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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Has science really come to this? Opinion polls?!

Gobsmacked would be a good word to describe how I felt while reading one of the lead articles in the New York Times this morning.

Here, I'm in a sharing mood:

"In Poll, Many Link Weather Extremes to Climate Change

"A poll due for release on Wednesday shows that a large majority of Americans believe that this year’s unusually warm winter, last year’s blistering summer and some other weather disasters were probably made worse by global warming. And by a 2-to-1 margin, the public says the weather has been getting worse, rather than better, in recent years.

The survey, the most detailed to date on the public response to weather extremes, comes atop other polling showing a recent uptick in concern about climate change. Read together, the polls suggest that direct experience of erratic weather may be convincing some people that the problem is no longer just a vague and distant threat.

“Most people in the country are looking at everything that’s happened; it just seems to be one disaster after another after another,” said Anthony A. Leiserowitz of Yale University, one of the researchers who commissioned the new poll. People are starting to connect the dots."

A large majority of climate scientists say the climate is shifting in ways that could cause serious impacts, and they cite the human release of greenhouse gases as a principal cause. But a tiny, vocal minority of researchers contests that view, and has seemed in the last few years to be winning the battle of public opinion despite slim scientific evidence for their position.

The poll suggests that a solid majority of the public feels that global warming is real, a result consistent with other polls that have asked the question in various ways. When invited to agree or disagree with the statement, “global warming is affecting the weather in the United States,” 69 percent of respondents in the new poll said they agreed, while 30 percent disagreed." [emphasis mine]

Oh, there's more where that came from.  Lots more. 

The Times is basically saying, 'In the past, a majority of (apparently nutty) people denied global warming based on feelings, non-scientific observations, rumors and opinions, etc., while ignoring scientific evidence supporting it... but now a majority of sensible people believe in global warming without any connection to scientific evidence (i.e. based on feelings, non-scientific observations, rumors and opinions, etc.), so things are shaping up. 

When did opinion polls become relevant to scientific discovery and/or discourse? 

It would be one thing if the Times was framing the poll results in terms of how new scientific evidence supporting global warming was shaping people's opinions.  But they aren't (and it isn't).  They are saying quite clearly that people are making up their minds based on what is going on outside their windows and not what the scientists with the big picture are saying... exactly as the global warming deniers had.

The Times is framing the discussion of global warming in the same way it might a discussion of gun control, abortion or same sex marriage... as if opinions mattered to the eventual outcome.

I honestly don't care where you stand on global warming, and my own opinion doesn't matter one bit.  The question that needs asking here is whether science has really come to this? 

Opinion polls?!  Really???!!!

Posted by David Bogner on April 18, 2012 | Permalink


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"A poll due for release on Wednesday shows that a large majority of Americans believe that this year’s unusually warm winter, last year’s blistering summer and some other weather disasters were probably made worse by global warming."

What about the coldest spring in living memory in Korea? How's that tally in?

Posted by: antares | Apr 18, 2012 12:50:36 PM

This has nothing to do with science and everything to do with politics. If the majority of people polled believe in climate change - they will support the government pouring money into efforts to do something about it. They are building the case for a Solyndra defense.

Posted by: Raz | Apr 18, 2012 4:28:31 PM

The NY Times articles on climate,and the various experts they always produce to fit current climate conditions into their theories are usually good for a laugh.

Posted by: ED | Apr 18, 2012 5:04:49 PM

“Most people in the country are looking at everything that’s happened; it just seems to be one disaster after another after another,” said Anthony A. Leiserowitz of Yale University, one of the researchers who commissioned the new poll. “People are starting to connect the dots."

I can't believe this is coming from a member of Yale (aren't they supposed to be one of those *really smart* universities?). "People are starting to connect the dots"... The problem is that there are a billion dots and people can connect about 10-20 dots and they *think* they've found the line of regression!!

I remember in the 1970's when scientists predicted the coming ice age. There were reports it might be so cold we should start building our houses underground to allow for better insulation and less heat loss. Then about 20 years ago we heard about "global warming" and how the ice caps were going to melt and flood half the eastern seaboard of the US. Even after the revelation of scientific hocus pocus from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (see Michelle Malkin's post here: http://michellemalkin.com/2009/11/20/the-global-warming-scandal-of-the-century/) the game still continues -- only now instead of "Global Warming" we have "Climate Change".

As with many crimes, you should follow the money. These scientists study climatology and if they get alarming results, they can get billions for research (in non-academia terms, that means SALARY and PERKS) to find a solution -- what do you think they're going to find? It's like watching network news. The most watched news channel gets the most in advertising revenues -- so who do you think will get the most viewers? The channel with the fastest and most shocking coverage... and we wonder why the mainstream media doesn't have the same fair, balanced, researched approach it once had.

