Are Americans Really Ignorant About Global Warming?

Published October 27, 2010

Global warming alarmism recently reached a new level of desperation when activists at the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) published a study claiming 52 percent of Americans get an F on their knowledge of basic global warming facts.

Such a poor grade might be cause for concern—until one examines what YCCC considers basic global warming facts. Here’s a hint: In the middle of the Inquisition, Galileo faced a relatively benign definition of scientific truth compared to what YPCCC claims.

YPCCC asked 2,030 U.S. adults to answer several questions about global warming. How is it that most get a failing grade regarding basic global warming facts? Here are some examples:

* According to YPCCC, people who believe there is “a lot of disagreement among scientists” regarding global warming answered the question “incorrectly.”

* People who believe global warming is “caused by both human activity and natural changes” answered the question “incorrectly.”

* People who answered that the sun is one of the five most significant causes of global warming answered the question “incorrectly.”

* People who identified nuclear power, which emits zero carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases, as one of the five most significant causes of global warming answered the question “correctly.”

* People who believe “scientists’ computer models are too unreliable to predict the climate of the future” answered the question “incorrectly.”

* People who believe “having at most 2 children per family” would reduce global warming answered the question “correctly.”

Rather than an indictment of Americans’ knowledge of basic global warming facts, the YPCCC survey is powerful indictment of the opinion, speculation, and propaganda that we are told is “objective truth” in today’s politically motivated scientific debates. According to YPCCC, climate scientists at such prestigious institutions as Harvard, Princeton, MIT, NASA, and NOAA all would have received a failing grade on basic climate science. It is hard to imagine climate scientists at these prestigious institutions receiving Fs on basic climate science facts – unless the asserted “facts” are in fact opinion and speculation presented by activists on one side of the debate.

Lest one confuse YPCCC with the kind of objective scientific body one would expect at an Ivy League university, consider the group’s self-description as “over 100 national leaders representing science, media, religion, politics, entertainment, education, business, environmentalism, and civil society” seeking “to develop an action plan to engage American society on climate change.” YPCCC’s self-described primary objective is “to diagnose why, in the face of ever stronger climate science, the United States had been slow to act and to recommend a set of initiatives to catalyze action.”

To their shame, the mainstream news media took no note of the agenda and blatant biases of YPCCC and its “study.” USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and The New York Times are just a few of the media outlets that published articles parroting the YPCCC study. None of these articles mentioned YPCCC’s alarmist agenda and the absurdity of what YPCCC claims as scientific truths. Instead, Americans were treated to more articles telling them how idiotic and uninformed they are.

Regardless of where one stands on the global warming issue, truth and the public interest are best served by open and honest discussion and debate. Pretending that one’s own opinions are the unchallengeable truth runs counter to scientific inquiry and precludes the possibility of open and honest debate. It is an inquisition, not science.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute.