American skepticism of the dangers of climate change is on the rise, according to a recent Gallup poll. While most respondents agreed that scientists think global warming is happening, more than four in ten said they believe the dangers of this trend are exaggerated in the news. Gallup reports:
These sentiments are lower than the record 48% who believed this four years ago, but higher than any year before Barack Obama became president. […][P]ublic opinion has changed notably since Gallup first asked the question in 1997. Fewer Americans now say the seriousness of global warming is generally correct; at the same time, the percentage finding the threat generally exaggerated has increased, and since 2009 has consistently been at or above 40%, a mark it never reached in the years before.
Before we go any further, let’s get something out of the way. At the most basic level, climate scientists have a very solid grasp on a relatively simple set of facts: certain gases, carbon dioxide among them, “trap” the sun’s heat in our atmosphere, much like a greenhouse’s glass. Humans have been emitting these gases at very high rates of late, and that’s a problem, because it will lead to a warmer climate and a variety of new challenges to which life on earth will have to adapt, ourselves included.The devil is, as usual, in the details. Our climate models weren’t able to predict the recent plateau in warming over the past decade or so, a reflection of our incomplete understanding of the “fiddly bits” of Earth’s climate. The central problem here is the enormous complexity of the system we’re dealing with. Our planet is filled with many different feedback loops and relationships, some of which we understand, but many of which we remain ignorant of. Because of that, any prediction of what might happen when we ramp up one variable like carbon dioxide is going to have a significant margin of error.But the green movement has made a habit—and for some a living—of exaggerating the dangers of climate change to justify unworkable policies. In the past this probably produced some short-term payoff in terms of public support, but over time it has weakened the credibility of not just the environmental movement but the scientific understanding that these greens claim to be advancing. This recent Gallup poll reflects a damning fact for today’s greens: Climate alarmism tops “big oil” money as the leading cause of climate skepticism.