YouGov Climate Push Poll: Still no Believer Majority

A new internatiional climate change poll shows most European countries as well Anglophone nations are divided between belief and scepticism over global warming claims.  The YouGov poll results are presented in part in the diagram below (H/T GWPF)

Lest there be any doubt:  This is a survey of opinions (beliefs) about global warming/climate change as buzzwords without any meaning defined as a reference for knowing why any response was given.  Further on is a reprint of a previous post describing the tactics for getting the highest possible affirmation of belief rather than scepticism.  Of course, it is important to know what was the survey methodology, i.e. how the questions were put, what answers were offered and/or accepted, and what context (if any) was given to participants.  For the YouGov International Survey the questioning went like this.

Thinking about the global environment… In general, which of the following statements, if any, best describes your view?

The climate is changing and human activity is mainly responsible
The climate is changing and human activity is partly responsible, together with other factors
The climate is changing but human activity is not responsible at all
The climate is not changing
Don’t know

Which countries, if any, do you think have had the most negative impact on global warming and climate change?  (Please tick up to five)

[Most frequently mentioned by Europeans were Brazil, China, India, Russia, USA, and Don’t know]

And do you think that you personally could be doing more to tackle climate change, or are you already doing as much as you reasonably can? Could be doing more/Doing as much as it reasonably can/Don’t know

How responsible, if at all, do you think each of the following are for the current situation with climate change?  Very responsible/Fairly/Not Very/Not Responsible at all/Dont’t know

International bodies (e.g. the United Nations)
National governments of wealthy countries
National governments of developing countries
Businesses and industry
Individuals

And how much power, if any, do you think each of the following have to combat climate change?
A great deal of power, a fair amount, Not very much, no power at all, Don’t Know

International bodies (e.g. the United Nations)
National governments of wealthy countries
National governments of developing countries
Businesses and industry
Individuals

How much of an impact, if any, do you believe climate change will have on your life?
A great deal of impact/ A fair amount, Not Much, No impact at all/Don’t know

Which of the following comes closest to your view?

It is already too late to avoid the worst effects of climate change
We are still able to avoid the worst effects of climate change but it would need a drastic change in the steps taken
We will be able to avoid the worst effects of climate change if we broadly carry on with the steps currently being taken
Don’t know

If you had to choose one, which approach would you prefer governments and societies to focus on more to tackle climate change?

One where we attempt to reduce consumption of resources to slow or halt the negative effects of climate change
One where we attempt to come up with technological solutions to try and counter the effects of climate change
Don’t know

How likely do you think it is that climate change will cause each of the following? Very likely/Quite/Not Very/Not at all likely/ Don’t know

The extinction of the human race
Small wars
A new world war
Serious damage to the global economy
Cities being lost to rising sea levels
Mass displacement of people from some parts of the world to others

For your information the table of Yougov climate questions and responses from various nations is here

Comment:  Note how belief in climate change and its human agency is assumed throughout the questioning process.  As discussed below, using “environmental” and “global” are AGW belief triggers.  And then asking which nations are most responsible for hurting the climate is akin to asking “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Note also that “tackling climate change” presumes humans caused it and can stop it by changing behavior.

Background from previous post The Art of Rigging Climate Polls

Marketing and social influence makers have used opinion surveys extensively to promote awareness, interest and motivation to engage with their products or preferred policies. I have written before on how this ploy is used regarding global warming/climate change (links at bottom). This post is prompted by a fresh round of climate polls and some further insight into how results are created to support a socio-political agenda.

Of course, any opinion poll on climate as a public policy matter is indicating how much of the blather in the media has penetrated public consciousness, and softened them up for political pitches and financial support. And the continuing samplings and reports need to show progress to keep activist hopes alive.

Just yesterday we had an announcement along these lines. Poll shows consensus for climate policy remains strong is published at Phys.org from Stanford U. (where else, home of the belated Stephen Schneider, among many other leading alarmists). Stanford also happens to be my alma mater, but when I was studying organic chemistry there, we knew life on earth was carbon-based and did not think CO2 was a pollutant.

Climate Public Opinion is a Program of Research by the Stanford Political Psychology Research Group (website link) and has done frequent surveys on the question: What do the residents of the United States believe about global warming?

From psy.org article (excerpts in italics with my bolds):

While the United States is deeply divided on many issues, climate change stands out as one where there is remarkable consensus, according to Stanford research.

“But the American people are vastly underestimating how green the country wants to be,” said Jon Krosnick, a professor of communication and of political science at Stanford, about new findings from a poll he led on American attitudes about climate change.

The study was conducted with ABC News and Resources for the Future, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization. A representative sample of 1,000 American adults nationwide were polled from May 7 to June 11, 2018. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

The poll showed that Americans don’t realize how much they agree about global warming: Despite 74 percent of Americans believing the world’s temperature has been rising, respondents wrongly guessed 57 percent.

“The majority doesn’t realize how many people agree with them,” said Krosnick. “And this may have important implications for politics: If people knew how prevalent green views are in the country, they might be more inclined to demand more government action on the issue.”

Public belief in the existence and threat of global warming has been strikingly consistent over the last 20 years, even in the face of a current administration skeptical about climate change,” said Krosnick, who has been tracking public opinion about global warming since 1995.

Krosnick has learned from his 20 year experience with this topic, and shares with us some of the tricks of the trade. For example, one paper provides their finding regarding the wording of questions.

1. “What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?”

In this traditional MIP question, about 49 percent answered the economy or unemployment, while only 1 percent mentioned the environment or global warming.

2. “What do you think is the most important problem facing the world today?”

Substituting the word “country” with “world” produced a significant change: 7 percent mentioned environmental issues, while 32 percent named the economy or unemployment.

3. “What do you think will be the most important problem facing the world in the future?”

When asked to consider the future of the planet, 14 percent chose the environment or global warming, while economic issues slipped to 21 percent.

4. “What do you think will be the most serious problem facing the world in the future if nothing is done to stop it?”

This time, 25 percent said the environment or global warming, and only 10 percent picked the economy or unemployment.

“Thus, when asked to name the most serious problem facing the world in the future if nothing is done to stop it, one-quarter of all Americans mentioned either global warming or the environment,” Krosnick said. “In fact, environmental issues were cited more often in response to question 4 than any other category, including terrorism, which was only mentioned by 10 percent of respondents.”

