July 05, 2006

What Global Warming Consensus?

So how pervasive is the conventional wisdom that there is no consensus on whether humans are implicated in causing global warming (and thus necessitating doing something about it)?

Monday, I caught a segment on Talk of the Nation where Neil Conan was interviewing Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology at Harvard. Gilbert had written an op-ed in the Sunday LA Times about how one of the problems that humans had with actually dealing with global warming was it didn't have some of the characteristics that made it "real" to people (like it is caused by other humans thus deserves our attention). Clearly, that is one of the problems, but a much bigger problem is the propaganda campaign that has actively downplayed the reality of global warming. This exchange between Neil Conan and his guest, Daniel Gilbert, was a perfect example of the problem.

Gilbert: Climate change in some ways is a very simple issue. But those who profit from not taking action against global warming have turned it into a very complicated issue. Why have the opponents (and believe it or not, there are opponents who are against taking action against global warming), why have the opponents turned it into a complicated issue? Well, as our caller well knows, if we can make this complicated, enough people will throw up their hands and say, you know, scientists, they all disagree, who knows what we can really do about this? Well, you know, scientists don't really disagree about this and what we can do is very, very clear.

Conan: Scientists don't necessarily agree on the cause of it. They do agree that it is happening....

Gilbert: Well, scientists agree to an enormous extent on the cause of it. Ah, you know, it's interesting, when you look at scientific articles on global warming, there's enormous consensus, when you look at news articles on global warming, about half of them mention that there isn't much consensus. And that really just isn't so, scientists are in vast agreement about the causes of global warming. As much as they are in agreement about the dangers of cigarette smoking. And you can say scientists don't all agree on cigarettes, I'm sure there is somebody out there who is still saying that it doesn't cause cancer....

Indeed, scientists have come to enormous agreement on the cause of global warming, so much so that only those who are believers in fantasy are still disputing this fact. Here's Al Gore on this subject when he was a guest on the Charlie Rose program on June 19th:

Gore: The debate is over, it's over. People who dispute the International consensus on global warming are in the same category with the people who think the moon landing was staged on a movie lot in Arizona.

Who still believes there is a lack of consensus? Not Frank Luntz. Today he believes that global warming is happening and that humans are responsible for it. If you remember, Frank Luntz produced the talking points for the Republicans in 2002 giving them the words on how to sow confusion on the issue.

In the area of global warming, Luntz tells his clients to keep repeating that not everyone believes there is a problem today and that the scientific question is still open. He advises them: “…, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainly a primary issue in the debate, ….” And he tells them to find scientists and engineers that back up this claim and to say: “We must not rush to judgment before all the facts are in. ” I found it telling that in this memo he also said, “The scientific debate is closing [against us] but is not yet closed. There is still an opportunity to challenge the science.” (Emphasis in original document.) So while more and more scientific evidence says global warming is an urgent problem, Frank Luntz’ advice is: find scientists that will deny this and who will keep the argument open for as long as possible. The ultimate goal of his advice is to make the problem of global warming someone else’s concern while the problem gets worse.

So what does he say today? (courtesy of ThinkProgress)

NARRATOR: Today, Frank Luntz says the advice he offered the administration on global warming was fair when he gave it. But, he’s distanced himself from their policies since.

LUNTZ: It’s now 2006. Now I think most people would conclude that there is global warming taking place, and that the behavior of humans are affecting the climate.

QUESTION: But the administration has continued to follow your advice. They’re still questioning the science.

LUNTZ: That’s up to the administration. I’m not the administration. What they want to do is their business. And it’s nothing to do with what I write. And it’s nothing to do with what I believe.

As Al Gore noted in his interview with Charlie Rose, Katrina was a huge factor in convincing people that global warming is a problem. And because of that, today, polls say that 94% of Americans believe that global warming is a major threat to our country and we need to do something about it.

So my question is: when will the media catch up to the fact that there isn't a controversy anymore? And when will their pointed questions be aimed at the politicians who persist in being part of the clueless that are gullible enough to believe the moon landing was all a Hollywood hoax? Once the media is doing their job consistently distinguishing between fact and fiction, we might have a chance to do something about the problem.

Posted by Mary at July 5, 2006 12:05 AM | Environment | Technorati links |

Saw An Inconvenient Truth today (yes, even out here on the Oregon High Desert!), one of the best presentations I've attended to date.

Posted by: Thomas Ware at July 5, 2006 08:11 PM

Thomas, I'm glad you got to see it. What was the audience like in the high desert? Was there a good turn out?

Posted by: Mary at July 6, 2006 01:02 AM

Neil Conen's pathetic hosting skills are the reason that KUOW cancelled "Talk of the Nation" a few years ago and put "To the Point" on it's place. The listeners had really had enough of the new b.s. NPR mantra of presenting a balance of views. The host himself is considered an rightwing prig.

Warren Olney puts Conen to shame. And Gore's movie puts phony freeper scientists to shame. There is no debate about whether human actions have caused global warming.

Posted by: mickey at July 7, 2006 08:07 PM