Environment

Gallup Poll: Climate Change is Least of Concerns

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMar 30, 2011 1:16 AM

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There's a new Gallup survey on environmental issues that will trigger a round of cheers and jeers in the climate blogosphere, depending on where you align. The main finding:

With Earth Day about a month away, Americans tell Gallup they worry the most about several water-related risks and issues among nine major environmental issues. They worry least about global warming and loss of open spaces.

The responses, as they come in from the two representative climate camps, should be a study in confirmation bias. Take Anthony Watts' take:

Translation: green dudes, you are losing the public attention. Be thankful for the whacked out messages from people like Al Gore, Jim Hansen, Bill McKibben, Tim Flannery, and Joe Romm, because without them these AGW worry numbers would be far higher.

Doubtful. The American public, a bit distracted by an epic economic collapse and various other natural calamities and wars, isn't paying much attention to global warming these last few years. Another reason, as Ezra Klein correctly points out, is that

it's difficult to persuade people to act on climate change now: unlike the American health-care system or the war in Iraq or even poisoned drinking water, it's not obviously killing anyone right now.

In its overview, Gallup also notes:

The current levels of public concern about various environmental problems are essentially unchanged from 2010. However, Americans are less worried today than they were 10 years ago about all eight issues Gallup measured in 2001.

Watts, in keeping with his thematic "whacked out" gloss, says that this is "despite the recent shrillness of the environmental message." No. What he fails to mention is the larger context that Gallup next provides:

The decline over the past decade spans a period when the public often expressed surging concern about terrorismthe Iraq wargas prices, and the economy.

I'm waiting to hear from the other side of the spectrum that this latest poll is just more evidence that people are lacking all the facts on climate change--that the proper information isn't getting to the public. (The zombie deficit model cannot be slain!) Anyone who wants to go to the mat again with that argument should leave a comment and I'll devote another post this week addressing your case.

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