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Why Aren't Americans 'Very Worried' About the Climate?
Joel Makower, 16 May 06

It was barely six weeks ago that Time magazine warned us to "Be Worried. Be Very Worried" about climate change. The planet's climate, said the magazine, is "booby-trapped with tipping points and feedback loops, thresholds past which the slow creep of environmental decay gives way to sudden and self-perpetuating collapse." And those tipping points may well be upon us.

So, why aren't Americans worried enough to take action?

A bevy of seemingly lesser problems manage to get ample coverage by the media -- and loud and clear response on the part of Americans and their leaders: immigration, education reform, gas prices, tax cuts, even avian flu. But public discourse on climate -- arguably the mother of all social, environmental, and economic issues -- never seems to move beyond background noise. And that lack of demonstrable concern is reflected in Americans' lack of personal commitment and action -- as well as that of their leaders.

What's going on here?

Some answers may be found in a new study by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. It's Project on Climate Change has just published an informative study on Americans and Climate Change (PDF), the product of a meeting Yale held late last year attended by 110 leading thinkers and actors in the environmental movement. The goal, according to Gus Speth, the school's dean, "was to examine the gap between climate science and climate policy and action, with a particular focus on public understanding as a key intervening variable."

The bottom line: We've got a lot of work to do to change the public's understanding and awareness of the climate issue, and their willingness to do more than simply bury their collective heads in the sand.

Specifically, said the Yale project participants, we need to remove the scientific trappings of climate discussions, which "can cause profound disconnects in how society interprets and acts on the climate change issue." Rather, we need a values-based approach involving religious communities and others to position climate as part of our overall societal responsibility. Climate should be "packaged" with other issues of concern, though that could risk deemphasizing climate change as an explicit societal priority. Translating awareness into action depends on identifying "the deeper incentive structures at play in our society." And, perhaps most of all, we need to make climate change a nonpartisan issue.

Six Easy Pieces
The Yale report offers fully 39 recommendations for action aimed at bridging climate's informational and culture divide. Typically, any list of recommendations represents watered-down groupthink -- a set of "actions" that are either too lofty, too vague, or simply not reasonably actionable.

That's not the case here, in my humble opinion. Nearly all of the Yale group's action items seem not only sensible, but smart and systematic -- a comprehensive to-do list for our teachers, editors, students, and business and political leaders.

Here are six of the 39 that I think are representative:

  • Create a new "bridging institution" to actively seek out key business, religious, political, and civic leaders and the media and deliver to them independent, reliable and credible scientific information about climate change (including natural and economic sciences).

  • Educate the gatekeepers (i.e., editors). In order to improve the communication of climate science in the news media, foster a series of visits and conferences whereby respected journalists and editors informed on climate change can speak to their peer editors. The objective is to have those who can credibly talk about story ideas and craft reach out to their peers about how to cover the climate change issue with appropriate urgency, context, and journalistic integrity.

  • Design and execute a "New Vision for Energy" campaign to encourage a national market-based transition to alternative energy sources. Harness multiple messages tailored to different audiences that embed the climate change issue in a larger set of cobenefit narratives, such as: reducing U.S. dependency on Middle East oil (national security); penetrating global export markets with American innovations (U.S. stature); boosting U.S. job growth (jobs); and cutting local air pollution (health).

  • Create a new overarching communications entity or project to design and execute a well-financed public education campaign on climate change science and its implications. This multifaceted campaign would leverage the latest social science findings concerning attitude formation and change on climate change, and would use all available media in an effort to disseminate rigorously accurate information, and to counter disinformation in real time.

  • Systematically test the impact of environmental communications in all media (e.g., advertising, documentary, feature film) on civic engagement, public opinion and persuasive outcomes. Use these to inform new creative work on multi-media climate change communications.

  • Organize a grassroots educational campaign to create local narratives around climate change impacts and solutions, while mobilizing citizen engagement and action. Kick the campaign off with a National Climate Week that would recur on an annual basis.

By themselves, these and the 33 other recommendations, should they be fully implemented, won't necessarily stop the inexorable march of melting glaciers, shifting ocean currents, catastrophic weather patterns, and other indicators of climate instability. But they will put us on a path toward personal responsibility and collective action -- and, perhaps, the ability to "Be Hopeful. Be Very Hopeful" about our planet's future.

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I've said it before, I'll say it again. Global Climate Change is likely to be an abortion of an extremely large number of people; ...or in the event of the worst, whole oceans acidify & boil causing phytoplankton to collapse, the entire food chain goes out of whack, and massive levels of extinctions start occuring, not necessarily excluding humans. This not even taking into account sea level rise which is a solid bare minimum direct irreversable effect.

If that doesn't shred through to people's moral cores, then either they are secretly yearning for it, and just won't admit it to themselves (example: Christians -> global warming -> apocalypse -> return of jesus christ) ...either that, or they are just in denial and/or don't want to hear it and/or already made up their mind that it's not a human induced problem.

It's the same part of the human spirit that allows people to feel good about buying a disney toy to brighten up a child's face, yet the toy probably being made in some slave factory by underage children working in miserable grueling conditions. Like hypocrisy... Love thy neighbor, ...but totally screw over any optimistic future for their offspring by drenchingly spewing CO2 so heavy into the atmosphere that we end up with a climate catastrophe of global proportions.

It's the idea that consumption doesn't have a history, like everything is some sort of 2-dimensional widget, identical & sanitized of all malcontent once it reaches into your wallet. Reckless disregard for one's effect on present conditions, and complete blackout for future/generational ecological tyranny.

