In a year when the number of tornadoes registered up to the end of June – approximately 1,600 – is already at a record level, 48 percent of Americans believe that the threat of climate change is exaggerated. At a time when eight of the top 10 worst disasters of 2010 (in terms of victims affected) were due to weather-related factors and the scientific consensus on man-made global warming is at 97% and growing, Americans are split on whether climate change is the result of human activities or non-human natural causes. U.S. public opinion on climate change has become increasingly polarized, as partisan think tanks, narrowcast media, chat rooms, divisive politicians and frustrated scientists have framed the discussion to recast an originally scientific topic into a political wedge issue.
Facts and education no longer seem to matter. Early environmental researchers found that level of education was the most consistent predictor of citizen concern over climate change. However, a study published in 2010 found something startling: concern about climate change increased with level of education among Democrats, but decreased with education among Republicans. That’s right: the higher the education level of Democrats, the more they believe in global warming, and the higher the education level of Republicans, the less they believe in it. This tells us that data, research and problem-solving are taking take a back seat to ideology, sentiment and politics. In other words, this divide has less to do with science and more to do with emotions and values. There is a great sense of disdain and suspicion right now for the liberal scientific elite in a significant portion of the U.S. population, and I’m afraid the feeling is often mutual. More >>>