The Washington Post / ABC News 13 Dec 09 poll had both some gloomy and some bright news when it comes to Americans’ perspectives about climate change and how/whether we should act in response to them.
The Post/ABC poll and The Post’s 18 Dec 09 reporting of it in On environment, Obama and scientists take hit in poll merit attention and have been discussed.
One item that seems absent from reporting is certainly absent from The Post’s poll and discussion of it: causation and the Washington Post’s role in that causation. There has, according to this poll, been a notable drop in public understanding of climate change, a notable drop in confidence in scientists, and a weakening of public support for action to mitigate climate change (along with an massive increase in political polarization of the issue). According to Post reporting, this just seems to have happened … there is no causal agent, no one responsible for a shift in opinion that just seems to have occurred out of thin air.
Why, for example, would Washington Post subscribers be confused about climate change?
- Could George Will’s flagrantly deceptive (and often simply false) opinion pieces about climate change be a contributing factor to confusion? (Or course, Will is not the only regular Post columnist to deceive on energy / climate issues.)
- What about publishing truthiness-laden (and almost certainly ghost-written) Sarah Palin OPEDs that are contradicted by reporting within the very items that the Post’s editorial staff link to from Palin’s ghost-written text? (Palin is far from the only ‘guest’ WashPost OPED writer who misleads on energy / climate, such as here re urban heat islands.)
- Might the Post’s regular publication of flagrantly false information with, at best, bland and near-hidden corrections have an impact?
- Maybe misleading Post graphics contribute to confusion.
- Maybe the regular pattern of assuring self-proclaimed “skeptics” of quotes and comments in articles, asserting that climate change isn’t happening, could create an impression of a scientific debate where there really isn’t one.
- Perhaps publishing letters from staff at global warming denier institutions without identifying affiliations contributes to confusion or publishing faux-and-balanced letters section with a letter from a denier followed by a reality-based letter followed by a serial deceiver creates impression of less certainty than the scientific community actually has? And, publishing falsehood filled letters to be followed, later, by letters providing a corrective perspective (and, vice versa). (And, well, regularly publishing letters that are absolutely contradicted by the Post’s own reporting — even on the same day.)
- Etc … as the above are only a small sampling …
The Washington Post’s staff’s decisions of what to say in their articles and who to publish on the OPED pages represents a quite active role in presenting the climate denier and climate confuser position, which provides a rather stark statement as to where the Post falls when it comes to factual and truthful discussion of the science of Global Warming / climate change and the policy implications that might derive from it.
To report this poll in passive voice, ‘these changes have occurred’, without addressing causal factors (including, but far from solely, The Washington Post’s role) is to have left the story less than half-reported.
Now, as to the polling results …
In face of dedicated campaigns to confuse Americans and convince them there is a high cost (rather than the reality of benefit) to dealing with climate change:
- “nearly two-thirds of people surveyed say the federal government should regulate the release of greenhouse gases …”
- “majorities of Americans remain supportive of such regulations even if they increased monthly bills …”
Even so, with one indication that the massive disinformation efforts are working, “support for such regulation is down 10 percentage points from June”.
Other items as to the weakening understanding of climate change:
- Obama’s “approval rating on dealing with global warming has crumbled at home …” [Note: there is no indication of how much of this might be due to people seeing that the United States is not acting forcefully enough and wanting more serious action from Obama.]
- “also rising public doubt and growing political polarization about what scientists have to say on the environment …”
- “widespread perception that there is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether global warming is happening …”
- “Scientists themselves alos come in for more negative assessments in the poll, with four in 10 Americans now saying that they place little or no trust in what scientists have to say in the environment.”
- “more than six in 10 Americans see a lot of disagreement among scientists on the issue of global warming. That’s the view of nearly eight in 10 Republicans and about two-thirds of independents. A small majority of Democrats, 55 percent, see general agreement among the scientific community.”
The global disinformation effort on climate change, buoyed via selective (and deceptive) quoting from the stolen East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) emails (ClimateGATE / Swift Hack) is having its impact. And, this poll’s result reinforces the deepening partisan divide between Republicans and the scientific community.
The published graphic re the poll & climate change issues: Political Polarization on Environmental Science.