Posted by: Francis Scully on 16 May 06

Does anyone else think that it is funny that a group who is discussing how to communicate to the average American comes out with a 200+ page study that has 39 recommendations?!!

Posted by: Joe on 16 May 06

I was talking to my friends about climate change and the overiding view was at least with global warming the world WILL change.

I know a few who are rather excited about living in a post climate change world simply because it will be so new and unknown. A new world.

Posted by: wintermane on 16 May 06

I live in an island in the middle of the South Pacific (American Samoa) and it isn't even on the radar screen here, even though we could be effected in a big way. Right now the big issue is whether to put a McDonald's on the beach.

Posted by: Tavita on 17 May 06

Shalom Joel,

I've been talking about Global Warming since before the First Earth Day and the conclusion that I've reached is that until they are personally inconvenienced, the vast majority of people simply don't have time to care.

Terrorism didn't leap onto the global stage in 2001. But until the towers fell, Americans weren't inconvenienced enough to care. I still maintain that if the attack had been anywhere but New York City our response would have been much milder.

The depletion of World petroleum reserves didn't suddenly happen in 2005, we've been talking about it for more than 40 years, but until gasoline slipped past $3/gallon, people weren't inconvenienced enough to care.

The people who are most threatened by Global Warming lack the resources to take global action. They’re too busy paying the rent. And the people who can take global action figure they'll just buy a summer home on Hudson Bay.

Until enough people lose homes or have to move to find other jobs, Global Warming is a non-starter.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep up the drum beat, but we shouldn’t be surprised or disappointed when no one marches to it.


Jeff Hess

Posted by: Jeff Hess on 17 May 06

This article takes the Global Warming hysteria to new levels of absurdity. Most normal people see thru all the hype. Especially readers of

Posted by: General Jack D. Ripper on 17 May 06

Even very-well-educated Americans have a difficult time understanding the long delays in the climate system. Most believe that when the effects of climate change become clear and unbearable, then will be the time to take action. They also believe that there are no significant delays in retooling our industrial and energy systems to accommodate climate change. That's completely at odds with physics, but few notice.

You can read a very interesting paper about this (co-authored by a friend of mine) titled Cloudy Skies.

I think there should be a "Climate Game" for students, a simulation in which they learn the long-term consequences of choices we make now. (A similar game should be available before they graduate from high school and take on credit cards and student loans.)

Most of us inhabit a "Present" that extends about 15 minutes to 6 months in front of us. We need training to inhabit a Present that extends 100 years or more in front of us. The Iroquois could do that, but they were just quaint dumb savages after all. We're far more advanced, with our machine guns, liposuction and reality TV - but the planet doesn't care.

Posted by: David Foley on 17 May 06!!! PLEASE! That's the biggest load of crap on the Internet. The guy is so obviously full of s*%! it's not even funny.

If you want to get real science, go to

Posted by: anonymous on 17 May 06

Maybe if climate change alarmists did a better job of articulating how science determined the average global temperature - during that brief period between the coming ice age scare of the 1970's and today's global warming panic - is the optimum climate for the planet and one we must now strive to keep completely static?

Perhaps a graph detailing how the climate of the Earth had been completely stable with no variability for the 5,000,000,000 years prior to our current "unprecedented" 1 degree F rise in temperatures since 1900 would wake people up?

No, that won't do. We have records and proxies that clearly demonstrate the medieval warm period and little ice age. We'll just have to airbrush over those anomalies to get our hockey stick graph (but we'll keep our methodology a secret so no one finds out!).

What if science found a way to accurately (+/- 1 degree F) predict the weather two weeks in advance? Then would people give more credance to weather "projections" for ten, fifty, one hundred years from today?

But since there is no way to accurately predict weather and climate - or the effect of changes to either - we get fanatics like Al Gore making like the crazy person on a street corner with a "The world will end in 2100" sign. A fanatic is someone whose mind cannot be changed and won't change the subject. Every highly publicized doomsday scenario thrust upon the American people (Silent Spring, The Population Bomb, scarcity of resources, a new ice age, etc.) has proven to be embarrassingly wrong.

What makes global warming different? The experts REALLY sure and REALLY passionate about global warming?

Although it's comforting to know that if the sun's energy were to decrease by 25% we could just pump greenhouse gasses into the environment as a sort of global thermostat until we reached our scientifically determined optimum climate...

Posted by: Charles Zambori on 17 May 06


A key answer is to continue the work we all try to do every day, a little at a time. Climate change and the economic and social systems that drive it are huge, complex patterns that people find themselves engaged in whether they like it or not. Most people care and try to do the right thing (I buy Disney stuff and other cheap crap that lasts a few days too) but are constrained by the system. Options are not obvious to most people.

The work done here is critical to advance our collective thinking so that when the time is right, and most people not only believe we are in crisis, but actually start to panic and look for answers, we can smile and say 'over here'.

I have tried to stop convincing others that climate change is real and started to really focus on discovering, for myself, what I should be doing. People will be convinved, or they won't. We still need to chart the new path.

Posted by: Daniel N Smith Jr on 17 May 06

A dear friend who isnt at all well informed on the science of global warming and climate change ssaid it best.

There comes a point fear goes away and all you can think is thank god I have clean underwear.

Its simply the calm that comes when you know its simply going to come.

This is the future.

Posted by: wintermane on 17 May 06

Yes, we are indeed 'constrained by the system', and many of us (including myself) like to be because it's comfortable and the system rewards us for following its flawed 'endless growth without reflection' paradigm.

