June 16, 2018

Are Americans Losing Interest in Global Warming?

There are many stories about global warming in the media, and some politicians are talking about the issue in increasingly strident tones. 

But what do the American people really think about the subject?  Are they increasingly worried about the threat of global warming?   Have the apocalyptic warnings encouraged folks to take global warming seriously, or do folks tune out the scary headlines as noise?  What is  the most effective communication strategy to promote society's attention to both mitigation (reducing CO2 emissions) and adaptation (preparing our civilization for the changes producing by  a warming planet)?

This blog will take a look at those questions.

Let's start by using the highly useful googletrends tool, which allows one to view the frequency with which folks have searched on any phrase or word from 2004 to today.   Below I will show some results for U.S. google inquiries.

A plot of the frequency of folks searching for the phrase "global warming" is shown below by the blue line  (100 represents the maximum frequency over the period).  There was increasing interest in the term early in the period, with a peak in 2007.  But interest greatly declined after the 2008 election of President Obama and remained at a steady, but low-level, since approximately 2011.

Frequency of search for "global warming"--blue line-- and "climate change"--red line

The term "climate change" has become more heavily applied in recent years, and often is used as a replacement for "global warming."    Googletrends statistics shows much less interest in this term than global warming early in the period, with a weak upward trend during the past decade.   In fact, there is a small preference of climate change over global warming during the last few years.

What about the use of the term "carbon footprint", which often is used to promote more individual responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions (see below)?   Almost no mention early in the period, a huge surge during 2006-2008,  a rapid decline after President Obama took office, and a steady level over the past decade.

carbon footprint googletrends

Next consider the term "extreme weather", which is often described by the media as being connected with global warming.    Pretty steady until 2010, followed by slow growth over time.  There tends to be a peak in winter, and a narrow huge peak occurred during the winter of 2013-2014, when there were severe cold waves and snow in the U.S. (which are NOT expected outcomes of global warming by the way).

The bottom line of the googletrends statistics is that after a period of increasing interest in global warming in the run up to the 2008 election, there was a profound decline in global warming related searches, declining to a steady state of low interest during the past 8-9 years.

How do the google trends compare to national polls?

A recent Gallup poll of the American people asking about the issues they cared about most revealed that environmental concerns (including global warming) were 13th on the list, noted by only 3% of those polled (see below).   Pretty small.

There is a climate communications group at Yale University that provides detailed geographical maps of the interest of the US population regarding global warming.

When asked whether they think global warming is happening (irrespective of magnitude), most Americans say yes. (see graphic).  There are hot spots of global warming "belief", such as King County, Washington, the San Francisco environs and in sections of the southwest US (like southern Texas and Colorado/ New Mexico).  Only about half the folks in the central Plains states think global warming is happening.

But if ones asks whether global warming is mostly caused by humans, the answer changes substantially (see below). 

 In most of the country, less than fifty percent of the folks agree with a predominant human origin to global warming.  Even in the most liberal/progressive areas, the percentiles only climb into the 60-65% range.

But now get ready to be shocked.  When folks are asked whether global warming will harm them personally in the future, only a small percentage (typically around 30%) answer affirmatively, even in the most liberal/progressive areas of the country.  Even western Washington.  

People do not believe that they personally have been or will be harmed by global warming.  If they had asked whether they would be harmed by global warming caused by humans, the percentages surely would have been less.

Perhaps some people feel that global warming will be a positive in their lives...but that question was not asked.

The above numbers should have a profound impact on the climate debate and what climate actions will be taken.  Since most folks do not believe global warming will be a negative for them, it is unlikely they will make any real sacrifices to deal with the issue.

Thus,  carbon taxes/fees that would result in substantial costs to individuals and  that are used to address global warming have very little chance of passing.  My prediction is the proposed carbon fee initiative (1631) in Washington State is virtually certain to fail.  A revenue neutral approach (folks get all their money back) would have a better chance, or an initiative that hardwired real benefits (like rapid completion of mass transit).   Folks won't sacrifice to deal with global warming--they have to perceive some personal benefit for any actions.

The above numbers also show how ineffective the gloom/doom climate communicators have been, and will continue to be.  Folks sense the exaggeration and hype, and turn off/don't believe the  highly political/apocalyptic messages.  That is why I spend a lot of time dealing with the hypsters (like some comm Seattle Stranger, and "activist" scientists like Michael Mann) and work hard to produce a fact-based climate message.  It is the only way one can earn trust.  Folks won't sacrifice if they don't trust your information.

Americans sense the truth about climate change is more nuanced than they are being told by the media, activist groups, and politicians.   And they are right. 

