Climate Polling Results Lead to Weird Press Coverage

A recent polling of Americans on their attitudes about how much scientists know (or claim to know) about global warming, as well as what should be done about it, has led to very different treatments in the press, specifically in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which commissioned the poll.

The PG’s editorial take on the poll is that it shows that most Americans aren’t really that committed to the issue one way or the other. It suggests that the new poll questions were phrased in an unbiased manner (not assuming, for example, that global warming was a problem that needed to be dealt with), unlike previous polls claiming wide support for government action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

But the Post-Gazette also ran an op-ed by the pollster himself, who made it clear that Republicans are blind to established “facts” and only resist action on climate change because conservatives don’t like big government. The title of that op-ed made his views pretty clear: “Not a mystery why Republicans are blind (to) facts on climate change“.

The poll report itself is much less partisan in its comments — despite being authored by the same pollster!

The bipolar treatment by the newspaper makes the whole issue even more confusing for the reader.

But it is an interesting observation (which is widely recognized) that conservatives tend to disbelieve the supposed “scientific consensus” on global warming, and liberals tend to embrace it. The claims of ideological bias on the part of conservatives can cut both ways, of course. I can claim that liberals only believe the science because they are in favor of big government. So there.

The point I keep trying to emphasize is that not all science is created equal. Putting a man on the moon was immensely easier than understanding what factors cause the climate system to change, and especially by how much. We know the average energy flows reasonably well; but climate change involves less than 1% changes in energy flows, and we don’t understand the system that well.

When climate models can’t even hindcast global temperature changes in the last 30-40 years — where the answer is already known — how can we rely on them for forecasts?

It isn’t rocket science…it’s actually much more difficult than that.

This article appeared on Dr. Spencer’s weblog at

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