Posted by: AliasJoe | Apr 18, 2012 5:14:04 PM

I was going to comment,but AliasJoe said everything I was going to say. :)

I'll just add one thing. The so-called scientists worshiping at the Church of Global Warming have about the same credibility as the scientists employed by RJ Reynolds to prove that smoking is good for your health. Or the priests who forced Galileo to "recant" his theory that the earth revolves around the sun. It has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with money, politics, and intimidation. And the stakes are unbelievably high - as in, the economy of the entire world.

The Times should be absolutely ashamed of itself. But of course, it won't be.

Posted by: psachya | Apr 18, 2012 5:31:55 PM

Several years ago I worked with a programmer writing global climate prediction software. I grilled him on facts, because I was genuinely curious. It looked like, 100 years out, there could be a significant change in sea level and temperature, though it was hard to predict with current information. But in the next 20 years, the expected changes were numerically almost non-noticeable, as the curve was exponential and cascading effects would take time. Yet lately every hurricane, tornado, snow storm, and of course high temperatures are blamed on it. It seems to me, there is a big disconnect between science, politics, and what people believe is cause and effect.

Posted by: It's Full of Stars | Apr 19, 2012 4:03:15 AM

"it just seems to be one disaster after another after another" riiiight - I wouldn't be in any way surprised to see a poll where 69% of Americans would agree when asked if the recent increase in earthquake activity we have seen in the Pacific/Indian oceans can be attributed to climate change. A significant number would agree if you asked them if increasing autism was attributable to climate change - polls like this are bull pure and simple.

Posted by: Kibi | Apr 19, 2012 2:06:43 PM

antares: What about the coldest spring in living memory in Korea? How's that tally in?

Well, that would depend upon the public opinion polls on Korea, of course. Global Warming™ happens, or doesn't happen, at different levels in different countries, you see, due to the fact that public opinion varies from country to country.

Posted by: Lurker | Apr 19, 2012 2:27:28 PM

A July 1998 survey by Dagblaðið Vísir found that 54.4% of Icelanders surveyed claimed to believe in elves. [Source: Wikipedia]

According to the Yale University approach, one must therefore conclude that elves exist in Iceland.

Based on the bold new changes being made to scientific logic in order to accomodate the Global Warming™ orthodoxy, I expect that the scientific world will soon be returning to the old, traditional principles of scientific logic illustrated here.

Posted by: Lurker | Apr 19, 2012 7:25:43 PM

Responsible scientists usually refer to it as Climate Change, because it is not just warming. And the fact that some people misapply their observations to recent events does not mean that climate change is not real. It is a widely held belief by scientists in the field, who base this on their work, that climate change is real. So lets not get distracted by the typical conservative talking points espoused by some of my friends above.
The article is not about science, it is about politics. I see no harm in that, as long as we do not mistake the two. The point here is that in an election year, this issue is going to play out differently in peoples political choices.

Posted by: Jordan | Apr 19, 2012 9:18:25 PM

Jordan - with all due respect, you're making my point. Real scientists don't have scientific "beliefs". They have hypotheses and theories. "Beliefs" should be in the realm of religion,not science.

The fact is that legitimate scientific inquiry into both sides of the issue of (have it your way) "climate change" has been strongly discouraged by the scientific establishment. Legitimate articles have been turned down by scientific journals. Careers have been threatened. And, most significantly, scientific data has been fudged to fit preconceived conclusions. That's not just "conservative talking points" - that's bad science. And intellectual dishonesty. And, actually, just plain ol' dishonesty, in the legal sense of the word. Liberals should be equally outraged about the climatologists' shenanigans in that regard.

Posted by: psachya | Apr 20, 2012 6:06:17 PM

Actually, those are almost all Conservative talking points. And have been disproved again and again and again. What is not conclusive, and here I think the argument is open ended, is what the rate of androgenic climate change is.
But something I need to be clear about. When scientists in the public sphere speak of Climate Change, they are offering opinions. What backs up their opinions is their understanding of the data, ghe proving or disproving of hypotheses, and the most likely theories.

Posted by: Jordan | Apr 21, 2012 1:19:26 AM

With all due respect, Jordan, since I brought up the scandal of data manipulations at the Univ. of East Anglia and the historical predictions of a coming ice age (just a short 30 years ago), would you be so kind at to cite references where these have been "disproved again and again and again."

Thank you so much.

Posted by: AliasJoe | Apr 23, 2012 3:15:53 AM

Dear David Bogner:
Deniers can deny anything about everything. Denial can make facts disappear. You are right that people are forming opinions and believing in what they want to believe -- despite scientific evidence.

I wonder what is going on behind this. Perhaps it's the new age of information when people can post their words in a public forum and not wait for authorities or experts.
I linked your website, by the way, to my blog post today on making sure our actions match our words.
Thank you for your fabulous ideas -- that I get to read not just after the fact!
Diana Bletter

Posted by: Diana Bletter | Apr 24, 2012 1:40:58 PM

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