We need a good kick in the butt and it looks like we'll get it.

Posted by: Vladimir Orlt on 17 May 06

I always thought this was a pretty good graphical overview of climate change -

But at the same time, An Inconvenient Truth may raise the moral understanding of climate change; ...that is if it actually gets into mainstream theatres!

Posted by: Francis Scully on 17 May 06

I just remembered, I ended up pulling out some key graphics from that vitalgraphics climate change guide and posted them on a message board. Can check it out here:

Ignore the filler text at the beginning if you're not into conspiracy garble, lol. For another post that preceded that above one, go here:

I may not understand climate change very well, and if you notice any errors in my reasoning there, fill me in please.

Posted by: Francis Scully on 17 May 06

Charles Zambori,
Preventing global warming is not about attempting to achieve "the optimum climate," it is about having less of an impact on the climate. Your graph ideas are fatally flawed because they leave the human out of the equation. A graph showing the average temperature for the last couple of centuries, overlapped with increase in human population for the same years, overlapped with the rise of industry, overlapped with global CO2 emissions *might* be more effective. It is important to remember that WE are making the temperature change at an unnatural rate.

The thing I never understood about anti-climate change advocates is the fact that the same pollution that they say isn't changing the climate is not disputed as a cause of asthma and other respiratory diseases, cancer, or birth defects. We know pollution is bad for humans and our environment, so why not take steps to curb pollution even if it is not changing global temperatures?

Also Steven Milloy can spray DDT all over his food all he wants, but not everyone out there is that ignorant.

Posted by: omiecinski on 17 May 06

I think the problem is twofold. One, they are being lied to by their politicians who are part of a petro-chemical junta. two - everyone is enthralled to technology. Blair thinks Nuclear will save the day, everyone is used to technological solutions riding to the rescue.

The idea that we might have to actually change or curtail our excessive behaviour is such an anathema is an absurdity. For Americans this idea of triumph, or conquering / taming nature is so hard-wired into the very concept of how America is founded its difficult to take on board the message that, actually, you are the problem, not the solution.

Posted by: Gus Abraham on 17 May 06

"whole oceans acidify & boil causing phytoplankton to collapse, the entire food chain goes out of whack, and massive levels of extinctions start occuring, not necessarily excluding humans. This not even taking into account sea level rise which is a solid bare minimum direct irreversable effect."

"Christians -> global warming -> apocalypse -> return of jesus christ"

You're all so full of crap it is amazing. But at least the public isn't fooled. Thank goodness for that. And for the record, Junkscience mostly just links to other articles written sometimes by journalists, sometimes by scientists. They're not shoving their opinion down anybody's throat. The same cannot be said for the anthropogenic disaster business.

Posted by: Dave P on 17 May 06

"It is important to remember that WE are making the temperature change at an unnatural rate."

I'd like to see the proof to back that statement up. Humans have seen warmer average tempertures than today, humans have seen cooler average temperatures than today - but this time it has been indisputably proven that humans are causing the Earth's climate to change at an unnatural rate! Solar radiation? Not a factor. Ocean currents? Unimportant. No, man is responsible for the current 1 degree F rise in average global temperatures since 1900.

I can concede that man may have played some part in altering the composition of the atmosphere, but to date climate models that forecast widespread and continued warming due to increasing CO2 concentrations don't reflect the current climate reality. So perhaps man truly is to blame - since surface temperatures have risen because of land usage (urban heat island) while the warming expected in the atmosphere has yet to materialize.

CO2 plays a small part in climate and man has contributed (~6%) to the total CO2 concentration of the atmosphere, but to claim man is to blame for any perceived acceleration in warming is fatuous at best.

Correlation and causation are not the same thing.

"The thing I never understood about anti-climate change advocates is the fact that the same pollution that they say isn't changing the climate is not disputed as a cause of asthma and other respiratory diseases, cancer, or birth defects."

I wasn't aware that carbon dioxide had been identified as the cause of asthma and respiratory disease, cancer, and birth defects. Can you provide some documentation? I'd like to learn more.

Posted by: Charles Zambori on 17 May 06

Eco-histeria is simply a "scientific" imperative for eco-imperialism. The envirofreaks have ALWAYS demanded that we either obey them without question or face the coming apocalypse. They are an extremist religious cult, plain and simple. As has been pointed out the vast majority of their doom & gloom end of the world scenarios were at best massively over-exaggerated. These people come from the same cloth as the government knows best regulation supporting socialists the majority of reasonable people have come to loathe.

Until the socialists who believe this claptrap come up with a solution that doesn't result in more unemployment, poverty and regulation, you're going to find a deaf ear from me and my compatriots (and our votes). As this Yale study points out, there is a huge partison divide due to the fact that liberals believe we should simply illegalize everything that makes life enjoyable and live in a hut, while conservatives (wisely) believe we should wait until technology makes clean energy profitable. Witness new solar energy panels being developed that raise their effectiveness from approximately 2% to 3% and gives them a longer lifespan. While not yet ready for prime-time it still gives more hope than simply dumping huge amounts of money in a hole (Kyoto). Given time they might one day prove to be cost-effective. Until that time, instead of whining and trying to force this job-killing regulation on us why don't we divert the 5 billion dollars we have in the global warming research industry (which fires dissenting scientists) and put that into alternative energy research instead.

