There has been a lot of discussion recently on some climate related sites, such as Rabett Run and Only in it for the Gold on the questions of framing and the Overton window. This is about how science, politics and the media ‘place’ discussions about climate change, global warming, emissions policy, and the like.
I’m not going to argue about the main idea here, but I was concerned about some of the assumptions made about what the public perception of climate change actually is. There appears to be an underlying assumption that the ‘frame’ of debate within which public awareness is constructed is definable as a subset of the range of views on climate change. My intuition, based on personal experience on the Netweather.tv website, one of my favoured fora, is that the range of public opinion is much greater than the ‘framing’ concept allows for.
So, to find out what the ‘public’ thinks, I have started a survey at Netweather. How legitimate is this as a measure of public opinion? Well, the members of the forum are a broad cross section of people, in terms of age, gender, and education. There is a bias towards male rather than female representation, and a bias towards the UK, (though there are a substantial number of international members). The biggest common feature is a very British interest in the weather. Much of the forum is taken up with discussions of weather conditions and forecasting, in particular, the output of weather models. Some common fixations appear; a love of cold weather and snow, an interest in hurricanes, interest in weather extremes, thunderstorms, data.In an attempt to represent the full range of views, I have tried to offer options across the range of opinions about climate change. No doubt the questions might be better phrased or more representative, but it was the best I could do.
Here is the range of questions in the opinion poll:
What is your opinion about climate change?
1= There is no warming; its a fabrication based on inaccurate measurement. It is arrogant to presume that we can have any effect on Nature.
2 = The recent warming is entirely natural. CO2 has nothing to do with it. It could well be the Sun.
3 = There may be some changes in the atmosphere, but the changes are all within natural limits. The ‘scares’ are exaggerations with a political motive.
4 = It’s so confusing I can’t make my mind up; it is getting warmer but I don’t know why. All of the arguments sound convincing & I can’t decide who to trust.
5= There is warming and CO2 may cause some of it, but the science is too uncertain to be sure. The IPCC probably underestimates some of the natural forcings and overestimates the role of CO2.
6 = The mainstream scientific view, as per the IPCC, has got it more or less right. I accept that the scientists probably know what they are doing and we are warming the planet.
7 = The IPCC is compromised by political intervention; I agree with the scientists who say that it is underestimating the problem and something needs to be done about it soon.
8=Too much of the science is conservative in its findings; I think it’s probably worse than they are saying.
9 = If we don’t do something about emissions in the next few years, we are in real trouble. Action is needed now to mitigate the threat of serious warming and other impacts.
10 = We are on the edge of a disaster, which we may not be able to prevent. We are messing up the earth’s natural systems and will pay the price in some ways even if we act now.
If I have done it right, this should link directly to the relevant page on Netweather. Hopefully, you will be able to see the live poll. If you want to have a vote, you’ll have to join the forum. Or you can express your opinion here.
It will be interesting to see the results.