The scientific community must better police its own communication, putting more emphasis on transmitting our best understanding of climate change and refraining from advocacy in scientific publications and in our transmission of information to the media.


  1. Several comments. First, People react & act in direct response to how Personal, Immediate, and Certain (PIC) dangers are. While some argue that GCC is PIC, many (including you) emphasize the threat is not immediate in most places, the degree and kind of impact in any locale is uncertain, and, thus, the threat is not take as personal. Second, in the light of the current and near future political climate, there is nothing that people feel they can do that will change national policy. Third, this is the age of "post-truth" and science, facts, and reason play a very secondary role. An example of this is that many people will accept Trump's argument that GCC is a Chinese hoax, Inhoff's assertion that GCC is not real, many's assertion that it is not human-caused either in whole or in part but in any case there is nothing that can be done about it. Thus, many feel correct in disregarding Gore, Mann, et al. because ignoring them allows them to continue their lifestyle without interruption in the short-term, at least.

  2. There is an alternative possibility, one that should be abundantly clear by any sizeable population that see's a great future in building fortified walls.

    That is that whatever anyone says about "it" actually happening or for that matter the downstream consequences if it is, the only solution, as unspeakable as it is, is to build that wall. I sincerely doubt that most people actually doubt that such a robust expert scientific consensus has merit. The fact that the greatest proportion of climate change denial is found most in the majority English speaking countries s not a reflection of less belief in the superiority of science in informing us. No human alive can seriously discount this fact no matter what your faith.

    What they see - "they" being those nations and societies who have to date been holding all the cards of control, privilege and enforcement in the world, largely the English speaking countries - is just another threat to that long living paradigm.

    If you take Trump as symbolic of that representation (increasingly, the reality if it) it is highly doubtful that he at all doubts AGW. He merely wants to pursue a policy of winner takes all. He will never say this flat out - such a thing is too outrageously immoral a position and indefensible on those grounds but he is not at all shy to drive American policy exactly in that direction, which clearly he is.

    We all know that very little of human communication is direct and unambiguous. Most of our communication is insinuation, allusion, metaphor and body language. Trump says one thing, but we all know what he really means and a sizeable proportion of the American public hear him and gratefully appreciate his clever camouflage of the unspeakable implications of handing their children a legacy of a fortified North America walling out what the majority of the scientists, military, geo political experts and anyone else with a pinch of actual skill is telling us is the likely risk.

    Just like any form of denialism, this is a case of not just denying the undeniable facts, it is a case of denying the full ramifications of what those fact imply. We are living top of the pile, see no need to share, and are willing to deny anything to remain so. Such behaviours of the most privilaged have happened before, are very well documented and there is no reason to assume it is not happening now.

  3. I believe that climate alarmism is not only counterproductive but threatens the credibility of science in a more general sense. There may or may not be anything we can do to combat climate change in a concrete sense (US policy, for instance, does nothing to address Chinese or Indian policy), but other areas of science surely do make a difference. I have had arguments with otherwise intelligent people about whether or not vaccines work, for instance. Sure, we can point to figures that say so, but when figures are openly manipulated to advance an agenda, no matter how "good" or "right" that agenda is, the harm is real.

  4. Everyone who cares about global warming needs to take a class in behavioral economics. The attitudes you report here are quite predictable. Read or book or two from Daniel Kahneman or Robert Thaler, they’re good reads. If that’s too much, at least read Freakonomics.

    You need to understand how humans make decisions if you want to influence attitudes. Ancient scholars thought we are rational beings. We’re not, we use heuristics (mental shortcuts) to make decisions.

  5. Cliff
    Was wondering if you find the story at this link - and the two papers it reports on - be be hype or an attempt by the journalist and researchers to provide important information on how warming temperatures could affect food supplies.


  6. Thank you Cliff. I’d recommend you put yourself forward and outline a concise sense of what the best guess odds are in terms severity of impact to civilization and it’s timeline. How certain are we. Even though it’s completely separate from weather, you’ve done an important job shifting how we think probablistically about weather. We need a best guess probabilistic sense for severity of impact of AGW to civilization. This is what will drive people’s perspectives. If it’s all too fuzzy to try to put in those terms then maybe we should worry less? If it’s not, you would be a great person to do it. Rather than just arguing against the hypsters, tell us how to think about thelikely magnitude of how worried we should be. Thank you again for your efforts.

  7. I’ve said it several times. It comes down to the word “alarm.” Most AGW advocates have continually preached a message of alarm. But alarm implies a clear and present danger. The key word being present. By definition, there can be no alarm in something forecast fifty years hence. And note that I did not write will occur but forecast. Anyone who says that they are certain of future climate decades hence is lying. We simply don’t have that much accuracy with our climate prediction.