Thus it is that survey results are influenced greatly by the design of the questioning process. Helpfully, the Stanford program provides this history of the questions put to participants over the years. Below are the result categories, some showing the evolving form of questioning, and others just the most recent form for brevity. I will comment on the first few, and leave the others for your reflection (my bolds)

1. Global warming is happening. 2012-2013: What is your personal opinion? Do you think that the world’s temperature probably has been going up over the past 100 years, or do you think this probably has not been happening? 2012: What is your personal opinion? Do you think that the world’s temperature probably has been going up slowly over the past 100 years, or do you think this probably has not been happening? 1997-2011: You may have heard about the idea that the world’s temperature may have been going up slowly over the past 100 years. What is your personal opinion on this? Do you think this has probably been happening, or do you think it probably has not been happening?

Fair question with both responses equally acceptable. The earlier form referred to what they may have heard, but wisely dropped that later on. One does wonder what evidence people use for 100 years of reference.

In a separate study Krosnick tested the effect of asking about “global warming” or “climate change” and concluded:
In the full sample, global warming, climate change, and global climate change were all perceived to be equally serious on average. These findings seem to be inconsistent with the claim that people view climate change or global climate change as less serious than global warming. In addition, the distribution of seriousness ratings were equivalent for global warming, climate change, and global climate change.

IMO it is to his credit that he asks about global warming rather than the vacuous “climate change”.

2.Warming will continue in the future. 2012: If nothing is done to prevent it, do you think the world’s temperature probably will go up slowly over the next 100 years, or do you think the world’s temperature probably will not go up slowly over the next 100 years?

Here comes the phrase:  If nothing is done to prevent it . . . The participant gets the suggestion that rising temperatures have human agency, that we can do something to prevent them. As Krosnick explained above, this phrase will help respondents identify the issue as “environmental” and tap their instinct to protect nature. Implanting this subliminal suggestion sets them up for the next question.

3. Past warming has been caused by humans. 2012: Do you think a rise in the world’s temperature is being caused mostly by things people do, mostly by natural causes, or about equally by things people do and by natural causes? 2012: Assuming it’s happening, do you think a rise in the world’s temperature would be caused mostly by things people do, mostly by natural causes, or about equally by things people do and by natural causes?

Now we have some serious distortions inserted into the findings. The end results will reported as “The % of Americans that believe past warming has been caused by humans.” Note that participants have been primed to think warming is preventable by humans, so obviously humans have caused it (logical connection). Moreover, there are the 50-50 responses that will be counted as human causation. The problem is, people who are mostly uncertain and unwilling to say “don’t know” will fall back to the “equally human, equally nature” response.  It is a soft, not affirmative response.

And a further perversion: Those who have said temperatures are not rising are now told to “Assume it is happening.” What? This is no longer an opinion, it is out-and-out speculation. It appears that “Don’t know” and “Not Happening” are disallowed to force a choice with a 67% chance of getting the right answer: “Caused by Humans.”

4.Warming will be a serious problem for the U.S. 2012: If nothing is done to reduce global warming in the future, how serious of a problem do you think it will be for THE UNITED STATES – very serious, somewhat serious, not so serious, or not serious at all? 2012: Assuming it’s happening, if nothing is done to reduce global warming in the future, how serious of a problem do you think it would be for THE UNITED STATES – very serious, somewhat serious, not so serious, or not serious at all?

Again the phrase “If nothing is done to reduce global warming. . .” signaling participants that this is a serious issue, so don’t come with “not so serious” or (God forbid) “not serious at all.” And again, global warming must be assumed to be happening by anyone still unconvinced of it.

5. Warming will be a serious problem for the world. 2012: If nothing is done to reduce global warming in the future, how serious of a problem do you think it will be for THE WORLD – very serious, somewhat serious, not so serious, or not serious at all? 2012: Assuming it’s happening, if nothing is done to reduce global warming in the future, how serious of a problem do you think it would be for THE WORLD – very serious, somewhat serious, not so serious, or not serious at all?

Same comments regarding #4 apply here, only as Krosnick explained, elevating the issue to a “world problem” triggers even more seriousness in responses.

6. Five degrees of warming in 75 years will be bad. 2011-2012: If the world’s average temperature is about five degrees Fahrenheit higher 75 years from now than it is now, overall, would you say that would be good, bad, or neither good nor bad? 1997-2010: Scientists use the term “global warming” to refer to the idea that the world’s average temperature may be about five degrees Fahrenheit higher in 75 years than it is now. Overall, would you say that if the world’s average temperature is five degrees Fahrenheit higher in 75 years than it is now, would that be good, bad, or neither good nor bad?

In the past, interviewers told participants that global warming is defined as 5 degrees warmer, which triggered “bad” as a response. Fortunately, that obvious bias was dropped, and now people are free to say good, bad or neither. Interestingly, this question is not emphasized in the reports, perhaps because it only gets around 50% “Bad”, even in alarmist places like New York and California.

7. The government should limit greenhouse gas emissions. 2012: As you may have heard, greenhouse gasses are thought to cause global warming. In your opinion, do you think the government should or should not limit the amount of greenhouse gasses that U.S. businesses put out? 2008-2011: Some people believe that the United States government should limit the amount of air pollution that U.S. businesses can produce. Other people believe that the government should not limit air pollution from U.S. businesses. What about you? Do you think the government should or should not limit air pollution from U.S. businesses?

Here the older form of the question was more balanced: Some people believe X, some people believe Y, what do you believe? However, the older question was about air pollution which confuses CO2 (natural plant food) with artificial chemicals. The recent question targets “greenhouse gases”, a term nowhere defined. Now the biased question: Greenhouse gases cause global warming, should the government reduce them? Duh!

8.U.S. federal government should do more to address global warming. 2012: How much do you think the U.S. government should do about global warming? A great deal, quite a bit, some, a little, or nothing? 2009-2011: How much do you think the U.S. government is doing now to deal with global warming? A great deal, quite a bit, some, a little, or nothing? 2008: Do you think the federal government should do more than it’s doing now to try to deal with global warming, should do less than it’s doing now, or is it doing about the right amount?

Note the shift from asking about Whether government should do more than now, to How much is government doing now, to present form: How much more should government do.  Compares with: “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

9. U. S. should take action regardless what other countries do. Do you think the United States should take action on global warming only if other major industrial countries such as China and India agree to do equally effective things, that the United States should take action even if these other countries do less, or that the United States should not take action on this at all?

IOW, Should the US wait for others and be a follower, not a leader? Duh!

Series of Government Policy Questions

The real reason for the survey is to develop support for government officials to impose climate policies upon the population. The flavor of these is below with few comments from me until the end.

