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The Rise of Global Warming Skepticism

July 6th, 2012 |

The following are excerpts of a scientific study titled “The Rise of Global Warming Skepticism: Exploring Affective Image Associations in the United States Over Time“. It reveals that more Americans are now associating global warming with “naysayer” imagery, ranging from skepticism that global warming is real or a serious threat — to outright conspiracy theories.

The Rise of Global Warming Skepticism: Exploring Affective Image Associations in the United States Over Time

To see the full study, including methods, references and discussion, click here:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01801.x/full

Global warming is one of the most pressing problems facing the world. Although the average surface temperature of the Earth fluctuates naturally on geological timescales, temperature increases over the past century are widely regarded as human caused. The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientific assessment report established a 90% level of certainty that this warming is anthropogenic and primarily linked to industrial processes.(1) Substantial mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions is therefore required if “dangerous” anthropogenic impacts are to be minimized.(2-4)

Through their energy use, consumer behavior, and support for or opposition to climate policies, the public will play an important role in each nation’s effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The American public’s climate change risk perceptions, policy preferences, and behavior are particularly important as the United States alone produces approximately 20% of global carbon emissions.(5) Although China is now considered to be the world’s largest overall emitter of carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas), the United States contributes far more emissions per capita. With only 5% of the global population, the United States emits 19.10 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year, compared to 4.85 tons in China and 1.18 tons in India.(5)

Global warming has also emerged as an important policy issue for the Obama administration. Although previous administrations have been at odds with international policy on global warming, President Obama has made the issue a priority. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, for example, pledged more than $80 billion for clean energy investments including $6.3 billion for a range of local renewable energy initiatives. In June 2009, the House of Representatives also passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) that aims to “create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution, and transition to a clean energy economy.” More specifically, the legislation would establish a cap and trade system to limit the quantity of greenhouse gases that can be emitted nationally. This legislation has yet to pass the Senate, however.

Generally, a majority of Americans have been somewhat concerned about the issue for many years.(6,7) As a policy priority, however, global warming has always been lower than other economic and social issues. For example, in 2009 the Pew Research Center found that only 30% of Americans said that global warming should be a top priority for the new president, compared to 85% who said strengthening the economy should be a top priority. (8)Similarly, only 35% of Americans considered global warming to be a very serious problem compared to 44% in 2008.

To read the full study, see here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01801.x/full

 

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