    So the average American has rightly tuned out to focus her resources on more immediate concerns. And that’s exactly as it should be.

    And here is a thought experiment for AGW advocates. Consider other potential future cataclysm. For us a good example would be a severe earthquake. We know that one will come. But we have no idea of the extent or date. Some will buy earthquake insurance or make sure their home is bolted to the foundation. Others will roll the dice that they may be dead or have left the ring of fire region before a dangerous quake. There’s no difference between a quake and AGW for the average person except for the largely political and clickbait repetitive treatment from the media and academy.

    It should come as no surprise that no one cares.Go enjoy the beautiful weather we are having and focus on the present. We live in a beautiful place and times are good for the vast majority of Puget Sounders.

  8. Well, I disagree with the first 2 commenters. The issue here is that CO2 mitigation is like virginity in the middle ages, both go against human nature and circumstances.

    1. Praised very highly by the elites of the day in both cases.
    2. The elites in both cases threaten very high pain and suffering if "virtue" is not adhered to.
    3. In both cases, the elites were gross and obvious hypocrites, themselves often ignoring their preaching.
    4. And in both cases, the elites message is totally ineffective.

    The root cause here is human nature. People are hardwired for sexual activity and they are hardwired to like comfort and luxury too. That's why mitigation, especially if it involves personal sacrifice, is more a pipe dream than a real possibility.

    Bill Gates is right that the only possible solution is technological advances. All the heat from climate activist hypocrites will accomplish nothing and is a waste of money. Hundreds of millions spent on propaganda by Green billionaires shows that green billionaires can be very disconnected from reality. If the elite and the 1% (most of whom are left wing in their political orientation) want to make a difference, they should invest in technology or push nuclear power.

    Replaying the doomed to fail policy of scarcity is simply either stupid or shows that our elites are self-righteous hypocrites.

  9. A perfectly good example of our burn out with the "shock and awe" approch to climate change could be found in a Business Week piece...https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/antarctica-ice-melt-glaciers-ice-shelf-collapse-2018-6

    It attempts to leave the reader with the impression sea level will rise by 200 feet.

    Utter bunk!

    That kind of trash is a disservice to climate science. We do need to attempt to measure and prepare for impacts, but chicken little running around claiming the sky is falling does not help.

  10. I take issue with Jeff B's assertion:

    "There’s no difference between a quake and AGW for the average person except for the largely political and clickbait repetitive treatment from the media and academy. "

    That may be the "average person" conception of the risk but here is actually a huge difference. The hazard of earthquake is similar to the hazard of other singular events, such as hurricane or flood or even an oil spill like the Exxon Valdez, in that the impact is a perturbation to the ecological norm with a defined start and an end as well as being localized geographically. It is a traumatic impact isolated in in time and geographically, then the ecology reverts generally to a return to stability.

    These catastrophic events are just that - singular and momentary events that do not, by any measure of the history of such events through the course of human civilization, fundamentally destabilize the ecology. Prince William sound, not long ago an ecologically devastated region, is undergoing a process of ecological stabilization, perhaps one not identical to that previous but one that will be just as predictable and stable as before. Another analogy would be the great Plains which under forces of extensive agriculture is unrecognizable to that before but what it is is a fundamentally stable ecology.

    The hazard of climate change is global in scale ( not localized) and is on an comparatively one way trajectory of ecological change, exponential in rate and with no definable "end point".

    While localized societies have encountered sudden trauma's of huge consequence before, there was always a capacity to recover either by relocating geographically or rebuilding under conditions of a return to ecological stability.

    I think we all intuitively sense this ( I bet Kahneman and Thaler would agree) but we also intuitively sense something else:

    As long as we are alive, this generation will not experience this ecological instability on a global scale. Future generations will, but not us. That is why, as Al Gore famously pointed out, this is a moral problem. By taking no action to mitigate, we are consigning our following generations to a world of adaptation - adaptation to something which we and our past generations have no experience with, a highly complex technological civilization experiencing global scale ecological instability.

    I think this rather cavalier willingness to download risk is well illustrated (and implied, if not directly stated) in the remainder of Jeff B's comments along with so many other observations here, including much of Cliffs Blog, that if we see its as no threat to us here and now, we just don't care.

    Whether or not this decision we make is deliberately selected is debatable but all knowledge of human cognition suggests that it certainly is sub conscious. To get back to Kahneman, he might call this an example of "What you see is all there is" in that we see no threat right now or even tomorrow and even if we did believe an earthquake or forrest fire was caused by climate change, it happens, it ends and we rebuild or move somewhere unaffected........ those are our experiences, those are our intuitions, so thats all we see.

