It’s not easy being green these days, especially if you’re a die-hard doomsayer of the global warming persuasion. Arctic ice has made a comeback, advancing so rapidly that the previous decade saw less ice at this time of the year than exists today. And previously balmy Arctic temperatures just nose-dived, according to the Danish Meteorological Institute, which has tracked Arctic temperatures since 1958.
Alarmists shudder when looking south, too, at the stats from Antarctica. There the sea ice extent started growing early this year, and the ice cover remains stubbornly above average. All told, the global sea ice — including both polar caps — now exceeds the average recorded since 1979, when satellites began their measurements.
Disasters are another disaster for the doomsayers, as documented in an October article by University of Colorado-Boulder Prof. Robert Pielke Jr., one of the world’s foremost experts in disasters and climate change. “Flooding has not increased over the past century, nor have landfalling hurricanes,” he reported. “Remarkably, the U.S. is currently experiencing the longest-ever recorded period with no strikes of a Category 3 or stronger hurricane.”
Pielke went on to note that the U.S. has seen a decline in drought over the past century, and that “Over the past six decades, tornado damage has declined after accounting for development that has put more property into harm’s way.” Similar conclusions apply to typhoons in China, bushfires in Australia, and windstorms in Europe. High-profile weather events have always and will always be with us; they just haven’t been as fateful of late. Moreover, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier last year agreed that long-term climate change can’t be blamed for damage from extreme events.
The Holy Grail of proof to most doomsayers, of course, is the temperature, which global warming models insisted would rise in lock-step with increases in carbon dioxide. When the temperatures started to plateau in the late 1990s, doomsayers scoffed at the skeptics who noted that the models failed, taking comfort from the global warming leadership who explained every which way that the skeptics were torturing the statistics to falsely show warming had stopped. Now the leadership itself — the U.K.’s Met Office, NASA’s Jim Hansen, and the IPCC’s Rajendra Pachauri — all admit to temperatures having reached a standstill for the better part of two decades. The lowly global warming believer is left with little but the promises from their leaders that, sooner or later, those temperatures will rise again.
In perhaps the cruelest blow of all, the believers learned just this week — in a study released by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at Barack Obama’s University of Chicago no less — that the skeptics haven’t been marginalized as science-denying ignoramuses all these years. To the contrary, unbeknownst to the doomsayers, they themselves have been on the margins of society in their belief that the global warming threat to the planet is the most consequential issue of our times, if not all times.
As documented in painful detail in Public Attitudes towards Climate Change & Other Environmental Issues across Time and Countries, 1993-2010, a 17-year study of attitudes conducted by the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) in 33 countries, most people in all countries rank global warming way down their list of concerns. In Norway, just 4% considered global warming to be the country’s most important issue — and Norwegians were the most concerned of all of the citizens studied. In Canada, also high up the list, the figure was just 3%; in Great Britain less than 1% and in the U.S. the concern and was less than one half of 1%.
Not surprisingly, in most countries few people even consider global warming — whether or not caused by man — to rise to the level of being extremely dangerous: In Norway, a mere 11.8% of the population fear it, in Great Britain 16.3%, in the U.S. 19.6%. Even in relatively alarmist Canada the great majority take global warming in stride — only 27.8% see it as doom-worthy.
The ISSP — founded in 1984 by NORC at University of Chicago, the National Centre for Social Research in Great Britain, GESIS in Germany, and the Australian National University — is as authoritative as it gets. According to Tom W. Smith, director of NORC’s General Social Survey and author of a paper that summarizes the surveys, the ISSP conducts “the first and only surveys that put long-term attitudes toward environmental issues in general and global climate change in particular in an international perspective.”
Smith does have some good news for the die-hard doomsayers, sort of. Their numbers, albeit small, haven’t changed much over all the years. As for the rest of us, we will need to accept that, as with the poor, the doomsayers will always be among us.
Lawrence Solomon is executive director of [external] Energy Probe
For the 17-year 33-country survey, click [external] here