Posted by: Nate Henley on 17 May 06

I didn't know this site had such vocal opponents.
And the readers in support of Wordlchanging that choose to comment generally are not doing so as eloquently as the opponents. This bothers me a little bit.

Back to the point of the article:
Pollution is bad. Waste is bad. Jobs are good. Perhaps jobs will be created to reduce pollution. Perhaps reducing pollution will not cause the economic damage the conservatives expect.

Posted by: David Lucas on 17 May 06

"And the readers in support of Wordlchanging that choose to comment generally are not doing so as eloquently as the opponents. This bothers me a little bit."
--David Lucas

Well, for my part, it's because I've heard it all before. And it's tiring. So many of their claims are either untrue or distortions of facts. Responding accurately and completely to their statements here not worth my time. If they've actively sought out this site (probably from to comment here and tell us how wrong we are, odds are they aren't going to listen. I save my debates for in-person, where you can actually have a real argument.

Plus, the issue of global warming is very complicated and therefore very hard to argue for without some measure of expert knowledge. However, arguing against the facts with simplistic or already-discredited theories (like the mini-ice age that one poster mentioned above) is much easier, making conversations with global-warming deniers (but not fence-sitters) a very steep uphill battle.

The best response I can muster is to refer them to

Granted, we NEED to argue the science of global warming. I'm just not up to it at this moment. :(. Sorry if I seem overly pessimistic as well. I do think we'll all come around to the realities of climate change eventually... it's just very frustrating in the meantime.

Posted by: Bolo on 17 May 06

I didn't realize this would generate so much response. I'm curious, is The Apollo Aliance already trying to do what the Yale report is recommending? And if so, why haven't people going to Yale heard about what is already being worked on?

Posted by: Paul Chartier on 17 May 06

First of all, tremendous thanks to Joel for blogging this. This Yale report is one of the smartest, most wide-ranging attempts to think strategically about a new kind of activism that's commensurate to the tasks we face. It is a little like the "Death of Environmentalism", only much>/i> richer and less hyped. I strongly encourage anyone who's serious about sustainability activism to read the paper itself (at least part I) and visit the web site.

Posted by: Phil Mitchell on 17 May 06

I suspect WorldChanging has been linked to from some Troll haven.

Be prepared for an onslaught of contentiousness majors and semiliterates spewing talking points.

Posted by: Stefan Jones on 17 May 06

QOUTES: "It is important to remember that WE are making the temperature change at an unnatural rate." -- "I'd like to see the proof to back that statement up. Humans have seen warmer average tempertures than today, humans have seen cooler average temperatures than today"

Yes, that is true... But when you actually look at the data, it really does suggest that what we've seen recently, has been largely induced by specific human activity :)

HINT 01:
HINT 02:

Read it, don't skim it!

If anyone believes that the data has been tweaked to support a particular ideology, but then falls right back into the same "trap" by believing in websites like, then you are going against your very own skepticism. Skepticism of skepticism doesn't necessarily make a truth; just leads to disputes and ultimately your own ignorance.

To remain ignorant as well as place the word "fanatic" on one's "opponant," doesn't discredit anything about the "opponent." People can just as easily become a fanatic in ignorance itself, by believing they are not ignorant.

Posted by: Francis Scully on 17 May 06

Glad to see someone else talking about the religious angle! I'll bring this up at the upcoming United Religions Initiative Global Council (board) meeting I'm about to attend in San Francisco.

Posted by: Stephen A. Fuqua on 17 May 06

I'm not up on all the facts, but I do have a question. Who was driving all those cars back when those big ol chunks of ice melted and formed the Great Lakes? Just wonderin.

Posted by: Joey Lail on 17 May 06

Gee-golly, Joey, you sure are a clever one!

You set up a ludicrous straw man position -- "human activity is the only cause of climate change" -- and then attacked it in the form of a mock-innocent query.

Wow, we're quaking in our boots.

Posted by: Stefan Jones on 17 May 06

To be blunt you have 2 teams.

Team democrat. Will screw up everything I depend on hates me insults me constantly doesnt understand anything about me and to top it off doesnt have a chance in hell of doing what they say they will do anyway.

Team corprate behemoth. Will keep me in a car in my home where I live where I work wont screw up anything I depend on but yes its gona be spendy.. will be rather late in "fixing" this global warming issue will prolly involve blowing people up...will prolly result in a dark future... but at least ill be in it.

So plan a im homeless jobless carless and we fail anyway and I die.

Plan b we enter a new world a darker nastier world.. but im in it im alive.

Well gee wich one do I pick?

Posted by: wintermane on 17 May 06

Wintermane, that's not your choice and you know it - you're smarter than that. Dealing with climate chaos is NOT a Faustian bargain. Virtually everything we need to do to address this immediate, real (yes - real, undeniable, rigorously tested, peer-reviewed, and every other attribute of the Reality-Based Community) problem will makes us happier, healthier, more prosperous, more secure and more advanced. Joel's excellent post seems to have stirred up the trolls, but they're done, kaput - as relevant as buggy whips, corsets and whale-oil lamps. Meanwhile, realize that we can solve this problem and build a much better world in the process. Our biggest obstacle is clinging to chimeras.

Posted by: David Foley on 17 May 06

We have 3 choices.. the democrats who dont get anything right and certainly wont get anything this big right... failure disaster big time. The republicans who will be late very late. And the final option.. buy what works avoi what doesnt and hope and pray whatever nitwits get in office dont get in the way and get everyone killed.

I choose 3.

Of 1 and 2 at least 2 wont get me killed... or at least is less likely to do so. So I pick 3 and hope the republicans dont screw up too badly.