  11. Trashy articles are NOT a disservice to science, in any way. There will always be people who write these articles, you and I have to be intelligent enough to understand when it is trash.

    But this is in no way makes the scientific argument on any topic less true.

    Our ability to determine what is and isn't true is what matters, not what a charlatan on one side or the other of a political fence writes.

    If anyone here is swayed by chicken little articles or comments, you need to up your game. Stop reading these articles, find out where to get current and correct information about what the science says on a subject.

    If you look for trash, you will find it. If you look for respectable, open honest scientific communication, you will also find that.

    But then what would people have to complain about, yes?

  12. "Bill Gates is right that the only possible solution is technological advances."

    Of course I agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly, and there are actual measurable technologies coming to market that could solve the problem in a fairly short timetable:

    Thorium reactors becoming a reality:


    A team from Harvard has developed a technology to take CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it into scalable energy (i.e. gasoline):


    Why does the MSM and green groups rarely feature these emerging solutions? Because they won't involve taxpayer largess and opportunities for crony capitalism, not to mention they won't force citizens to dramatically alter their lives in order to satisfy those who seek to control them. No one gets paid off to look the other way when enormous subsidies are wasted towards the siren calls of solar and wind power. The public has wised up, too many environmental groups have become self generating rent - seekers filling their gaping mouths at the public trough. The long con is now revealed and is done.

  13. Americans have lost interest in most everything past what social media tells them they should be interested in. Even then, its just the equivalent of a "Like". There, I "liked" this. Someone gets a dopamine rush for a few minutes because they think someone supports their cause. Now I don't have to do anything else that requires actual effort.

    Why should climate change be different?

    Pretty safe to say the majority doesn't give a rat's pink pimpled butt about much in the way of anything past the basics. That is the issue, really. If people are struggling to put food on the table, pay the rent and the doctor bill, why should climate change matter? No one has sold them on how caring for the climate will address those immediate needs. If they listen to the GOP's propaganda that caring about climate is assuring you will starve homeless on the street, then where does that leave climate change? Basically as a conspiracy of the enemy. All those tree hugging hippies are going to steal your jobs and outsource them to the Chinese. Oh and also take your guns and Bibles too.

    It is the same for any other "liberal agenda item". Most of that stuff is "feel good" but at the end of the day, basics have to be covered first. The social issues come secondary to basic needs and climate change has not been pushed to the forefront to fall under the category of anything past an item to be addressed once the basics are covered. Now if the climate was marketed as a means where we can all get rich overnight while saving the planet...there you go.

    That's why the Republicans win. They put God and ponzi scheme economics first. For most people that is all they want. Those that care about more erudite things, such as beneficial science, are now the "enemy". The Liberal Media, the Elite, The Deep State or whatever you want to brand them.

    At this point, if you want the world fixed, look elsewhere. The USA is not a leader in anything that will really make a difference anymore. Which is a travesty as there is probably a consensus that as a nation we really would like to make a difference. Still our country is too tribal. Too fragmented. Too afraid. Myabe we need to just focus on holding our little imperfect Union together and then see what comes of it

    Until then, the rent is too high. Property taxes are a bitch. The college loan debt is killing us. Fuel keeps going up. We have no good leaders. The damn Baby Boomers have laid waste to every following generation and yet they are still in charge. I can't go into Seattle anymore because of all the homeless and the human waste on the sidewalks. Need I go on?

  14. Cliff, I think this blog article showcases precisely the kind of cherry-picking of data to prove your point that you've been advising outlets like The Stranger against. You've used Google Trends and the Gallup Poll as a measure of American interest in the topic without due diligence, research, and controls.

    For a sensible reader to go through this blog article and believe it, we should also need to see trends for frequency of use for each term ("global warming" and "climate change")in the media over the period of time referenced. You need to find the early mainstream usage as well as peak usage of the term and account for that in your Google Trends spikes and lows; when the term is seriously introduced in media there are going to be more searches on it (affecting your Google Trends numbers). You should probably also take the temperature of how voters have tried to respond to the topic in exit polls, and in the passage or blockage of national, state, and local initiatives - we take action by voting in this country, after all. You might also consider direct consumer actions, like the percentage of electric or hybrid cars purchased over the same time period.

    I think everyone who reads your blog appreciates that you're presenting as balanced and factual a perspective as you are able. (I might add that clearly, not all reputable scientists agree with your perspective, which creates a good ground for respectful, productive dialogue and further research - hopefully with the long-term effect of public understanding and effective political and consumer action.) Please work hard to keep up your reputation as a reliable, factual source of information. Don't become the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

  15. BAMCIS - In fact, people have never really cared about anything other than getting their daily beer. Except perhaps for a few short windows of time, like during WWII for example. Yes it is true people "like" their technology, but in reality it fosters ignorance, laziness, and destroys a person's natural curiosity about the world around them. As a society, have we ever been as unsophisticated as we are now? What kind of society goes from untouchable world-class leadership, to hiring a casino thug as their leader?

