Americans increasingly doubt global warming: Harris Poll

A Harris poll on disasters released yesterday shows that fewer Americans than ever believe in global warming: just 44%, down from 75% ten years ago. 

Harris tries to see the positive in this, pointing out that:

These numbers do not suggest, however, that a majority now do not believe in global warming—just over one-quarter say they do not believe in it (28%) and the same number say they are not sure. Fittingly, among those who say there have been more natural disasters recently, there is no consensus whether this is a result of global warming or not (38% say it is, 28% say it’s not and 34% are not sure).

But as scientists like to point out in discussions of environmental indices, the trend over time is what matters, and the trend in this instance is clearly negative. The determination to see an American belief in global warming on the basis of this poll is peculiar, to put it politely.

Yes, in theory those who are not sure about the "theory" of global warming could be convinced, could join the plurality who do believe in global warming, and we could see an uptick in support for emisions-restraining measures. But one has to ask what it will take to convince us.

Hot years? Ten of the twelve hottest years ever occured in the last decade, according to NASA

The melting of mountain glaciers? Glaciers are in retreat worldwide, and will be virtually gone from Glacier National Park by 2030, according to the US Geological Service.  

Sea level rise? The rate of SLR has doubled in the last decade. 

On the other side of the coin, philosopher Gary Gutting at Notre Dame points out that critics of the "theory" of global warming have a problem — the experts are in agreement. 

There is, moreover, no denying that there is a strong consensus among climate scientists on the existence of A.G.W. — in their view, human activities are warming the planet.  There are climate scientists who doubt or deny this claim, but even they show a clear sense of opposing a view that is dominant in their discipline.   Nonexpert opponents of A.G.W. usually base their case on various criticisms that a small minority of climate scientists have raised against the consensus view.   But nonexperts are in no position to argue against the consensus of scientific experts.   As long as they accept the expert authority of the discipline of climate science, they have no basis for supporting the minority position.  Critics within the community of climate scientists may have a cogent case against A.G.W., but, given the overall consensus of that community, we nonexperts have no basis for concluding that this is so. 

The consensus position was shown graphically here, from Skeptical Science, based on a 2010 accounting of peer-reviewed climate scientists. 


Three different surveys, using different methods, all found a remarkably strong consensus on the question — over 97% of climate scientists believe in global warming.

Yet the American conclusion seems to be: Experts? We don't need no stinking experts!

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

One thought on “Americans increasingly doubt global warming: Harris Poll

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