10. For the next items, please tell me for each one whether it’s something the government should require by law, encourage with tax breaks but not require, or stay out of entirely. Each of these changes would increase the amount of money that you pay for things you buy.

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by power plants. Favor lowering the amount of greenhouse gases that power plants are allowed to release into the air?

Favor a national cap and trade program. There’s a proposed system called “cap and trade.” The government would issue permits limiting the amount of greenhouse gases companies can put out. Companies that did not use all their permits could sell them to other companies. Companies that need more permits can buy them, or these companies can pay money to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that other people or organizations put out. This will cause companies to figure out the cheapest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This type of permit system has worked successfully in the past to reduce the air pollution that companies put out. For example, in 1990, the federal government passed a law like this, called the Clean Air Act, which caused companies to put out a lot less of the air pollution that causes acid rain. Would you favor or oppose a cap and trade system to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that companies put out?

Tax breaks to produce renewable energy. Do you favor or oppose the federal government giving companies tax breaks to produce more electricity from water, wind, and solar power?

Tax breaks to reduce air pollution from coal. Do you favor or oppose the federal government giving tax breaks to companies that burn coal to make electricity if they use new methods to reduce the air pollution being released from their smokestacks?

Increase CAFE standards for cars. Favor building cars that use less gasoline?
Build electric vehicles. 2012: Building cars that run completely on electricity?

Build appliances that use less electricity. Favor building air conditioners, refrigerators, and other appliances that use less electricity?

Build more energy-efficient buildings. Favor building new homes and offices that use less energy for heating and cooling?

Tax breaks to build nuclear power plants. Do you favor or oppose the federal government giving companies tax breaks to build nuclear power plants?

Who Pays for all this? It is time for the turkeys to face the pilgrim with the hatchet. How willing are you to pay increased taxes to “fight global warming?”

Increase consumption taxes on electricity. Do you favor or oppose the federal government increasing taxes on electricity so people use less of it?

Most places, majorities of respondents were favorable, up to 80% in some states. Perhaps a tribute to relatively cheap electricity in the U. S.  They are blissfully unaware of what can happen to electricity rates, having been spared so far the “Ontario Experience.”

Increase consumption taxes on gasoline. Do you favor or oppose the federal government increasing taxes on gasoline so people either drive less, or buy cars that use less gas?

Nowhere does this get a majority favorable response. It ranges from 15% to 40%, with most places around 30% in favor of higher gasoline taxes.

And finally, how much do you care and how much do you know?

Warming is extremely important personally (and is likely to influence voting). How important is the issue of global warming to you personally – extremely important, very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important?

Less than 17% of people say global warming is personally extremely important, and most places are under 10%

Highly knowledgeable about global warming. How much do you feel you know about global warming – a lot, a moderate amount, a little, or nothing?
Americans rate their global warming knowledge higher than other countries, going up to 60-70% claiming “Highly Knowledgeable.” Other country surveys would report 25% more typically.

Conclusion

An opinion poll is a mirror claiming to show us ourselves. All polls have error margins, and some are purposely bent to a desired distorted outcome.

In modern social democracies, polls and media are used to shape and report public opinions required by ruling elites to impose laws and policies unwanted by the people. A recent example was the distorted Canadian survey on carbon pricing used by Trudeau government to justify a carbon tax. That poll is deconstructed in a post Uncensored: Canadians View Global Warming.

Krosnick said that people taking his climate poll were surprised that the responses were not more skeptical of global warming claims. After seeing how the survey is put together, I am inclined to believe that participants and their neighbors are actually more skeptical than depicted in the results.  This showed up in the low numbers saying global warming is an important personal issue.  Despite agreeing with alarmist talking points, people seem to know this is about virtue signaling and tribal politics.  It is an “everywhere elsewhere” problem.

Finally, in the survey, Americans rate themselves as highly knowledgeable about global warming, up to 60-70% in some states. Other countries doing such climate surveys typically get about 25% of people saying that. For so many to be taken in by such a survey suggests that Americans’ actual knowledge of global warming is highly overrated.

Background:  Another Climate Push Poll

Climate Is a State of Mind

 

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Why Climate Journalism Sucks

At MondayNote, Frederic Filloux writes The Hazards of Covering Climate Change.  Without taking sides he describes why media coverage of global warming/climate change is so incompetent.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Zeal, political agendas, all kinds of excesses, but above all the intrinsic complexity of the issue, make the climate crisis extremely challenging to cover. Newsrooms should tackle the problem decisively.

Spending a few weeks in California this summer, I talked to many fellow journalists about the issue of covering the climate crisis. What I found is a yawning gap in the way it is approached.

In broad strokes, the coverage of climate change in Europe — especially in France — is loaded with negativism and finger-pointing while the US conversation seems more focused on finding broad, tech-driven, solutions. Neither is exempt from caricatures.

European ecology yields a political agenda which questions the relevance of the free market economy in a way that reminds of the Marxism activism in the ’70s. To many eco-activists, responding to the climate crisis requires a Malthusian approach, with all sorts of constraints on the way we travel, commute, eat, and consume that will involve some curtailing of individual liberties (as a French socialist leader put it a few weeks ago).

The buzzword is now “degrowth”. Economic contraction is the only way, never mind the collateral damages. Europe has its icons like Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish activist who preaches her doomsday prophecy with more whimsy than facts or knowledge.

The current ideological hodgepodge does not foster nuances: you are either with or against. For instance, questioning the media circus around the Swedish girl, and denouncing the cynicism of her handlers who uses her autism as a marketing tool, even if you agree with her on the fundamentals, will leave you categorized as part of the white, privileged, sexist dominant caste climate deniers.

Suggesting that French president Macron’s move to give up research on fourth-generation nuclear energy is a terrible decision (The French nuclear program allows France to emit only one-tenth of Germany’s CO2 per kWh of electricity), will also put you in the “climate-negationists” league, an elegant term alluding to Holocaust deniers.

On the matter of nuclear energy, the French press is doing such a terrible job that 86 percent of the 18–24 years old believe that the cooling towers of a nuclear plant spit out CO2 (it’s vapor).

