Flash in the Pan

March 13, 2010

The numbers are in. The CRU hack had its day in the sun. Not much to see here. Move along. Move along.

Despite recent news reports questioning the credibility of climate science, the vast majority of Americans continue to trust the scientists who say that global warming is real, according to a new Stanford University study.

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Stanford University communications researcher Jon Krosnick has released an analysis of his latest public opinion survey on American’s perceptions of global warming. A synopsis of the survey analysis is below, including a video interview of Professor Krosnick. (See links at left for figures used in story below, complete survey results and working papers that provide in-depth analysis of survey results.)

Survey results indicate:

  • 75% of Americans believe that the world’s temperatures have probably been going up;
  • Public confidence in what scientists say about the environment has remained constant over the last few years with 70% of respondents trusting scientists a lot or moderate amount;
  • More people believe that weather has been relatively cooler and more stable in 2008 and 2009 compared to previous years; and
  • Climate skeptics are having some affect on the public’s belief that there is agreement among scientists that global warming is happening

Matt Nisbet has some interesting commentary.


  1. While polls are interesting. Utlimately, it doesn’t matter what the public believes or who they trust. What matters is the science.

    It is scientists overstating the science and advocating which leads to a lessening in trust for scientists – not the science itself.

    Whenever a scientist says something is going to happen and it fails to happen (For example when Hanson said a certain street in NY would be underwater in 20 years – it isn’t) – it causes a lessening in trust for scientists. This type of overstatement is caused by advocacy though – as the real science is usually a lot more uncertain than the bold statements made to the press.

    I think the average citizen is smart enough to tease out the difference between science – which they do trust – and advocacy from scientists – which they do not trust.

    That is what the current poll shows.

  2. Well, I agree that it’s the science that matters, but by my estimation, Climategate was primarily a political issue. It was never much more than that.

    Since it was primarily political, I think the polls matter quite a bit more than they might with other more scientific questions. This study suggests that, despite appearances, Climategate wasn’t even much of a political issue. It was an issue of relevance only to a very small subset of people interested in climate politics… and that’s about it.

  3. If you listen to his video, he says that his conclusion about the effects of climategate, etc, are NOT based on survey data but only on his “30 years of experience” that public opinion changes slowly on issues such as this. While I respect his word as expert judgement, it is not the same as data.

    Also his numbers don’t track other polls that show large declines in public “belief” in anthropogenic climate change over the past couple of years. These polls undoubtedly ask different questions, but it leaves open the question of which indicator to use.

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