Anyone who sees the future and looks to our government for leadership... needs a padded cell. And thats no matter who is in charge.

Posted by: wintermane on 17 May 06

Looks like Exxon has the shock troops out in force. What an ugly thread.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 17 May 06

"Granted, we NEED to argue the science of global warming. I'm just not up to it at this moment. :(. Sorry if I seem overly pessimistic as well. I do think we'll all come around to the realities of climate change eventually... it's just very frustrating in the meantime."

Bolo, it's easy to see why average people are skeptical -- let's start by granting that everything the most radical computer model runs say is an accurate prediction of the future. What, then, do these same models predict will be the effect of a completely implemented Kyoto? Answer: a trivial effect, probably not even measurable above the noise.

Proponents of Kyoto say, "It's just a start. Obviously we need to do much more." As if this is a good reason to do something useless.

This is rather like someone telling me that if I want to go to Boston (I live in Colorado) that I should immediately step out my front door and walk briskly to the EastNorthEast. If I object that I'm likely to lose my job, become impoverished, wear out my shoes, and maybe starve before reaching Boston they answer "Well, of course, you have to do much more."

How about I save my money and buy an airline ticket instead?

You may turn up your nose at "technological solutions", but they will be solutions, not useless gestures. Technological solutions averted the doomsday scenarios of "The Population Bomb" and "Silent Spring" (at least the parts that weren't simply empty hysteria). (One example: India, called "already lost" by Ehrlich in 1968, has since doubled its population and become a net exporter of food.)

Should we worry about climate change? Should we try to figure out how to prevent it, or failing that, how best to respond? Of course we should.

Should we propose symbolic, witch-doctor-like, useless remedies? Not unless we want to be considered nuts by the majority of reasonable people.

There's a guy that has been walking around Boulder for 25 years, banging a drum. He thinks he's fixing the world. He has just as much of a chance of stopping global warming as Kyoto. I'll put my money on science, logic, and technology.

Posted by: Bob Cormack on 17 May 06

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 17 May 06

Oh, SCREW Kyoto.

I'm sick of Kyoto -- a political construct -- brought up in arguments about the reality of global warming, physical phenomena.

Let's take it as granted that the Kyoto Treaty ain't no good.

This has no bearing whatsoever on whether global warming is a real, or what harm it might do.

Posted by: Stefan Jones on 17 May 06

BTW, Milloy is linking to this post from junkscience with a post title "New Entry in the Propaganda Stakes". That's where all the "new friends" are coming from.

More on Mr. Milloy - the one so concerned with propaganda:

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 17 May 06

What gets me is a ton of suggestions to fix things we wont even have in 40 years anyway.

All the oil will be burned up.. why wasit billions on making it last a year or two longer with better engines when the real effort is in electric motors super capacitors batteries and fuel cells. Its STUPID.

Its a token gesture that gets in the way of real work that will do far more for the environment then any engine tech ever would.

Why spend so many billions upgrading homes with various things when we all know many homes will be GONE and replaced by 2050 anyway? Does anyone realy expect all that many homes and buildings close to the ocean to be here 50 years from now?

Why are we worried about old factories in america when everyone knows factory work is leaving america anyway?

Does anyone realy expect most people will have to commute every day in 2050?

Does anyone realy expect cars and trucks will run on gas or desel in 50 years? Why?

Once the bugs win again and plagues start to hit does anyone realy expect people will trvel as much o that bussinesses will be keen on having 1000s of employies meeting face to face germ to germ?

Posted by: wintermane on 17 May 06

Come on now, Stefan; There is no serious controversy over whether the Earth's climate has been warming (on average) over the last 150 years of recovery from the Little Ice Age, and it's a reasonable hypothesis that some amount of that is due to anthropogenic emission of CO2. The controversy is PRECISELY about the attempt to use these facts to force a fraudulent "political construct" onto society using alarmism, ad hominem attacks, ... everything BUT science and logic.

The Rocky Mountain Institute ( is a fine organization that we are proud to have in Colorado -- I recommend that everyone take a look. Their strength is in understanding how the economy works and structuring their proposals accordingly. They understand, for example, that the creation of wealth is a REQUIREMENT for effective climate control. They are among those devising technological solutions to climate control.
The potential effectiveness of this course is made clear in this article in MIT's magazine:
which shows how an 2% annual improvement in the efficient use of energy outruns both population growth and increased energy use with increasing wealth such that a (stabilized) 10 billion world population in 2100 can be supported at Western European standards for half of today's energy use. A large proportion of that energy could be emissionless, so CO2 emissions could be vastly lower than today . 2% is twice the average improvement over the last 100 years, but only half what we achieved during the '70s, so RMI's proposals may be enough. Of course, this calculation was done using reasonable projections informed by past data -- definitely not the norm in today's public debate.

Another interesting perspective is the work being done on climate engineering. (Try searching Google Scholar.) Although the option of engineering intervention is always considered for all other crises, it is almost never mentioned (except to denigrate) by global warming alarmists -- just another indication that their real agenda is political.

Posted by: Bob Cormack on 18 May 06

Oh God - all of my worst stereotypes of Americans have been confirmed.

Do you know how alone you are in this climate change denial?

A truly amazing display of stupidity.

Posted by: Gus Abraham on 18 May 06

As said in comment # 41. of an article at on Al Gore’s movie:

... not catching up with the science is due to a failure by all governments in meeting their responsibilities. For evidence of that, please see the absence of federal, state and local officials at the planned TOWN MEETING ON GLOBAL WARMING this Saturday (May 13th) in Minneapolis, link below.