As an American fellow journalist told me last week, “Europe succumbs to a kind of withdrawal while the United States is looking for tech solutions”. The fact is, by and large, the coverage of the climate crisis in the American media, is more proactive and less whining than the one in Europe, despite Donald Trump’s compulsive anti-environment stance. The tech and business press always seem eager to report on breakthroughs that could contain the crisis. As I observed in Silicon Valley last month, an unprecedented number of startups are working in the field. They range from optimizing the global food supply-chain to developing ways to save water (while just 130 miles south of San Francisco farmers continue to irrigate in the worse possible way) to make buildings greener. Venture capital investors are injecting billions of dollars in Greentech. While many European ecologists blame capitalism for the degradation of the planet (ignoring that the worse polluters are still in the former USSR and in China), entrepreneurship is in full swing in the United States, even if it sometimes comes with a dose of naïveté and unrealistic expectations.

Let’s get back to journalism.

By and large, newsrooms are not currently up to the task. Despite highly publicized initiatives taken by large publishers and noteworthy initiatives such as the #CoveringClimateNow partnership, the bulk of the coverage is terrible.

For the most part, it oscillates between an ideological stance and an irrational exuberance for technological promises. Approximation and caricature are rampant. Periodically, haste leads to false information that is quickly exploited by true climate deniers.

When covering the climate crisis, mistakes carry way more consequences than for any other beat.

The complexity of the subject makes it incompatible with the brevity of social media. Elizabeth Kolbert’s seminal piece in the New Yorker, The Sixth Extinction, published in 2009, could not have been chopped down into a tweetstorm. Reporters should be encouraged to embrace complexity. Unfortunately, they don’t have the time nor the training. That is also the consequences of newsrooms trends that often considered science journalism as a genre mineur

It is time for decisive actions. Given what’s at stake, J-schools must create specific curriculum aimed at feeding much-needed news desks that are currently non-existent in most newsrooms. Addressing the issue requires a multidisciplinary approach: rethinking the relation to cities, transportation, public policies, macro-economy, and innovation. If specific expertise is needed in newsrooms, it is definitely to cover this beat (plus, it can be a highly beneficial sector: the first outlet to become a reference in the field will reap substantial profits).

 

 

 

 

Untrustworthy Enivronmental Science

Of Republicans with high levels of science knowledge, less than half trust environmental scientists.ELENA LACEY; GETTY IMAGES

Adam Rogers writes at WIRED Americans Trust Scientists Until Politics Gets in the Way.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds

Nothing’s more American than a science-hero—an indomitable, big-brained hasher-out of ideas that change the world, that make the impossible possible. At least since Ben Franklin sat with the founders, and certainly since Vannevar Bush explicitly connected the US’ future to federal funding of science after World War II, the idea of sciencing the shit out of everything has been core to the American character. Like many surveys and studies before it, a new report from the Pew Research Center confirms this truth: Americans love and trust scientists. In 2019, 86 percent of Americans said they had a great deal or a fair amount of confidence in them—up 3 percent from the year before.

That’s higher than confidence in the military (82 percent), or even in public school principals (80 percent)! It’s even higher than, can you believe it, the news media (47 percent, ahem) or elected officials (35 percent).

Except, like the polling nerds say, you have to check the cross-tabs—the particulars of who answered what question, and how. This particular survey compared trust in specific types of scientists. Specifically, it covered dietitians and nutrition scientists, clinicians and biomedical researchers, and (here we go) environmental health specialists and environmental scientists. In other words: nutrition, doctors, and climate change.

And then the pollsters asked for the respondents’ political affiliations. Which: Uh oh.

Of Democrats with high levels of science knowledge (which turns out to be a thing you can pop-quiz for), just about nine out of 10 people trust environmental scientists. Of Republicans with high levels of science knowledge? Less than half. “We often see that public attitudes around climate, energy, and environmental issues are strongly correlated with party ideology, where other kinds of science issues are not,” says Cary Funk, a social scientist and lead author of the new study. This is called “motivated reasoning,” Funk says. “The idea is that your partisan identity kind of trumps the role of knowledge in your beliefs.”

It’s an outcome familiar to climate communication researchers. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, for example, has found rising belief among Republicans that climate change is human-caused and policy steps should be taken to combat it, but that program’s research still consistently finds a party disparity. “We’re starting to see the signal appear out of the noise and say, yeah, my direct experience reflects climate change,” Anthony Leiserowitz, the Yale program director, told me late last year. “But that’s still a small influence compared to the dominant factor, which is politics.”

Put aside Evangelicals, who often vote Republican and stereotypically express skepticism in a range of scientific conclusions. The people in the Pew study, by and large, accept the conclusions of medicine, of basic physics, of organic chemistry. But even though the methods and philosophies that produced those conclusions are the exact same methods and approaches climate scientists use, if you’re a Republican, odds are you don’t buy it.

Other research, from Pew and elsewhere, has found divides in the amount of trust people have in scientists who study other fields with policy valances, such as genetically modified foods or vaccines. But those divides don’t fall along party lines. It’s just climate.

Why? What powers this motivated cognition? It’s one thing to believe that which confirms your priors, but how do people acquire priors for climate science? At a time when “climate science” means everything from wildfires to emerging diseases to mass migration, how do people still see it as merely an environmental issue?

[Comment:  The author seems oblivious to the history of progressively more extreme environmental scares, trumpeted in the media, then later dropped in favor of a new and different one.  Bernie Lewin’s book provides the story of how each one was promoted taking the public in, and adding to the erosion of confidence.  The sequence of expanding scares was:
Synopsis of the environmental scare history (lest we forget) is at Progressively Scaring the World ]

Some researchers blame the 1970s. See, before then, most of the science that Americans so loved was, in one terminology, “production science.” Even the basic, research work led to cool new stuff, which could become salable new products. Corporations love that. But with the rise of modern environmentalism in the middle and late 20th century came “impact science” that looked at the harms of those industrial-era products—asbestos, DDT, dioxins, chlorofluorocarbons, nuclear waste, and more recently greenhouse gases and plastics. “Environmentalism and the conservation movement take off really at about the same time, the 1970s … but originally those think tanks didn’t pay too much attention to environmentalism,” says Riley Dunlap, an emeritus sociologist at Oklahoma State University.

Thomas Edison in his Menlo Park Lab.

Then, just as international environmentalism started to peak in the early 1990s, the Soviet Union fell apart. Conservatism lost its Big Bad. “We think the conservative movement really substituted a Green Scare for the declining Red Scare,” Dunlap says. The party’s funders turned to fighting the regulatory apparatus that would come with more environmentally sensitive policies.

To Dunlap and others, that’s why Republicans scoff at climate science while embracing, say, particle physics. “They haven’t heard Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity talking about physics,” Dunlap says. “But they’ve had a constant barrage saying global warming is the mother of all environmental issues, the one with the most dire consequences, and in the eyes of the conservatives, the most serious consequences for regulations.”

