I am not one who thinks that the global warming issue is a hoax.  Rather, I think it has been promoted in an unreasonable manner that sought to create hysteria in order to panic us into supporting unwise policies, and when people resisted, a certain snobbery kicked in that viewed those who didn’t swallow the theory whole as somehow dumb or ignorant.  (Looking down one’s nose at those whose support you need is not a good persuasion tool.)

That approach has not worked well.  A new Pew Poll shows that attitudes about the issue have little changed in the last year.  But the difference between now and just four years ago is striking.  From the story:

In 2006, far more Americans said there was solid evidence that the average temperature has been rising over the past few decades. In July of that year, 79% believed there was evidence of global warming, and half (50%) said it was mostly caused by human activity. Much of the change in attitudes about global warming occurred between April 2008 and last fall, with the decline coming mostly, though not entirely, among Republicans and independents. (See “Fewer Americans See Solid Evidence of Global Warming,” Oct. 22, 2009).

Two other indicators of opinion on the issue were not included in the October 2009 survey, and both show significant changes from earlier polls. Currently, 46% of the public says global warming is a problem that requires immediate government action. In July 2006, 61% said the issue needed immediate action. This decline is mostly a consequence of the fact that fewer now say global warming is a problem.

And note that more people (50%) either think that global warming is not a problem or that it does not require government action.  In 2006, those categories made up only 36%, a huge shift in opinion in a relatively short time.

What I find remarkable is that this collapse in public support took place despite the fact that the pro global warming side utterly dominated the institutions that generally control the discourse: The international community; the United Nations (which has really stepped in a PR bucket); President Obama;  The Democratic Party. The Mainstream Media; The Science Establishment; A-List Hollywood; Big Time Rock and Roll; and last but not least, Prince Charles (ha!). And yet, the cause is deflating like a tire with a nail.

Why the slide over the last 4 years?  I believe it was a combination of factors: First, and foremost, we saw hysterical study after hysterical story, telling us that global warming meant we have to give up meat, pets, children, flying, driving, and virtually everything else that makes life worth living.  After awhile, each new study/story didn’t alarm, but rather, caused eyes to roll.  The imperiousness of many prominent AGW advocates added to the distrust. So did the attempt to change the lexicon to “climate change.”  It didn’t help the cause when warming advocates unilaterally declared the debate over. THEY don’t get to decide that,  WE do.  Advocates also overstated the scientific consensus, acting as if heterodox thinkers were just a bunch of nuts when, in actuality, many notable scientists are among the skeptics.  The issue became partisan. Then, there were a couple of cold winters.  Finally, the remedies seem far worse than the disease, particularly in a bad economy that people do not want to make even worse.  I think this is why Climategate cut so deeply—regardless of its ultimate merits: The distrust had already been sown.

Someday, someone will write a book about how a seemingly unstoppable movement tripped over its own feet and lost the attention of the American people.

Articles by Wesley J. Smith

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