Comment by pat neuman — 11 May 2006 @ 9:08 pm

Posted by: pat neuman on 18 May 06

"You may turn up your nose at "technological solutions", but they will be solutions, not useless gestures."
--Bob Cormack

I didn't say this at all. Technological solutions are pretty much the key here. There will be some relatively large social/living adjustments as well, but newer, cheaper, and greener technologies are going to be what saves us. These technologies will have to be created by the market and individual citizens, with a good deal of stimulus, support, and regulation by governments.

I don't know why your response to my post got into a whole thing about Kyoto, as I didn't address it at all. Although in your analogy, I would say it's not so much a "walk ENE to get to Boston" but a "here are some directions to the airport." In either case, there remains much to be done after that step.

My post was primarily concerned with all the trolls here and those who flat-out deny global warming is happening. It's very aggravating to argue with some of these people, especially because almost every argument you hear has been debunked (or seriously called into question) by legitimate science. But we must have patience.

Posted by: Bolo on 18 May 06

Kyoto came up because I was answering the question in the original article: "Why aren't Americans 'very worried' about the climate?" I'll summarize the argument:

I) The "Sky is Falling!" technique of selling dubious policies that can't stand up to the mildest economic or scientific scrutiny is an old con that most people are familiar with and hence it never really works. (i.e., Paul Ehrlich in 1968 and Al Gore today.)

II) People have confidence in technology, and believe that serious adults are working on the problem, even though they are out-shouted by the alarmists. (i.e., Norman Borlaug and others, who, even as Ehrlich was hyperventilating, were quitely creating the Green Revolution which fed the world; and the many scientists and engineers who are now improving the prediction of and working on responses to climate change.)

As a general rule: "The louder and more agressive the Alarmist, the less likely he/she is to be right." holds up pretty well. In the contest between the Loud and Petulant and the Quite and Competent, people instinctively go with the latter.

The suprising thing is that, unlike the general public, the alarmists never seem to learn from experience.

Posted by: Bob Cormack on 18 May 06

Bob, you've apparently never been to this website before. Might I suggest you get the lay of the land before making statements that aren't really applicable to what goes on around here?

Some might consider it a bit rude to jump in to a setting with which one is unfamiliar and start being judgmental about it without knowing much about it.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 18 May 06


The Competitive Enterprise Institute has released two mind-bogglingly shmaltzy and simple-minded attack ads:

Yet another load of F.U.D. to muddy the waters.

Hey, C.E.I.! I have great follow-up for you. Sponsor a series of parades in major cities in which adorable toddlers carrying signs that read:


. . . only with a couple of backwards letters to show that the cute little moppets wrote them. Have their moms carry "I (heart) CO2" banners.

Posted by: Stefan Jones on 18 May 06

To put the American view of this in perspective:

Americans - about 4% of the world's population.

Portion of Americans skeptical of climate change: perhaps 1/2.

Rest of world: mainly convinced.

Score: 98% to 2%.

Problem: the 2% is similar to a retarded child with a box of hand grenades.

Posted by: David Foley on 18 May 06

Actually, David, I think it's pretty far from being a 50/50 split in this country.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 18 May 06

Why does nobody mention the only fast solution to the problem? Plant trees!

What is the co2 in the atmosphere created from? Burning oil and trees. And what is oil? Ancient trees! So what is the way to get co2 out of the atmosphere? Plant trees!

From the 15th till the 17th century there was a mini-iceage, how was this caused? By the bubonic plague in europe which caused reforrestration of a lot of argicultural ground and by the invasion of america which caused the polulation to decrease massively because they were not resistant to european diseases, which caused their cities to be overgrown by jungle. Are you now convinced planting tree actually helps?

Posted by: Han on 18 May 06

So what is the way to get co2 out of the atmosphere? Plant trees!

Maybe someone with the proper knowledge can tell us how many trees would need to be planted to offset 25-30,000 teragrams of CO2 equivalent annual net emissions. My guess is we're talking a nearly impossible number.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 18 May 06

"Might I suggest... get the lay of the land before making statements that aren't really applicable to what goes on around here," rather than jumping "in to a setting with which one is unfamiliar and start being judgmental about it without knowing much about it." Joseph Willemssen

I have to admit, I'm guilty of that sometimes as well, as I'm rather pessemistic at times.

For those that aren't willing to click on "About Us," here's a brief excerpt:

" works from a simple premise: that the tools, models and ideas for building a better future lie all around us. That plenty of people are working on tools for change, but the fields in which they work remain unconnected. That the motive, means and opportunity for profound positive change are already present. That another world is not just possible, it's here. We only need to put the pieces together."

Also, check out a podcast of WorldChanging's Alex Steffen, produced just 2 days ago, if you want to hear him directly!

Posted by: Francis Scully on 18 May 06

Maybe someone with the proper knowledge can tell us how many trees would need to be planted to offset 25-30,000 teragrams of CO2 equivalent annual net emissions.

My teacher stated a figure a couple years ago-
2 billion acres.
I do not know how much that this.
And I don't know if it is even remotely correct.

Posted by: David Lucas on 18 May 06

2 billion acres. I do not know how much that this.

It's roughly the total land area of the United States.

And I don't know if it is even remotely correct.

I'm hoping someone will explain this for us.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 18 May 06

HEH bad david bad david calling people names for shame! The trolls are rubbing off on you.