[Note: The author is also unaware of how alarmists reduce away the complexity of climate science down to their simple pre-determined assertion: Humans are making the world dangerously warmer. Explanation is at Climate Reductionism
That’s why those cross-tabs keep showing the Republicans think climate science is a grift. They mostly trust nutrition science, even though in reality lots of nutrition science (and certainly the mass media coverage of it) is, according to at least one high-powered science watchdog, in need of radical reform. They mostly trust physicians, even though study after study shows that attention and gifts from pharmaceutical reps have a profound influence on what drugs physicians prescribe. These folks aren’t as infallible as we all might hope.

In fact, call me cynical, but I was actually heartened by some of the parts of the Pew study that suggested broad-based skepticism.

“Overall views of scientists are generally positive, but it tends to be a soft support,” Funk says. “It tends to be lower when it comes to counting on scientists to do their job well, on working in the public interest. And then you see the low degree or widespread skepticism around issues of scientific integrity.” Only about one in five Americans thought scientists were as up front about their own conflicts of interest as they should be. And 71 percent of African American respondents, and 63 percent of Latinx respondents, reported professional or research misconduct as a moderately or very big problem. That was higher than what white people said by 20 points and seems worth following up given the scientific establishment’s frankly crummy history with minorities in research.

On a more positive front, people reported trusting scientists more when the data they used was more open—a major goal of the open science and reproducibility movements. Good science works on fixing science.

More Republicans than Democrats thought that scientists’ policy decisions are no better than anyone else’s and that scientists are just as likely to be biased as non-scientists. The thing is, that’s true.

Scientists are human beings. The practice of science, though, remains the single best way for humans to acquire information about how the universe actually works, and then to act on it. If it’s the case that a well-funded conservative movement found a way to convince people that climate change—the single biggest existential threat humanity faces—simply wasn’t happening, they could do it again. The same thing could work with telling people that vaccines violate their personal autonomy or that environmental protections are too stringent.

The cautionary tale here isn’t about petrochemical donors to Republicans enhancing the motivated cognition of their base. It’s about how little Americans know about how science is actually supposed to work as a practice. If they did, they’d make the connection between the broad, informed skepticism that in fact drives science to improve, to continually reach toward the fundamental truths that allow deeper understanding and, candidly, cooler stuff—across every subfield. Those are the results that lead to better policy for everyone instead of higher profits for a few.

See also: Eco Footprint Nonsense

 

We are Ignored, then Dissed, then Debated, then We Win.

Global Warming Debate Soho Forum May 8, 2019

The post title is a reference to a quote from Mahatma Gandhi who said, when facing overwhelming odds opposed by an entrenched establishment in India:

Watch: Skeptical scientist wins rare New York City climate debate against warmist scientist – Audience flips from warmist views to skeptical after debate (H/T John Ray at his blog Greenie Watch)Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The Soho Forum, Published on May 6, 2019

Resolution: There is little or no rigorous evidence that rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are causing dangerous global warming and threatening life on the planet.

For the affirmative:

Craig Idso is the founder, former president, and currently chairman of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. The Center was founded in 1998 as a non-profit public charity dedicated to discovering and disseminating scientific information pertaining to the effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide enrichment on climate and the biosphere.

Dr. Idso’s research has appeared many times in peer-reviewed journals, and is the author or coauthor of several books, including The Many Benefits of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment (Vales Lake Publishing, LLC, 2011), CO2, Global Warming and Coral Reefs (Vales Lake Publishing, LLC, 2009).

Dr. Idso also serves as an adjunct scholar for the Cato Institute and as a policy advisor for the CO2Coalition, the Heartland Institute and the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.

For the negative:

Jeffrey Bennett is an astrophysicist and educator. He has focused his career on math and science literacy. He is the lead author of bestselling college textbooks in astronomy, astrobiology, mathematics, and statistics, and of critically acclaimed books for the general public on topics including Einstein’s theory of relativity, the search for extraterrestrial life, and the importance of math to our everyday lives.

Other career highlights include serving two years as a Visiting Senior Scientist at NASA Headquarters, proposing and helping to develop the Voyage Scale Model Solar System that resides on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and creating the freeTotality app that has helped tens of thousands of people learn how to view a total solar eclipse.

His book A Global Warming Primeris posted freely online at http://www.globalwarmingprimer.com.

Moderator: “We have the final vote. The yes vote on the resolution that there is no evidence that’s causing dangerous global warming: It began at 24% (of the skeptical yes vote supporting that position) and it went up to 46% (after the debate). So [skeptical argument] gained 22% points. That’s the number to beat (46%).

The no resolution (warmist position) started at 29%. It went up to 41% or up 11 points.” The winner of the debate is skeptical scientist Dr. Craig Idso with his resolution asserting that “There is little or no rigorous evidence that rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are causing dangerous global warming and threatening life on the planet.”

Flashback 2007: Scientific Smackdown: Skeptics Voted The Clear Winners Against Global Warming Believers in Heated NYC Debate – RealClimate.org’s Gavin Schmidt appeared so demoralized that he mused that debates equally split between believers of a climate ‘crisis’ and scientific skeptics are probably not “worthwhile” to ever agree to again.

Climate Models on Fire!

They are at it again: Our future will be filled with death and destruction according to climate models. The latest doomsday scenario is that every summer in the future will be hotter than the one before, brought to you by CNN: “All the Fear All the Time.”

Future summers will ‘smash’ temperature records every year says CNN. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

If you think it’s hot now, you haven’t seen anything yet. A new study predicts that parts of the world will “smash” temperature records every year in the coming century due to climate change, “pushing ecosystems and communities beyond their ability to cope.”

The scientists who authored the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Monday, used 22 climate models to game out exactly how hot these summer temperatures would be. They determined that by the end of the 21st century, future temperature events “will be so extreme that they will not have been experienced previously.”

The temperature increase is directly tied to rising global greenhouse gas emissions, the authors say.

The world is already seeing record setting temperatures and while warming hasn’t been uniform, earlier studies have shown that the planet has been in a warming trend, generally.

Heat waves will be deadly. Heat stroke, breathing issues, heart attacks, asthma attacks, kidney problems are all a big concern for people when the temperatures increase, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Higher temperatures can also make air pollution worse, make water scarce and cause crops to fail, leading to malnutrition and starvation.

In 2014, the World Health Organization predicted 250,000 more people will die annually between 2030 and 2050 due to climate change. More recent studies predict that this is a “conservative estimate.”

