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As the previous post ‘What is the public opinion on climate change?‘ has been the most popular on the site so far, here is a follow-up, summarising some of the recent opinion polls on the subject, and some of the blog reactions to them. A little research shows that this frequently covered on the blogosphere, but it also appears to be perennially interesting to readers, so…

The most recent media comment, datestamped for this coming Sunday (go figure), comes courtesy of the New Statesman. The article is headlined ‘Climate Change; why we don’t believe it’. There is plenty to chew on in the article, which is recommended.

Meanwhile, Chris Huhne MP has his say in Financial News Online. It is, not surprisingly more political in orientation, but an object of interest none the less.

The most up-to-date of the major polls comes from World Public Opinion. This is a substantial piece of work, covering an international perspective, and is reasonably detailed. The ‘full report’ pdf is however disappointing, merely adding a country-by country breakdown to the overview shown here. Kudos should go to Anna Fahey, who picked up on this a couple of weeks ago and reported on it on Grist.

A report last October from the Sydney Morning Herald serves to illustrate the tendency of the ‘Man/Woman In The Street’ to be more willing to see climate change at work when changes in weather patterns are happening under his/her own nose, even though this is a false inference. It might suggest one of the more serious difficulties climate scientists will have to face in communicating their message, however.

The Globescan 30-country survey, published last April received some coverage at the time. It was a substantial piece of work, which seems to say what the majority of scientists (and possibly politicians) would like it to. Note the connections to the WPO, mentioned above.

Much less visible, but containing some interesting results, was a London-based MORI poll conducted back in December, which also contains political material. This one is regional, but has some quirky responses.

Larger in scope, that bastion of Capitalism, the Financial Times (actually, I’d argue that it is one of the most reliable media in terms of publishing the ‘facts’, and unduly influential in policy circles in relation to its circulation), got Harris to conduct a six-country European poll, which it reported on in November.

The Pew Centre conducted a poll back in July, also with political content. This has probably received coverage already in the USA. It also contains some useful results specific to US policy on climate.

Finally, just a couple of examples of blog reporting on climate change opinion polls, from RealClimate, Prometheus, and some pertinent thoughts by Roger Pielke Jr. at the same site.

There is no doubt that what the M/WITS thinks is very important, not just to politicians and their advisers, but also to climate scientists. A thorough analysis of these different polls is a large project, which I may undertake later. One, primary thought is that opinions are not obviously changing one way or another, but do show marked fluctuations. It is possible that these fluctuations can be correlated in time with major media output (especially film – I’m thinking AIT) and/or local/regional weather anomalies. In the meantime, you’ll have to make your own mind up about what, if anything, this combination of results can tell us about public opinion on climate change.

Postscript: courtesy of the Google Globalchange group, this has been brought to my attention. Different polls, different results; interpretation from the pwersonal POV of a climate scientist.


Two or three blogs this morning focus on an argument brewing about hurricanes. RealClimate gets involved (in spite of its own best efforts) in a comment thread following its latest comments on ocean warming; Prometheus points out their editing of his comment and places the charge of unfairness at the feet of Messrs. Mann and Schmidt, and Uncle Eli gets on the case, too, wondering if they are feeling the strain.

In the meantime, this modest blog has as its number one post ‘What is the public opinion on climate change?’. It has attracted the most attention, and is what I’ll be following up later.

First, though, a small connection. It may be that a substantial proportion of the public is bemused by the science and confused by the apparently dysfunctional ‘Climate Science’ family (perhaps we’ll see a fly-on-the-wall type media event soon…), who seem to spend their time in public showing off, arguing with one another, points scoring, or blowing off (Please note the ‘seem’ – this is public perception I’m suggesting here, not my own). Before I go on to the pressing issue of what the Man/Woman In The Street (MIT/WIT) thinks, I merely pause to wonder whether such a TV show would more resemble ‘The Osbournes’, ‘American Dad’, or ‘The Office’? Could be a hard call. Suggestions on a postcard…

More seriously, it might be worth reminding those scientists in the public gaze, whose words are taken and considered by others, to¬† think about a piece of advice popular with my (adorable) mother-in-law: ‘…pas devant les enfants…’

And then there’s the point about the ‘hurricane question’. This returns time and time again on the blogs. Sometimes, the interest is genuine. This is a field which has excited attention for some years, as Tropical Cyclones (TCs, the name for hurricanes and typhoons together), are amongst the most powerful of natural forces, and the most photogenic. Not only is there the culturally oriented sense of ‘superhuman force’ which is often a response to such events (‘awe’ of the original kind), but also there is the long cinematic tradition which has helped embed these events into our consciousness as agents of change and centres of human drama (from ‘the Wind’, through ‘Wizard of Oz’, to ‘Twister’ and ‘Superstorm’).

But I have a suspicion that part of the continuing persistence of the hurricane question, on the blogs, at least, is more suspect. This being an area of considerable uncertainty and disagreement, and a focal-point, since Katrina, of worry about climate change impacts, it is an easy step for a ‘disinformationist’ to gain points at the expense of the ‘other side’, simply by throwing the question into the mix at any opportunity. The resultant disagreement, contradictory information and general ‘upmanship’ which generally proceeds from such moments is likely¬† to play into the hands of those who want the public to be confused, and who want us to be suspicious of both scientists and the quasi-mystical ‘scientific process’ which they ostensively champion as the source of ‘truth’ about our uncertain futures.

Does this add up? Does it even make sense? Perhaps it is something for science bloggers to consider.

Be loved.


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April 2007