Americans believe in global warming … and psychic powers, astrology, and UFOs

Published August 1, 2002

A nationwide survey conducted by the National Science Foundation concludes few Americans understand the scientific process, and many believe in pseudoscience and may be quick to accept phony science reports.

Most Americans believe global warming is a real and serious problem, and are fairly evenly divided on issues such as cloning and genetic engineering. However, 60 percent believe some people possess psychic powers, 40 percent believe in astrology, and 30 percent believe in UFOs.

Brits, Swiss say worse warming on the way

Two recently released climate studies predict global warming by the end of the century “will be even more dramatic than a United Nations group has predicted.”

A British study says the Earth will be 0.5 to 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the period between 1990-2000. A Swiss study predicts a temperature increase ranging from 0.9 to 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit. The two studies are reported in the April 18 issue of the journal Nature. The U.N. study, published last year, concluded “most of the warming observed over the past 50 years is attributable to human activities,” including gases from industry and automobiles.

CNN’s coverage of the story acknowledged some climate scientists sharply disagree and argue the Earth has been in a long-term, natural cycle of rising temperatures since the so-called “Little Ice Age” 500 years ago. Further, those scientists point out that many temperature-monitoring stations are located in cities, where heat-absorbing buildings and pavement can give misleadingly high temperature readings.

CNN failed to report that both satellite and balloon data show no detectable warming of the Earth’s atmosphere in the past 22 years. The preponderant evidence shows the warmest years occurred around 1940.

Los Alamos studies CO2 sequestering

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory are studying a simple method for extracting carbon dioxide directly from the air—a breakthrough that could allow sustained use of fossil fuels while avoiding potential global climate change. The process is claimed to be cost-effective.

The method allows carbon dioxide to be harvested from the air, reducing its buildup in the atmosphere and allowing it to be converted into fuel. A Los Alamos-led research team presented its work at the 223rd annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Orlando, Florida.

“If you can capture atmospheric carbon dioxide, then you limit the environmental impact of fossil fuels and you can continue to use them,” explained Los Alamos researcher Manvendra Dubey. “We have come up with a way to capture and sequester the carbon dioxide that we are putting in the atmosphere. Our approach is particularly well-suited to capturing CO2 from numerous small sources, such as automobiles, that are largely being ignored.”

Unlike other research efforts, which focus on capturing more concentrated forms of carbon found in power plant exhausts, Dubey and his colleagues are working with a dilute stream of CO2 in the atmosphere. Their method uses ordinary air, with its average carbon dioxide concentration of about 370 parts per million. It utilizes the wind and natural atmospheric mixing to transport CO2 to a removal site, and it is the only means available to capture CO2 generated from transportation sources and small, dispersed sources that account for nearly half of all carbon dioxide emissions.

The air is passed over an extraction agent—for example, a solution of quicklime, the active agent in some cement. As the air passes over the extraction structure, the carbon dioxide in the air reacts with the quicklime and becomes converted to calcium carbonate (limestone), a solid that forms and falls to the bottom of the extractor.

The calcium carbonate is then heated to yield pure carbon dioxide and quicklime, which is recycled back into the extractor. The purified and liberated carbon dioxide can then be sequestered as a gas by direct injection into the ground, or it could be reacted with minerals to form a solid. Carbon dioxide gas also can be sold commercially to the petrochemical industry, which uses large quantities of it to extract fossil fuels.

S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project. Singer’s The Week That Was columns can be found at

For more information …

“Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Public Understanding,” is Chapter 7 in the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2002 report. The full text of the report is available on the Internet; Find Chapter 7 (and links to the rest of the report) at