If, however, countries meet goals of limiting global temperature rise less than 2 degrees Celsius, as set out in the Paris agreement, that scenario would be much less likely.

Footnote: A second separate heat wave alarm study was published and trumpeted in the Seattle Times. (H/T kakatoa, comment below) Cliff Mass does his usual thorough review pointing out problems both in the estimating of future temperatures and in calculating projected deaths from heat waves.

The article by Mass is The Seattle Times Story on Massive Heat Wave Deaths in Seattle: Does it Make Sense?


Epic Science Fraud by Inept Journalist

Alex Berezow reminds why we cannot trust today’s journalists to tell the truth, especially regarding anything scientific. His article at American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) is La Croix And BPA: Journalist Celebrates That She Caused Millions In Losses. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Journalism is thoroughly inept and corrupt. The quality of journalism has gotten so bad that I have whittled down my trusted sources to merely a handful. Even then, when it comes to science, these sources often get it wrong.

The reason is two-fold: First, journalists aren’t experts in anything. Many of them went to journalism school, which taught them absolutely nothing useful. An editor at The Economist once told me that the newspaper did not hire journalism majors, preferring people who majored in “something real.” The craft of journalism can be learned on the job. Besides, as science communicator Mary Mangan once wrote, “Every crank in the crankosphere has either a politics degree or a journalism degree.”

Second, too many journalists believe their primary job is to “change the world” rather than “report the facts.” If it seems like many journalists behave like partisans or activists, it’s because they really are partisans and activists. Truth matters less than fulfilling an ideological mission. This attitude was summed up best by Michael Wolff, who once said, “If it rings true, it is true.” Really, who needs facts when you have feelings?

Putting this all together, we shouldn’t be surprised when a journalist goes on social media to celebrate when her (poor) reporting causes a company to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in market capitalization.

Business Insider Journalist Celebrates a Massive Loss of Wealth

La Croix is a popular beverage that I refuse to drink because I think it tastes like fizzy horse urine. But plenty of other people like it, which is one reason why its parent company, the National Beverage Corporation, has a market cap well over $2 billion.

Like several other high-profile companies, La Croix has been the target of a junk science lawsuit. The company was accused of using synthetic chemicals instead of natural ones as advertised, a distinction without a difference, as my colleague Dr. Josh Bloom explains.

Now, they are the subject of another lawsuit, this time revolving around bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that is used as a liner to protect the integrity of cans. There are no known health effects caused by the tiny doses to which humans are exposed, and the FDA declares BPA “safe.” So, what’s the basis of the lawsuit?

According to court filings reported by Business Insider, the president of the National Beverage Corp. planned to lie about the BPA content of its products. Specifically, he allegedly planned to announce that the company no longer used BPA months before the cans would actually be BPA-free. When a high-level executive voiced opposition, he was fired. The lawsuit, then, is for wrongful termination.

There are two facets to this story: (1) The science of BPA; and (2) The conditions surrounding the termination of the employee. As already discussed, (1) is perfectly clear. Yet, despite the fact that the FDA has declared BPA “safe,” Business Insider originally called the chemical “toxic.” The article was eventually updated to remove that completely inaccurate descriptor.

The exact details of (2) are unknown. The only thing we know is that allegations have been made in a lawsuit. But Hayley Peterson, the author of the Business Insider piece, not only seems to have concluded erroneously that BPA is dangerous, but that the company is guilty of wrongful termination. How else can we explain her decision to go on LinkedIn and brag that her reporting cost the company 10% of its market cap?

How a Responsible Journalist Would Cover the La Croix Lawsuit

Instead of just cursing the darkness, I will attempt to light a candle. Here’s how a responsible journalist would cover the La Croix lawsuit.

First, it would be discussed in-depth that the entire basis of the controversy — namely, the presence of BPA — is entirely misguided because it’s a safe product. Whether the company engaged in wrongful termination is far less important than the larger discussion about BPA, which is used in many different products. Second, it would be made clear, if it is eventually found that the president planned to lie and that he acted illegally by terminating an employee, that this has no bearing on the safety of BPA. BPA is safe whether or not the president is a jerk. Third, a responsible journalist wouldn’t go on social media and brag about how they destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars of wealth.

Essentially, I’m asking that journalists be competent, well-informed, and well-behaved. I know that’s asking a lot in 2019.

Is Climate Catastrophe the Lie Whose Time Has Come?

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” — Joseph Goebbels

The US election cycle is heating up, while the Brexit melodrama is morphing into “Zero Carbon, Please.”  Kids are in the streets on Fridays or suing the government in courts.  Oil Companies are under pressure to commit Hari-Kari by those proposing that wind and solar power be ramped up from 2% of global energy supply to 89% in 12 years.  Can the herd grow any madder than this?

A recent CNN poll of Democrats had 96% saying any presidential nominee has to promise aggressive action to slow climate change, numbers right up there with Mom and apple pie.  And they demand candidates have a whole debate dedicated to climate change so the dozen or so pols can be checked for sincerity.

Progressives certainly think the issue is a winner for them because most Americans agree with them.  But do they really?  How reliable are these polls?  One that is frequently mentioned in support of climate belief by the masses is dissected below so you can draw your own conclusions.

Climate Change Is a State of Mind

A recent survey by Yale and George Mason activists is another reminder that “climate change” is actually a branch of environmental psychology. Consider that “climate” is an human construct, defined as the pattern of weather we remember in our living space over seasons and years. And “climate change” is therefore an added belief that our expectations about future weather are uncertain and unreliable. And so, attitude surveys are a suitable way to explore an issue that is wholly a matter of public opinion, IOW a state of mind rather than a state of nature.

The survey is appropriately entitled: Climate Change in the American Mind. Title is link to the website for the 2018 edition, with earlier results back to 2008.

The resources there are informative, including articles expressing both satisfactions and disappointments with the levels of belief and concern expressed by survey participants. The compliant mass media cherry pick various findings, giving headlines like these.

“We’ve entered a new era” of climate concern, survey finds CBS

Americans Believe in Climate Change, But Not Climate Action NYmag

Yale Poll: Climate Change ‘Personally Important’ to Record Number of Americans EcoWatch

Most Americans Don’t Know Vast Majority Of Scientists Agree On Climate Change CleanTechnica

Most Americans now worry about climate change—and want to fix it National Geographic

Poll Shows Most People Believe ‘Global Warming is Happening’ necn

Survey reveals 70% of Americans favour the environment over economic growth ClimateAction

What is the American Mindset according to the Survey?

