I noticed a while back that many of the people who fit roughly into the “global warming skeptic” category don’t disagree entirely with the idea, so I wanted to investigate more deeply. Here are the preliminary results of my poll:
If you don’t believe in Global Warming, why?
A. I do believe, but I don’t admit it because I think libs are trying to use GW for political ends I disagree with
B. I believe, but I want the Earth to get warmer because winter sucks
C. I believe, but I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal/there’s nothing I can do about it
D. I stopped paying attention to environmentalists sometime around 1995 because their predictions always fail to come true
E. People who claim to believe in global warming don’t actually act like they believe it, so I don’t, either
F. I don’t find the science/evidence I’ve seen convincing
G. The Earth is too big for humans to have an effect
H. Something else I will explain in the comments
Thanks to everyone who participated. Many people went into detail about their opinions rather than pick any of the given options, which was great because it helped me see flaws in the poll and get a deeper insight into what people are thinking. In retrospect, C should have been broken into two options and there should have been another option similar to A but is “I don’t believe it because I think libs are just using it to push a political agenda.”
That said, here are the rough results after smooshing people’s responses into the closest categories:
A. Disagree w/ politics: 27
B. Winter sucks: 14
C. No big deal/can’t change: 32
D. Lost credibility: 10
E. Don’t act like they believe it: 11
F. Science: 17
G: Earth too big: 3
H. Cult: 7
I. Real but not caused by humans: 3
J. It’s real: 4
Qualitatively, rather than quantitatively, I think results broke down into three main categories: 1. disagreement with libs about politics/solutions, 2. personal credibility of the global warming advocates, 3. science.
Under disagreements, many people noted that global warming gets used to advocate almost solely for leftist causes like socialism, while other important solutions are ignored, eg, @CamperWatcher27′s take:
It’s a true scientifically proven crisis, the solution for which just happens to be implementation of every left wing wishlist item. It mandates no policy sacrifice by the left whatsoever, it’s almost too good to be true.
A couple of people noted that often the solutions, like shipping plastic trash to China so it can be burned under the guise of “recycling”, do more harm than good, and many people noted that there is effectively nothing they can do about China’s pollution, eg @laikasrefectory’s opinion:
I do, and I find the evidence convincing, but find fault in where fingers are pointed, and agree that the topic is weaponised. The West could stop all emissions tomorrow and we’d still be fucked thanks to China and India.
Many readers complained that environmentalists aren’t in favor of building more nuclear power plants, limiting immigration, or virtually any other “right wing” position that would also help the environment.
Personal credibility of environmentalists turned out to be more important than I expected. People didn’t just object that global warming advocates don’t actually act like they believe in global warming (I just finished talking to a relative who is both concerned about global warming wiping Florida off the map and preparing to fly around the world for an international vacation), but they also objected on the grounds that global warming is a “cult” or “religion.” (This was a little annoying from the coding perspective because it doesn’t answer the question–believing that Christianity is a religion doesn’t stop Christians from believing in it.) I interpreted these responses, therefore, as “this is a belief system that those people hold an I don’t happen to hold it,” just as I might respond if suddenly put on the spot and asked why I don’t believe in shamanism.
There were also people who remembered fears of “global cooling” in the 70s or had grown weary of the media habit of attributing practically everything bad that happens to “climate change,” even when there’s no way to prove it causally. A good example from @punishedkomrade:
The exaggerated predictions of doom, combined with the unseriousness of “solutions” (eg We need socialism to save the Climate! Ew, not nuclear!) leads me to ignore the issue
Then there’s the science:
This is quite remarkable. You might think that more intelligent people would hold more similar opinions, since we all have access to the same scientific material (more or less). Instead, dumb people take more moderate stances while intelligent people throw themselves toward their tribe’s extreme.
For example, here is @billkristolmeth‘s take on the science:
Explain how a ~400ppm (0.04%) trace gas acts as a “control knob” on global temperature. Explain why CO2 has a greater effect than water vapor.
Explain why models that do not factor in cloud albedo can be considered reliable in long-term prediction of climate.
Explain why solar output is considered generally irrelevant by the model makers despite being measurably variable.
Explain why substantially higher CO2 in the past on Earth did not cause Earth to become a Venus-like hothouse as predicted by some models.
These are the sorts of questions that I eventually started asking as the time to DOOM compressed. Sure the climate changes, it always has. The CO2 hypothesis however is based almost entirely on vastly incomplete models and I find it unconvincing on a basic thermodynamics level.
I believe in global warming (specifically, I believe the claims of climate scientists that the Earth is getting warmer and it is caused by humans), but I can’t answer these questions. I believe because scientists I know in real life respect other scientists who think global warming is real. By contrast, none of the astronomers I know in real life have ever mentioned the sun causing global warming. This is a chain of trust (or authority), not first-hand knowledge and understanding of climate data. I suspect something similar is going on for other people–which science they find credible is determined by which scientists they find credible.
This chain of trust is interesting, because it relates back to different groups of people being, essentially, separate. There are other cases where different groups have different chains of trust–obviously Israelis and Palestinians believe different news sources about the region. There are black communities on the internet that also have their own “science” with its own separate chain of trust, usually centering around claims that melanin has fantastic powers and that white people kidnap black children to harvest their melanin (I think this claim was motivated by confusion about the difference between melanin and melatonin, which you can buy at the store). Native Americans also distrust mainstream science (especially genetics) and don’t include it in their chain of authority, though they don’t tend to replace it with anything in particular.
If you happen not to find any scientists credible (or you just aren’t into science), then your next fallback is judging the kinds of people who advocate for global warming (well, advocate for doing something about it,) and their policy solutions. If the upshot of global warming advocacy in your real life is an “energy and water efficient” clothes washer that has to be run twice for every load of laundry because it doesn’t use enough water to get the soap off, you’re going to be pretty darn skeptical of this whole deal.
Obviously my poll isn’t terribly scientific or accurate, but I think it’s close enough to capture the zeitgeist. So if anyone reading this actually wants to save the planet, then I think the first thing you (and others) should do is disentangle global warming and politics. Don’t make global warming a reason to vote left–this is making the survival of our planet dependent on irrelevant questions like “Do you like gays?” Come up with ideas that appeal to people from both sides of the political aisle, like using nuclear power to achieve energy independence. Second, you need to act like you actually believe it. Stop flying. Stop buying products made in China and shipped across the ocean in great big carbon-belching container ships. Ride your bike to work. Then, maybe, people will take you seriously.