Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Future of Climate Denialism

Think Progress has an interesting post on what a winning message on climate change might look like. It includes this figure that breaks down how two different groups--one with that believes in an essentially just world and one that doesn't--react to a climate argument that emphasize the importance of the problem and the ability of solving it, as well as a climate argument that makes it sound impossible to solve it. Here are the outcomes:

In essence, the tone of the message made little difference to people who don't think the world is or should be just, but it was hugely divergent to people who do. Maybe I'm feeling a bit cynical today, but this seems like the next step for climate deniers. I believe in climate change as I tend to trust science and scientists far more than politicians and spin. I go even further than that and support taking significant action to curb the effects of climate change, but as they say, admitting there is a problem is the first step. Republicans increasingly view climate change as a hoax, but this in the long run this stance isn't terribly tenable. For one thing, the epistemological implications of the "it's a hoax!" view are far more terrifying than actual global warming, since it would seem to make suspect literally every scientific fact we know, and possibly all the other ones as well. Additionally, the climate deniers tend to be much older than the average person, and part of an age cohort that is quite a bit less friendly with science in general terms, as this chart demonstrates:

There's a lot on the chart, but notice how much less likely older people are to vote for someone who believes in evolution. Among most people it's a pretty neutral factor--in fact, perhaps a positive one without seniors pulling it over. What I contend is that the current crop of senior citizens--one that does not yet include the Baby Boomers in significant numbers--is an incredibly conservative generation, one that missed the Depression and WWII for the most part, but rather came of age during Eisenhower and the conservatism of the 50's. Being conservative doesn't invariably imply climate denial, but the media of the right have indeed pushed this argument for some time now, and seniors are Fox News's bread and butter, demographically speaking. It's quite a confluence of message, media and audience that isn't replicated demographically anywhere else. Ultimately, climate denialism is a generational artifact for the most part, and eventually it will die off because it just can't be substantiated with the data, and the typical generational turnover will take care of some of it as well. But not all the deniers are going to die off, so the study that TP did seems to show the next step: instead of saying that climate change is a hoax, why not admit that it's happening but simply say it's too late to do anything about it and that we're all doomed? With that message, skepticism of climate change shoots through the roof among people who are natural targets to believe in taking action. Ironically, making the concession that the globe is warming seems to increase actual skepticism of this scientific phenomenon. It will be interesting to see how the debate plays out over the next decade or so.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.