  16. I agree with most posters here about the alarmist reactions and doom and gloom approach to AGW.

    I found an interesting read on ArsTechnica this morning regarding climate change and how things were 16 million years ago when CO2 levels will be at/around the levels forecast by the end of this century:

    Have a look if you're so inclined. It's a good read. The articles on Ars generally are.

  17. https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/06/are-past-climates-telling-us-were-missing-something

    Good read regarding climate change and how when humans didn't yet exist, temperatures were several degrees above where they are now...and how high the sea level was then. ArsTechnica generally has quality articles.

  18. This post, including the commentaries in the responses, is probably the most depressing I've seen in my many years of following the blog.

  19. Cliff - You have directly accused Michael Mann of making misleading statements. What is your evidence?

    Do you disagree with numerous studies that find that by 2050 continued greenhouse gas emissions will cause serious decline in global food production, increase coastal sea level flooding, increase both drought and flooding, increase hurricane intensity, cause heat waves that threaten human and crop health? Are you not alarmed that our trajectory will force millions of people to relocate creating refugee crises orders of magnitude greater than what can be humanely managed?

    Does your climatological expertise not inform you that in order to prevent these and other deleterious global-scale impacts, we need to begin sustained greenhouse gas emission reductions within the next 10 years or we will be committed to a rise in global average temperature exceeding 2C over the preindustrial average which vastly increases the risk of abrupt shifts in monsoons and other climate system patterns humans rely on? Are you counting on a last minute hail Mary technological fix to reverse current greenhouse gas loading?

    Or do you agree it would be wiser to shift to low GHG production technologies available now to reduce further additions from use of fossil fuels for grid and transportation energy production? A shift by the way which would create an economic boom based on real value and create many new real jobs. And in which the U.S., still the world leader in R&D, could lead the way.

  20. Yes the climate was warm and sea level high 16 million years ago. And there was no Shanghai, New York City, Miami Beach or 7.6 billion humans relying on intensified agriculture. You imply that human activity can't be the cause of AGW because it happened before without humans. That is like saying there is no need to worry about arsonists because there have always been forest fires. We are the arsonists. You won't believe me of course. But you do read Cliff. So ask Cliff if human greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change.

  21. Why the surprise that American's are losing interest in "global warming"? It ain't a video game or social media exercise to retain our attention.

    I taught at the college level for 25 years and personally witnessed the decline in student attention span. I also witnessed and eventually decided to retire a bit early as the pressure to "embrace diversity", "reduce academic rigor" and "accommodate student needs" became unbearable.

    I was on one tenure committee where a new "untenured" humanities instructor considered it ok behavior to allow over half of his students to leave the room during an hour long lecture in order to place social calls or texts. When I asked about this in a tenure review meeting his response was he did not want to infringe on their personal rights! Mercifully, I retired before I had to vote NO on his tenure.

    More Americans believe in supernatural angels than either evolution or climate change. How can you hope to win that battle. Fortunately, the Chinese will soon replace the USA as world leaders in all technical fields as our "politically correct society" sinks into the "bowels of mediocrity" on all social and technological levels.

  22. Just for once I'd like to see a full commenting history that doesn't include spleen - venting political rants. Not everything revolves around one's political views, and if you're judging others based on such a vapid value, time to spend your life on more positive pursuits.

  23. Ars Technica has had first rate journalism for years. Their articles on climate science are excellent. I thought for sure that Cliff would give thoughts and a PNW perspective on this one: https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/06/latest-estimate-shows-how-much-antarctic-ice-has-fallen-into-the-sea/

    Cliff, it's disappointing to see the trend of posts this year. You have a unique position to be a science communicator for reason in the Pacific Northwest. I've read your blog here for 10 years (plus a few months wherever it was previously), and it feels like you're losing the plot a bit lately. Thanks for all the hard work you put into local weather analysis.

  24. Not surprising really. One of UW's IT professors gave an excellent talk on how marginal social media sites gain traction by telling people what they want to hear. Climate change is something people do not want to hear. Very few people want to come to grips with giving up their pickups, travel, and air conditioning because of something that scientists are telling them will happen in the future. And with a skillful propaganda campaign by the professional denier (I am using that as a pejorative) community (taking a page from the tobacco lobby) they have lots of confirmation bias opportunities.
    Unless they have seen something tangible like multiple 100+ year floods or big wildfires (LA is a notable exception to indifference) they would prefer to think it won't happen to them.

