Despite the fact that over the last few years there have many scientific reports showing that earlier reports underestimated the effects of global warming a recent Gallup poll shows that the percentage of Americans who believe global warming is exaggerated has increased from 30% in 2006 to 41%. Conversely, the percentage of who think that global warming is being underestimated has dropped from 38% in 2006 to 28%. Apparently, as the climate scientists describe the situation as becoming more dire the public perception has not moved accordingly in that direction. Rather, denial of the science is becoming stronger.
The explanation for these numbers can only be guessed at. The first thing that comes to mind is that the efforts of the right wingers to sow doubt about global warming has been increasingly successful. It seems clear that constant repetition of erroneous facts works. It worked in creating doubt that the ozone hole was not caused by human sources. Even many environmentalists began to believe that the ozone hole was caused by volcanic eruptions because that bit of erroneous information was repeated so often, even after it was proven beyond doubt that it was wrong. So now we hear over and over again that it is not warming but actually cooling, that the Arctic ice cap is not really rapidly shrinking during the summers, etc. Other possible explanations of why so many Americans think global warming is being exaggerated include a failure of the mainstream media to do a good job in reporting the issue, the power of psychological denial mechanisms, and good old American optimism.
Whatever the cause, with so many believing that global warming is being exaggerated, it doesn’t bode well for politicians trying to seriously address the issue. In many congressional districts and even in a number of states those who believe that global warming is being exaggerated are probably in the majority. Obama knows how to write and deliver speeches. Hopefully he can up with one that can move enough minds to believe in the dire predictions of climate scientists before it is too late.