Most people who say they dont belive in global warming realy mean they think your a twit and that global warming while it is happening is happening in a different manner then you say.

1 Enough silly sience has been blasted out that most scientists are completely ignored as incompetent losers before they even open thier yap. Even when they are semi sane and competent looking the fct is we already know what we need to know.

a Climate change WILL happen bad global warming WILL happen It WILL get bad.

b Nothing is going to change a just waste alot of money trying to change a.

c As confidence in world govs is zilch we know its not gona be fixed. So we being SANE unlike alot of people involved come to a very simple conclusion.

1 Make sure you have money and a place thats safe to live.

2 Make sure you have food.

3 Make sure your country is ready for war. Or is where no one wants anything you have.

4 Make sure to invest in what works that will slow down the global warming clock AND make your position aka food money and so on BETTER not worse.

5 Wait for ww3.

In the end this is a self correcting problem. Severse climate change will kill off alot of people reducing human effects on climate wich will reign in global warming.. granted rather late and unpleasantly but still...

Poeple are ready for a dark future filled with high tech wonders and amazing disasters... because we have talked about and dreamt about such a world for a very long time.

And guess what... alot more people want that dark hyper tech future. They just wont tell you.

I on the other hand will.. If I have to chose between a dark hyper tech future or many of these bright green fantasies.. not only that I dont think are at all possible with human nature as it is.. but also ... someplace I wont fit in.. Ill chose the dark future.

Alot of people are choosing the darkness,

Posted by: wintermane on 18 May 06

If I have to chose between a dark hyper tech future or many of these bright green fantasies.. not only that I dont think are at all possible with human nature as it is.. but also ... someplace I wont fit in.. Ill chose the dark future.

Then why exactly do you keep coming here?

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 18 May 06

"Bob, you've apparently never been to this website before. Might I suggest you get the lay of the land before making statements that aren't really applicable to what goes on around here?"
Joseph Willemssen

Silly me, assuming that suggesting an answer to the question posed in the original article would be on topic. Yours and other comments make it perfectly clear that the question was rhetorical.

Being a working engineer who's interested in real answers must have led me astray.

My bad.
Excuse me.
Have fun.

Posted by: Bob Cormack on 18 May 06

"Gee golly", oh,... my brain just shot some gray stuff out of my left ear just thinking that phrase. I know im not very smart. When it comes to knowledge of the planet, universe etc.,... on a scale of 10 I'm real close to zero, which puts me right there in the crowd with everyone else. Man's arogrunts is astounding. I'm sure were affecting the world in who knows how many ways, but folks this global warming,.. and cooling has been going on forever! Catastrophic? Please, give me break. If the water gets deep on the coast. Move. If gets too hot in Atlanta, move to Canada. I think they would actually like a little more heat up there. If its not raining enough, get out of the desert. Bottom line,.. none of us will get to see how it turns out. Name someone who will be leaving this planet alive. Be FREE and have fun till they plant ya!

Posted by: Joey on 18 May 06

Silly me, assuming that suggesting an answer to the question posed in the original article would be on topic. Yours and other comments make it perfectly clear that the question was rhetorical.

No, Bob, you set up a lot of strawmen about crazy people banging drums and the people who contribute to this blog. If you're going to just charge into a room where you've never been, you'd do a lot to help your position by being attuned to who you're actually addressing instead of some fictitious, extreme creation of yours.

Being a working engineer who's interested in real answers must have led me astray.

Gee, Bob - we're all really impressed with that appeal to authority. Are you a climatologist? An economist? Because it would seem that being the former would be the most requisite qualification for addressing the science involved, and the latter would be the most requisite for addressing the objections you have about how any actions would have economic impacts.

Again, if you paid attention to the level of discourse and expertise available here on a regular business, you wouldn't just come in and think that you're the smartest and most rational guy in the room.

My bad. Excuse me. Have fun.

We will.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 18 May 06

Name someone who will be leaving this planet alive.

Well you've got me convinced. Since we're all mortal there's no sense in doing anything.

Everyone, let's please disperse in an orderly fashion and not attempt to make the world any better. We're all going to die some day so there's no hope.

Nihilism rulez!

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 18 May 06

Here's a challenge to readers of this thread, except reality-deniers, whom I have no guilt at all dismissing:

  • Let's acknowledge that climate disruption is proven.
  • Let's look at it as a serious problem - perhaps the most serious we've ever faced.
  • Let's be more interested in solving the problem than being right about any personal ideology.
  • Let's assume we're in this together.
  • Let's be willing to listen genuinely to one another, to learn from one another, and to reconsider our ideas when we hear good ones from others.
  • Let's act like adults. Let's stop pointing fingers and wringing our hands and start rolling up our sleeves.

As Joseph W. said, this thread is ugly. It needn't be. For example, Joseph and Bob C. are fighting. That's silly. If we were in the same place, I'd buy you both a beer and you'd find a lot of common ground.

I agree with Bob about a lot, including the Kaya Identity (the 2% efficiency equation). We could do that. Why not? The number of trees we'd need to plant would be about the same area as Australia or the continental U.S. We could do a lot of that - especially if we shifted a lot of our agriculture to tree crops. Why not? (Personally, I try to plant at least 50 trees a year. Beats going to the gym.) But Bob, it's not some kind of weirdo socialist agenda to make a sober assessment of the problems we face and to point out the dangers of inaction. One reason doom-sayers are often wrong is because their alarms raise awareness and help foster change. Read Alan Atkisson's book, Believing Cassandra for a rich explanation of this.