  25. "At this point, if you want the world fixed, look elsewhere. The USA is not a leader in anything that will really make a difference anymore."

    That must be why millions are still trying to immigrate here, and why the rest of the world expects us to sacrifice blood and treasure every time there's a conflict anywhere outside of our borders. Not to mention our navy being stretched paper - thin in order to protect the world's sea lanes from piracy. Not to mention our country giving billions in aid to the poor and destitute, often due to natural disasters and war. Not to mention our innovative medical procedures and medicine breakthroughs that save millions of lives every day. Not to mention our leading edges of agricultural technology in terms of increased crop yields and food production in most of the Third World. Not to mention the billions in aid that are doled out annually from our charitable organizations and NGO's.

    You might want to talk to those who serve in these capacities for a bit, and perhaps you won't feel the need to suck on so many lemons before you vent your spleen next time.

  26. Eric Blair makes the salient point. If, and it’s a big if, one concedes that the bogeyman is truly carbon, then bleating on with scare tactics will do nothing to solve the problem. Nor will drastic reductions in carbon energy sources because the average person will wonder why she will have to give up the comforts of our modern energy driven economy while the oligarchs live in decadence.

    If one is truly invested in carbon as the problem, then the very next thought should be in finding an engineer to get you to a replacement energy source. By far the most promising alternative is Thorium nuclear.

    If the AGW advocates were serious about their message they would talk about realistic energy alternatives instead of just focusing on potential future threats. Humans are motivated much more by optimism and self interest than in fear and collective discipline.

  27. Why is everything a political issue to the radical left (which seems to become more radical every day)? Why do the true 'believers' always put down the rest of us for not subscribing to their group-think? Thinking that all of us get our 'news' from social media is complete BS...there are many of us who think for ourselves, and don't subscribe to what the media, any media, says without a complete understanding first. The radical eviro-nut left just wants power and control over our lives, not real results. If they actually had results, there would be no need for their constant whining and drivel. Whining and drivel gives them power, or so they think. As an independent, I'm willing to compromise and come to the middle, but the radical left that attends the church of AGW group-think only wants to get their way, and when they don't, they throw a tantrum like a child in a highchair who has to eat their organic veggie blend. If you want people to listen to your message, and take it seriously, act like adults.

    And for those who attack Cliff for not staying in the fold and subscribing to group-think, and also attacking those who don't agree with your agenda 100 percent, have you ever thought to look in the mirror and see that you are the ones who can't think independently for yourselves? I applaud Cliff for taking an independent stand, and going against group-think and trying to plot a centrist path. The more people ignore the media and do unbiased research for themselves, the more the radical left will be marginalized.

  28. Eric - interesting post.

    I'm just curious (particularly in light of your exhortation that we all should "act like adults"), if your multiple allusions to "independent thinking" suggests an inherently superior means of judgement, how do you justify this assumption while standing in direct opposition to the vast weight of empirical evidence provided by the science of cognitive psychology that tells us exactly the opposite?

    The notion of "group think" being a detriment to judgement assumes that all and any member of "the group" possesses the skills to competently bring skepticism to bear on the "consensus". It is generally exactly what not just Cliff does but his professional peers as well. While in this case (climate science) a skepticism brought to bear by Cliff Mass is desirable, I get the feeling you also think the incompetent should also be skeptical and by way of their "independent thinking", they are similarly superior in judgement to their peers - the equally incompetent who instead resist the temptation to "independently think" their way into an illusion of skill. This pejorative term "group think" is often scornfully enlisted by deniers - one of a long list of logical fallacies - yet apparently to do so they also deny the consensus opinion on cognitive psychology, not just climate science.

    It may be applaudable to see Cliff Mass independently thinking his way around climate science but I'm sure you'd agree it would not be so wise for him to independently think his way around something where he has no skill, like drywalling or nuclear engineering or bow hunting Grizzly bears.

    That would not, as you might put it, be acting like an adult. Not one with humility anyway.

  29. Cliff,

    I agree with you that "The scientific community must better police its own communication, putting more emphasis on transmitting our best understanding of climate change and refraining from advocacy"

    And in that regard I think you might start by having drafts of your posts be read by someone with detailed knowledge of the topic so they might tell you if they feel the post presents the current "best understanding" or is leaning toward advocacy.

    And if you are in favor of policing, I think you might want to let people know that the Comments are for discussion of facts and not political screeds - and that posts consisting primarily of the latter will not be put online.

  30. In my opinion, this assessment should be undertaken anew with the term climate change in mind; "global warming" is a problematic term.