So beyond details of particular responses, what can we learn from this series of polls about the American state of mind regarding global warming/climate change?

The specific questions and response patterns are at Appendix I: Data Tables & Sample Demographics

There are a lot of questions asked and answered, including exploring a complete range of feelings people have on the issue. I will summarize the central questions and the pattern of responses over the last decade.

Click on image to enlarge.

The core set of global warming beliefs are listed on the left.  The marked lines show the % of responses each one achieved over the years.  For example, over 50% agreed to four of them in 2018: GW is happening, GW is man made, Future generations will be greatly harmed and Most scientists agree.  Other patterns are also of interest.  Personal experience of GW effects is reported by almost 50%, while only 30% are very worried.  Indeed, people are less concerned about harm to themselves or even the US, then they are fearful for Developing Countries (DCs) and for Future Generations.

Notice there is a general curve to most of the answer time series.  Beliefs are only slightly higher in 2018 than they were in 2008.  In general, the %s were flat or declining in this decade until starting to rise again around 2014.  This points to the linkage between the opinions held by the public and the emphasis promoted in the mass media.  Compare the curvature in the above graph with this chart of climate change coverage in leading US newpapers.

The chart and research come from International Collective on Environment, Culture & Politics, AKA ICECaP.  Note the peaks in 2007-8 at the time of IPCC AR4 and Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth flick, and in 2009-10 around the time of the Copenhagen COP.  The Climategate emails were also in the news in 2010, but for some reason newspapers were less interested in that aspect, the topic dropped in coverage.

The spike in 2013 coincides with Obama’s SOTU speech featuring climate change as the “defining issue of our time.”  The rise in climate change coverage in recent years is a more complex matter.

Climate journalists (like most all journalists) have been obsessed with trashing Donald Trump, and climate change is mentioned often as a subset of Trump complaints.  Consider this chart from Media Matters.

See that huge spike in the middle? That’s from June 1, 2017, when President Donald Trump announced that he intended to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement. No other day in the last three years saw anywhere near that much coverage. When Trump stages an event related to climate change, the media snap to attention. The rest of the time it’s like, “Climate what?”

That aligns with what Media Matters found when we looked at climate coverage on broadcast TV news programs in 2017: Trump dominated the news segments about climate change. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, in the International Collective on Environment, Culture & Politics, reached a similar conclusion when they analyzed TV news coverage from November of this year: “In US television coverage of climate change or global warming in November 2018, ‘Trump’ was explicitly invoked over fourteen times more frequently than the words ‘science’ or ‘scientists’ together and nearly four times more frequently than the word ‘climate’ itself.”

A research group at the University of Colorado-Boulder, the International Collective on Environment, Culture and Politics (ICE CaPs), produced the findings that illustrate how much climate coverage has been driven by President Donald Trump. It examined coverage last year in five major American newspapers: The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times. In the 4,117 stories in those papers that mentioned “climate change” or “global warming,” the word “Trump” appeared 19,184 times — an average of nearly 4.7 times per article.

My Mind is Made Up, Don’t Confuse Me with the Facts. H/T Bjorn Lomborg, WUWT

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Summary

To summarize, Survey Says:

What He Said:   “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” (Obama tweet).  The survey could be reduced to one question:  Do you agree with this tweet?

There is not much upward movement in public belief in global warming/climate change.  There is increased attention from the left-leaning media as part of their general dislike of the Trump administration. One more time, who made global warming into a political rather than a scientific issue?

NPR Defends Pseudo-Science

This morning in the car doing some errands I listened to an NPR broadcast regarding a NYT article claiming the Trump administration is attacking the fundamentals of climate science. Two journalists involved in the NYT article made two revealing defenses of IPCC climate ideology.

First they objected to the Geological Survey decision to limit consideration (required by US law) of climate change to impacts foreseen between now and 2040, setting aside projections out to 2100. Their reasoning: We won’t see any significant effects from our reducing (or not) CO2 emissions until the second half of this century. All of the forecasted temperature rise of 8F, along with sea level rise, storms, droughts, floods, etc. is only seen to occur after 2040. How do they know this? It is certain because it comes directly from the Oracle of Delphi the Climate Models, which have so accurately forecast the climate in the past (sic).  All the pressure to unplug industrial civilization now, with results to appear many decades later.

Then they expressed shock that a Presidential Commission may be set up to review and questions climate assumptions put into agency planning. They said everyone agrees on the science of global warming, and this is not the way climate science is done. The two journalists, without a single bit of self-awareness, proceeded to discredit the possible chairman William Happer by saying he was not a “climate scientist.” Like, how would they know? He is a world expert on atmospheric gases responses to infrared radiation, which is the supposed mechanism of man made global warming, and something about which they  are  clueless.

In other news today, Arnold Swartzenegger was “starstruck” to meet with teen climate activist Greta Thunberg. How bad will this nightmare get before people wake up?

See Also Stop Fake Science. Approve the PCCS!

Get a Second Opinion Before Climate Surgery

US News is Skewed Up and Dumbed Down

Under the Suspicions Confirmed file, we have quantitative proof that US news is increasingly skewed according to the values of the media outlet. Rand corporation is publishing studies on the theme Truth Decay, based on analyzing 15 prominent and popular media platforms. The latest report is at phys.org entitled US journalism has become more subjective. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

U.S.-based journalism has gradually shifted away from objective news and offers more opinion-based content that appeals to emotion and relies heavily on argumentation and advocacy, according to a new RAND Corporation report.

In a unique analysis on news discourse and presentation, researchers found that the changes occurred over a 28-year-period (1989 to 2017) as journalism expanded beyond traditional media, such as newspapers and broadcast networks, to newer media, such as 24-hour cable channels and digital outlets. Notably, these measurable changes vary in extent and nature for different news platforms.

“Our research provides quantitative evidence for what we all can see in the media landscape: Journalism in the U.S. has become more subjective and consists less of the detailed event- or context-based reporting that used to characterize news coverage,” said Jennifer Kavanagh, a senior political scientist and lead author of the report, which is second in a series of research into the phenomenon of “Truth Decay,” the declining role of facts and analysis in civil discourse and its effect on American life.

News consumers can now see how the news has changed over the years and keep that in mind when making choices about which media outlets to rely on for news,” she added.

