Monday, March 03, 2008

Global Warming- The Rational and the Irrational

John Tierney, in his New York Times blog, reports on some interesting paradoxes in the public perception of global warming.

After asking a national sample of more than 1,000 Americans how much they knew about global warming and how they felt about it, the researchers report that respondents who are better-informed about global warming “both feel less personally responsible for global warming, and also show less concern for global warming.” Another unexpected result: “Respondents who showed a great deal of confidence that scientists understand global warming and climate change showed significantly less concern for the risks of global warming than did those who have lower trust in scientists.”

There's a lot of discussion about what the results actually mean, but I don't find them all that surprising. The more informed people are and the more they understand science, the less concerned they are about global warming. Remember, this isn't saying that the scientifically informed and knowledgeable aren't worried at all, just that they're less worried than the scientifically uninformed. Given everything I've read, this just seems to make sense. I don't know many wide-eyed global warming skeptics, but I can think of plenty of doomsday spouting global warming as the apocalypse types.

It seems to me that many of those who are not global warming skeptics- like John Tierney and Reason magazine's Ron Bailey (the subject of this story on becoming a global warming believer)- are lumped oftentimes lumped into the skeptic category, not because they say global warming is a hoax, but because they believe in the possibility of free market solutions and are willing to look critically at some of the claims of global warming believers. They encounter this hostility, even though they have both spoken out in favor of carbon taxes, because of the irrationality and ignorance of global warming extremists. The problem is that this extremism is what's presented in the media and what's being taught to our children- not science, but apocalyptic tales of how we're destroying the planet and sad stories of polar bears losing their homes.

In the crowd of the rational there is- in all likelihood- a healthy mix of skeptics and believers, united through their understanding and appreciation of the scientific process. I'm sure there are global warming skeptics out there who see the whole issue as nothing more than a vast left-wing conspiracy, but as this study seems to indicate, the ignorant skeptics are probably far outnumbered by the ignorant beleivers.


Post a Comment

<< Home