The Senate, climate change, and the public opinion

On Wednesday, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) sent a letter, signed by 18 scientific organizations including ESA, to each member of the Senate. The letter states the consensus views of the scientific community: that climate change is real, that it is mostly anthropogenic in source and that, if unchecked, it will create major threats to our society. The letter is an exceptionally concise and to-the-point summary of the dire climate situation. Read the full text here.

This letter is also especially important and timely given that a new poll out yesterday by the Pew Research Center shows some changing opinions about global warming in the American populace. The trends are not so good: 57 percent believe there is solid evidence that the Earth is warming, compared to 71 percent a year and a half ago. Only 35 percent think that climate change is a serious problem, down from 44 percent last year.

Here’s The Grist’s David Roberts’ take on the issue:

The temptation is to respond to a poll like Pew’s with lamentations about the state of science education–to imagine that the public, like scientists, can be swayed by the weight of empirical evidence. But the most important political takeaway is almost the opposite: popular belief in the science of climate change will follow popular support for clean energy, not the other way around.

While we like to think that rational people will listen to solid scientific reason, we know that people are the product of marketing, often believing the word of a celebrity or a person they can relate to over the scientific facts. It remains to be seen how societal changes to combat climate change will be somehow made desirable to the mainstream American public.

Author: Christine Buckley

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