Oikos – Climate change: the jury is still out?!:

Now imagine you’re concerned about climate change. You want to find out more and you want to do your bit. You read the newspaper and notice that the two scientists interviewed disagree on whether it’s happening and how bad it will be. You watch the news and notice the politicians disagree on whether it’s happening and what if anything to do about it. You go to dinner with your friends and one of them makes some interesting arguments about Antarctica getting snowier and environmental worries always being there and never amounting to anything. You weigh up the information you have and – well, the debate.

An interesting piece on how confusion about global warming is sown in the greater public.

  • It’s a nicely observed post that puts the pieces together to explain the ongoing “debate” or “uncertainty” over colimate change. I wonder where this cycle of ignorance is going to crack. The journalists? Politicians? “Scientists”? (Surely there can’t be that many climate change deniers left who have any meaningful academic cred.)

  • Hi Ben – this is true – the deniers are becoming very thin on the ground, as as John Quiggen points out.

    What I like about David’s article is that it shows how even reasonably innocent decisions by the media to create “drama” muddy the waters.

    I imagine it a little like a journalist writing a story that says the sky is blue. They’d have to include an alternate viewpoint suggesting that sometimes it’s grey, sometimes speckled with clouds, so there’s some doubt about whether it’s blue or not.

    The grey and the clouds are the “1%” uncertainty in the climate “debate”. Watching An Inconvenient Truth on the weekend really hit it home for me (which reminds me, I must blog my thoughts on the film). When you see the evidence laid out so plainly, and in such an engaging way, it’s hard to look at such “balance” pieces again.

    I think it’s far less an issue in Australia though than the U.S. I suspect. We seem to have reached a tipping point here – even if there’s some doubt, most people recognise that it’s a real issue. Then the challenge of “what to do?” appears. This, I think, is where most of the uncertainty is now in terms of the “public mind” (if there is such a thing).

  • Hi Grant. It is strange to watch the ‘debate’ over global warming and how, as you put it, uncertainty is created by the appearance that the experts can’t agree, and therefore that things can’t be all that bad or urgent. Unfortunately, only urgency seems to lead to conviction for personal (and broader) action and behaviour change.

    In terms of the way small things alter or influence our perception of the seriousness of some things, you may be interested to consider how the language was shifted from ‘global warming’ to ‘climate change’ – with some influence by sceptics and industry lobbiests (I read somewhere). The argument was that ‘climate change’ could be perceived as less threatening, more neutral, less dangerous รขโ‚ฌโ€œ ‘climate is changing a a bit, change is ok, change is as good as a holiday, etc etc.’ Since realising this, I’ve deliberately reverted to talking about ‘global warming’ in my blog and in my conversations with others because that is what it really boils down to.

    As with the debate and the ‘sceptics’, you may also be interested in WorldChanging’s take – that the debate is over (they’re working on a “single-page resource explaining why the debate on the need for action in response to climate change is over”). I can’t wait for it to be launched. If you haven’t read their work, they’re a great site. Check out their take on the end of the debate at

    By the way, you’ve got a great blog. I’ve enjoyed coming across it.

  • Hi Mark. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    I did spot the worldchanging article – I’m looking forward to the result.

    I, too, have switched back to use “global warming” – partly because I read similar things to what you mention, partly because it is the more commonly used (and searched) term (check out Google Trends for those two terms.

    Regards, Grant

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