribly stupid and very wise people who only went to elementary school.

    1. "Over-educated" is a saying, but usually in reference to something - like a PhD is over-educated for a tram driver. A bit like "too clever by half".

      It would be hard to be over-educated for life, though, or in general, except in the Peter Principle sense I suppose. There are a lot of not very bright PhDs around, but they are highly educated despite being "terribly stupid" rather than over-educated :D.

      The main reason I included it was as a contrast to the other comment that the survey results were because people are under-educated :)

    2. :) I already feared you would make that argument.

      Consistency is not strong point of the non-consensus at WUWT.


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