We’re in a new decade. Time to wind back the clock and see what some thought about climate change and the environment back in 2001.
Examining the issue among Americans last month, WorldPublicOpinion.org found increasing evidence of confusion –caused mainly by media concentrating on conflict, over consensus..
It found that in 2001 61% said most scientists believe global warming is occurring. This was slightly higher in 2006 and 2008 (both 65%), but then turned sharply lower in 2010 to a bare majority of 52%.
‘In ABC/Washington Post’s trend question, which asks whether “most scientists agree with one another about whether or not global warming is happening”- or “is there a lot of disagreement”- has regularly found only a minority thinking there is scientific consensus: 35% in 2006, 39-40% in 2007 and 2008, and 31-36% in 2009. This may be in part because the public’s experience of “a lot of disagreement” among scientists can be based on the amount of publicity given to debate, relative to the amount of publicity given to majority consensus and the conclusions of collective scientific bodies’.
Ah…disagreement, dispute, the bread and butter of media. It was underlined in a way when the outspoken environmentalist David Suzuki told TV3 last year that readers would have to search hard in newspapers to find news about this vital issue. The next night excited young film-makers were at TVNZ showing up the media. These inheritors of bottom line dreams and a cavalier disregard for the future had taken part in the Outlook for Someday Film Challenge Awards. Their entries about climate change were provocative and often chilling. So to set the record straight, in 2011, ten years on from that first poll, what do scientists believe is happening to the environment? WorldPublicOpinion.org gathered the information and its conclusions are inescapable:
Status of Scientific Consensus on Climate Change
In 2005 the United States’ National Academies of Science joined the national science academies of Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom in making a joint statement about all aspects of the climate change issue.
As to the reality of climate change, the academies stated: “Carbon dioxide levels have increased from 280 ppm in 1750 to over 375 ppm today – higher than any previous levels that can be reliably measured (i.e. in the last 420,000 years). Increasing greenhouse gases are causing temperatures to rise; the Earth’s surface warmed by approximately 0.6 centigrade degrees over the twentieth century.”
The US Congress in 2008 requested The National Academy of Sciences to research climate change. The NAS’s information base, in turn, rests in great part on climate change research that was mandated by the Global Change Research Act of 1990 and has been conducted by various government departments and agencies.
In April 2010 the Proceedings of the NAS published a study of expert opinion, “Expert credibility in climate change,” which found—after surveying the publications of 1,372 climate researchers—that “97% of self-identified actively publishing climate scientists agree with the tenets of ACC [anthropogenic climate change].” (our italics)
In May 2010 the NAS released its most recent report, which stated: “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for—and in many cases is already affecting—a broad range of human and natural systems. This conclusion is based on a substantial array of scientific evidence, including recent work, and is consistent with the conclusions of recent assessments by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report, and other assessments of the state of knowledge on climate change.”
Sometimes descriptions truly fit the times. If the last decade was the ‘Noughties’, (ho-ho), then this one can be the Elevenses, because the clock is ticking…