The analysis, enabled by a RAND text analytics tool previously used to analyze support and opposition to Islamic terrorists on social media, offers a detailed assessment of how news has shifted over time and across platforms. The RAND-Lex tool scanned millions of lines of text in print, broadcast and online journalism from 1989 (the first year such data was available via Lexis Nexis) to 2017 to identify usage patterns in words and phrases. Researchers were then able to measure these differences not only within one outlet or type of media (e.g. print) but also comparatively with other forms of journalism (e.g. print vs. digital).

Researchers analyzed content from 15 outlets representing print (The New York Times, Washington Post and St. Louis Post-Dispatch), television (CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox and MSNBC) and digital journalism (Politico, The Blaze, Breitbart News Network, Buzzfeed Politics, The Daily Caller and The Huffington Post).

The findings point to a gradual and subtle shift over time and between old and new media toward a more subjective form of journalism that is grounded in personal perspective.

Consider broadcast news. Before 2000, broadcast news segments were more likely to include relatively complex academic and precise language, as well as complex reasoning. After 2000, broadcast news becomes less pre-planned as on-air personalities and guests engaged in conversations about news. (That year, 2000, is significant in the evolution of the media landscape, as viewership of all three major cable networks began to increase dramatically.)

Comparing broadcast news to cable programming, differences become more stark, with cable segments dedicating more time to opinion coverage and using argumentative language. The size and scope of these changes is substantial, but researchers also noted that these differences may be in part a result of their different audiences, with cable news focusing on specialized audiences.

When comparing newspapers to digital outlets, researchers were able to identify significant differences. Newspapers have changed the least over time, with content slightly shifting from a more academic style to one that is more narrative. As for digital journalism, the report found that online content is more personal and direct, narrating key social and policy issues through personal points of view and subjective references.

“Our analysis illustrates that news sources are not interchangeable but each provides mostly unique content, even when reporting on related issues,” said Bill Marcellino, a behaviorial and social scientist and co-author of the report. “Given our findings that different types of media present news in different ways, it makes sense that people turn to multiple platforms.”

The report is one in a series of RAND-funded reports into the triggers and consequences of Truth Decay. The first report, written by Kavanagh and RAND President and CEO Michael D. Rich, examined how Truth Decay is a set of four interrelated trends:

    • increasing disagreement about facts;
    • a blurring between opinion and fact; 
    • an increase in the relative volume of opinion and personal experience over fact; and
    • declining trust in formerly respected sources of factual information.

That report identified how changes in the media have contributed to Truth Decay by increasing the volume of opinion over fact. Forthcoming reports will examine issues such online civic engagement and use of social media for political activities, public trust in institutions and how to evaluate media literacy programs.

“RAND has always been an institution where facts matter,” Rich said. “This new stream of research sheds additional light on the drivers and implications of Truth Decay and is part of our continuing efforts to use analysis to improve civil discourse and public policymaking.”

Footnote

See also How Mass Media Became One-Sided

For discussion of media impact on global warming/climate change see Climate Is a State of Mind

Bill Nye, Bad Science Guy

Bill Nye has a history of pushing bad science, including but not limited to climate change/global warming. Alex Berezow explains at American Council on Science and Health Bill Nye Is A Terrible Spokesman For Science.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds

When I was a kid, Bill Nye the Science Guy was a thing. I never watched his show (as I was too busy keeping up with Ren & Stimpy), but he seemed fun enough. If I could go back in time, I’d probably watch.

Some years later, Bill Nye experienced a resurgence in popularity. But instead of the old, nerdy-but-lovable Bill Nye, we got Bill Nye 2.0, a somewhat cantankerous scold who clearly knows less about science than he leads on.

It was clear that something was amiss a few years ago when, amid Nye’s renewed celebrity status, it came to light that he aired an episode of Eyes of Nye that perpetuated anti-GMO propaganda. Nye was subsequently criticized by the scientific and (especially) science writing communities. Not long thereafter, Nye had a change of heart.

Good! Better late than never. But was this “conversion” based on a new understanding of biotechnology or simply a calculated marketing move? Evidence points toward the latter. As late as 2015, Nye was still pushing anti-GMO nonsense. That year, he published a book called Undeniable, which promoted evolution over creationism. The book entirely lacked references (quite bizarre for a science book), and despite GMO technology itself being “undeniable,” Nye wrote this:

“But there is something weird and unnatural about putting fish genes in fruit, in tomatoes. Nobody wanted it, so that research was abandoned.

I’ll grant you, this could be a visceral reaction from ignorant consumers. Emotional responses do not necessarily reflect scientific reality, as is evident in everything from creationism to the anti-vaccine movement. In this case, though, I think science and emotion are on the same side. There are very valid scientific reasons to approach GMOs with caution, and those turn out to dovetail with economic reasons. So far, it’s not clear that investment in GMOs pays off. It is certainly not clear that GMO research should be funded with tax dollars.”

By 2016, however, he was singing a different tune. Call me jaded and curmudgeonly, but his newfound faith in GMOs doesn’t seem authentic.

Bill Nye, Prophet of Doom

In his latest appearance, Bill Nye had a cameo on John Oliver’s show, in which he lit a globe on fire and dropped a few F-bombs. (I guess that passes as comedy.) He also said that Earth’s temperature could rise by 4 to 8 degrees, presumably Fahrenheit, since Nye didn’t indicate which scale he was using. His projection is within the range predicted by the IPCC, so at least he got that right.

But is setting a globe on fire an appropriate analogy to get the message across? Earth’s temperature has gone up 1.4 degrees F since 1880. Undoubtedly, another 4 to 8 degrees is quite a lot in a short period of time. It doesn’t take a master prognosticator to conclude that might cause some problems. But Earth is not — nor will it ever be — a flaming ball of fire. Earth isn’t Venus.

Bill Nye 2.0

Ultimately, it seems that Bill Nye just panders to whatever he thinks the audience wants to hear. He thought (incorrectly) that they wanted to hear why GMOs were bad, so he altered his message when he got pushback. He won’t get pushback for exaggerating climate change, so it’s likely he’ll keep this up for a while.

I don’t think Nye actually believes the climate hysteria. Because if he did, Nye would support whatever means necessary to stop it, like nuclear power. After all, he’s a mechanical engineer. But lo and behold, Nye is opposed to nuclear power. Big surprise. Audiences don’t like nuclear power.

Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne once wrote of Bill Nye, “I’m not a fan of the new Science Guy, and see him as a self-aggrandizing person trying to capture his lost limelight more eagerly than he wants to promulgate science.”

Unfortunately, I think that assessment is accurate. Bring back the old Bill Nye. Version 1.0 was better.