  31. Worth noting that this Saturday marks the 30th birthday of Climate Alarmism. Back then in 1988 the prediction was that by today we would see temperatures rise by a full degree Celsius.It has actually been about 1/4 degree C. Off by 75%. And in the last year trending downward. To maintain the alarm, we would need to see 1.5 degrees C by 2030. The trend was flat from 2003 to 2015 so it’s not on a purely upward trajectory. So not very accurate and well within natural variability.

    Also worth noting that we are headed towards Solar Cycle 25 which looks to be quieter than 22,23 and 24. Many solar scientists believe that a weaker sun means more cloud cover and cooler temps. Time will tell weather alarm is warranted. Or if it is more about very gradual adaptation occurring over several generations.

  32. Keith - so what you're really saying is that since AGW doesn't work anymore with the public, now we're all going to use Climate Change, since that's much easier to hoodwink the great unwashed. Nice try, but many still won't play this particular semantic parlor game, they've seen it all before.


  33. Cliff, thank you for this post. Your blog is the most progressive, anti-establishment, free thinking science blog I have ever read. It is who you are and who you have been, and the science community - and all of us - should be ever so grateful. I know I am. Kudos to you for asking these questions... for your analysis but as importantly, the free and open debate that ensues. It is really healthy.

    We need this. We need more of this. Hat's off to you, and the community you foster here, whatever side of the debate they land.

  34. Maybe the later searches are down because the earlier searches provided the needed information. That is, the population of those needing to know has diminished; they've already got the word.

  35. Ah, I see. Public misperceptions are due to outspoken climate scientists not disinformation campaigns from oil (Koch) brothers. That makes sense. Also, great job in discrediting real climate scientists. I know this is popular these days with a lot of people. Congratulations Cliff!

  36. The public will pay lip service to the global warming cult, but are not willing to put money in the collection plate. Survey after survey has shown the public unwiling to pay even token amounts more for utilities or gasoline to fund the AGW fraud.

  37. Eric - Thank you for your thoughtful reply. It is good to see that your request for "adult" debate was not merely smoke and mirrors.

    Your hypothesis on the superiority of "common sense" (or as you term it, "horse sense") is interesting and no doubt has a massive following in America - particularly among old men as you point out - but I can't help noting that this belief, at least by the evidence you provide, is largely one of faith. That is, not only do you not provide any reference to any robust scientific evidence to support your claim but you also, interestingly, discount the evidence that does exist on the matter, all which notably points the other way. You must admit that here on a blog devoted to science, this is puzzling.

    Forgive me for jumping to conclusions but the logical implication is that you (and a sizeable proportion of the American public) simply are not sold on the scientific process, or more specifically those who are actually trained and skilled in its practice, as the best means of understanding our material world. There is an entirely other way it seems, to account for every single conceivable benefit and convenience that modern man enjoys ranging from the toothpaste you use every night to operating a go cart on Mars.

    Question for you: This "horse sense" that you speak so highly of (is that similar to what we call intuition?) is no doubt entirely reliable. if as you say any old man disciplined in "horse sense" can figure out darn near anything and a sizeable proportion of the population firmly believes this to be so based not on boring old measurable and repeatable evidence but - thats right - just more horse sense then is this not, by definition, the antithesis of "independent thinking"?

    In other words, is this faith in horse sense that so many hold not just another example - perhaps even the very best example - of that dreaded "group think"?

    Again, thanks in advance for our continued adult like to and fro, despite my no doubt shocking lack of faith.

  38. So, according to Cliff, scientists should be putting more emphasis on transmitting our best understanding of climate change and refraining from advocacy in scientific publications and in our transmission of information to the media while at the same time taking public perception into account. I understand that it's worth considering public perception when it comes to science communication, but that the public don't accept something does not somehow an indication that there is some problem with the scientific information that's being presentation. There are quite strong indications that people are culturally pre-dispossed to reject some scientific information, which would seem to suggest that public perception is potentially a very poor way to assess the scientific validity of what is being presented.

  39. Andreas, You seem to be falling prey to the "blame the evildoers" narrative. Of course climate change has attracted spending by special interests. Most of that spending has been to promote alarmism and advocate for mitigation and very little to promote inaction. In fact, the media is really dominated by scary headlines about the dangers of climate change and how it is already resulting in impacts. Inaction is the result of human nature and human circumstances and the fact that energy makes lives a lot more comfortable and enjoyable, especially for those just emerging into the modern world.

    There is an almost exact parallel in medicine. The public is told many things about what is healthy and what is not. There is lots of spending to promote these ideas. There are lots of medical doctors and even some medical scientists who participate in hawking some of these ideas. The public has grown skeptical of these claims and campaigns. Indeed, medicine has acknowledged its own problems with the scientific literature and is taking some steps to address it. Some long held but scientifically weak dogmas (such as the government policy on dietary fat) are being successfully challenged. This is a healthy reaction to issues with science's reliability.

    This model is one climate science should adopt. All will benefit from this approach except perhaps a few activist scientists whose work might be challenged.

  40. Perhaps Cliff hasn't seen this announcement yet, but for a change, past leaders of both parties are coming together to discuss real - world solutions to this problem.


    Republicans and Democrats actually working together. It's such a crazy idea it just might work.

  41. RE JeffB claim that global temperatures have not risen as much as expected.

    I don't know what data you are using, but using NASA GISS, the five year average temperature is now over +1C over the 1880-1920 proxy for preindustrial average. 2015 was 1.15 2016 was 1.27C. 2017 1.18C. 2018 is shaping up to be about 1.11C. That's not a cooling trend, that's El Nino and La Nina and other short term influences. If you prefer using an 1850-1900 baseline, shave 0.09C off those values. They will still all be over +1C. With ENSO cycle pointing back towards El Nino, two forecasts (UK MET, Brown and Caldeira) project 2019 at over 1.2C. To argue that the Earth is not warming has become ridiculous. Just read what the climate scientists are saying. Even the leading contrarians like Christy and Spencer now agree that it's warming.
    Or check out a credible video from Yale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVz67cwmxTM

    We need to get beyond denial and onto mitigation and adaptation solutions. There is no time left to fritter away. Massive damage to human and ecological well being is already committed to. At this point, we need to do triage for damage already committed to, and minimize further accumulation.

    Not liking AGW is not an excuse to ignore or dismiss reality.

  42. I can only speak for myself (I am one of those who are not worried by Global Warming/Climate Change/Extreme Weather and other scary tales), not for any of the reasons condescendingly mentioned in some of the preceding posts (political, psychological, selfish, short-sighted, etc.), but because my understanding of the scientific literature allows me to discount the scary tales we are bombarded with on a daily basis "in increasingly strident tones." The following is an example of what the current research is looking at and finding:

  43. Eric - I see, I think. So you are saying that this faith in horse sense ( thanks for clarifying that it is, in fact, faith) is by its very nature, a truth that is sensed and if the senses are righteous, the need for material proof is entirely moot.

    Verily, this particular "group think" - unencumbered as it is by any degree of skepticism directed inward rather than the usual paranoid suspicions projected outward to the unfaithful - is validated as the "correct group think" simply because the high degree of confidence (thanks to the rejection of any self directed skepticism) says so. Meanwhile, the studiously skeptical are endlessly plagued by doubt.

    How liberating! I'm starting to see the attraction. Surely you must be aware and no doubt in admiration of what amounts to a patron saint of your group - Karl Rove.

    He quite famously (infamous to some) described in exquisite detail the liberating effects of what he called himself and others as "histories actors" who require no constraints upon what they chose to believe and do, including those pesky, onerous constraints termed "knowledge " and "skill" which essentially are the anchors the more foolish "Reality Based Community" impose upon themselves.


    This sounds remarkably similar to your "horse sense" and it truly is "independent thinking" in the true sense of the word. It's really quite remarkable when you think about it - if it makes sense to you, thats all it takes to make it true.

    And if applied to this little so called problem of climate change...... hell, I think even I can imagine that it really doesn't exist because well, I just don't want it to! Well thanks for the adult conversation - it sure has been illuminating. In fact, I think I might just go blow the bank on that new F-350 I always wanted, just to celebrate

    I Look forward to talking again

  44. There is a very big difference between what we know (science) and what we believe. Humans are notoriously bad at risk assessment by our gut. All you have pointed out is what people think about the problem, not the actual magnitude of the problem as we currently understand it from scientific research, which is revealing increasing evidence that the planet is undergoing rapid and potentially catastrophic (for humanity) change. I'm surprised you've conflated the two. As someone who has worked both as risk communicator and as a research scientist, all I see here is a terrible failure in risk communication.

  45. Hountette, that's an opinion piece, not scientific research. And it is not even an opinion piece IN a scientific journal, but an financial journal. Try Nature Climate Change or Science.

    1. It is not an opinion piece but a summary and explanation by a respected scientist of a scientific paper by two respected climate scientists--Nicholas Lewis and Judith Curry--in the Journal of Climate. The issue of Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity is central to any discussion of future warming, its extent and the types of measures that are appropriate to deal with it. The article explains why we hear different numbers for Climate Sensitivity. Did you know the difference between the model-based method and the Energy-Balance method? Are you aware of the work of Lewis and Curry?


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