There's something deeper than technical disagreements going on here. Something deep within our world views is threatened by the prospect of climate disruption. Why should that be? What are we clinging to? What are we afraid of?

We'll be able to solve this problem - and many others - when we decide that solving problems matters more to us than being right. When we need to solve problems more than we need to be right, we'll realize that we need one another. Then maybe we'll stop fighting, get off our butts and get to work.

Posted by: David Foley on 18 May 06

"Actually, David, I think it's pretty far from being a 50/50 split in this country. "

Funny thing about that poll, 60% of the respondants think the "envrionment" in America is getting worse. The reality is that by every conceivable measure the environment has improved and is cleaner than any time in the past thirty years - and getting cleaner every year.

How could the American people be so misinformed about the state of the environment? And are we allowed to question the motives of the individuals peddling that misinformation?

I mean, a researcher whose funding is dependant on publishing a paper that predicts doomsday brought about by climate change couldn't possibly enter into a study with a preconceived result. Corporations and oil companies do have some incentive to disprove a correlation between anthropogenic co2 and climate change. It doesn't mean the work done by scientists who happen to be funded by them is invalid. At least no more than the eco warrior scientist who stands to land a huge grant by stoking the global warming fire.

To the extent 98% of the world is convinced cliamte change is a dire threat...are you sure about that? I'll wager broad swaths of Africa don't even know the meaning of the words global warming. Ditto the People's Republic of China. Ditto India. Ditto the Middle East. Ditto South and Central America. Or is Western Europe the only population that counts when it comes to climate change?

Of course their governments will come right out and tell you how important it is for the world to implement Kyoto. Why wouldn't PRC and India - the two most populated nations on Earth and conveniently exempted from Kyoto - support the West hanging the Kyoto anchor on their economies.

Besides being completely ineffective in actually affecting global warming, Kyoto was slapped down 95-0 by the Senate. America is not so divided on the quesiton of climate change - 0% of our elected officials are willing to sacrifice economic growth for the environment.

Even if 98% of the world were true believers, science is about truth not consensus. There is still too much we don't understand about the Earth's climate to draw any definitie conclusions and it is IMPOSSIBLE to predict the future. We can't even forecast the weather two weeks in advance.

So color me a climate change skeptic. At least from the standpoint that it's far from definitively proven climate change is a crisis that requires immediate action (humans tolerate warm climate far better than cold), there is no practical way to affect the climate, and the Earth has demonatrated a history of constant temperature fluctuations.

And a troll too, I suppose, if by troll you mean someone who doesn't march in lock step with your opinions...

Posted by: Charles Zambori on 18 May 06

Like I said, Exxon has them out in force. Perhaps if we sit very still they'll scurry away to the dark recesses they normally inhabit.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 18 May 06

Why am I here even tho I side with the dark future? Because I know your gona fail but even in failure you will change the world.

Its vital work not because it will work but because what will work and how those bits will shape our future.

Im very much for smart dense cities.. why? Not becuase they will work... but because they will be prioity targets for terrorists and thus ill be safer.

Im very much for massive solar farms.. why? Not because its gona work in the long run when climate shifts and all heck breaks loose... but because the extra funding will make solar a much better device after climate has changed.

Im very much for setting aside massive natural preserves in 3rd world nations... why? Not because I think thats gona save anything long term.. But because it will act as a buffer between the time things go nuts and the time they finish eating all the tasty aimals in that preserve.. Just enough time for us to be ready for the fireworks.

Im very much for organic farming.. why? Not because I eat it but because alot of the atuff used and made for it will be very helpful in the long run after conventional ag starts to change because of global warming and climate shift.

Im very much for dinky cummuter cars.. I just wont use one... why? Because im perfectly ok with others dieing for whatever reason they wana
and alot of very useful stuff is comming out of the new car designs that will make its way into cars I will drive.

Its often the case that the most important discoveries come from those who are doomed to lose.

Finaly I might feel I cant help you win might not even want you to realy win.. but I can try and help you lose a little less.

Posted by: wintermane on 18 May 06

That's nice, Charles. Now please leave.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 19 May 06

It seems I put too many links in my response and the spam filter ate it...

"I wasn't aware that carbon dioxide had been identified as the cause of asthma and respiratory disease, cancer, and birth defects. Can you provide some documentation? I'd like to learn more."

CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases also include Methane, Nitrous oxide, ozone, and non-naturally occurring gases such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). For more information on how air pollution affects humans see

My original point, which I stand by, is that showing the public graphs of weather patterns or temperature change does not communicate the 30% increase in CO2, the more than 50% increase in methane, and 15% increase in nitrous oxide concentrations in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution (according to the EPA). If you also include other attributes, such as population, industry growth, etc, you get a clearer picture of how all these things are interrelated or are not interrelated.

Posted by: omiecinski on 19 May 06

Where you fall is simple.

You say something is impossible... then have a plan 1000000 times as hard with a much tighter deadline and say its doable.

And real people look at you and wonder just how stupid you realy think they are.

Thats where you failed. Yu sauid in order to do this we need to do this this this this and this.... And everyone looked at your list and quickly decided you were right.... and what you needed was about as likely to happen as michael jackson winning the mr universe contest.

H2 fusion fuel cells clean coal blah blah blah... look alot less difficult when compared to getting all the worlds politicians to actauly do good and be competent.

You say we need this this this and all that by this time... And we think... ok where do we put that? And where do we get the stuff to make that and who the heck will make that and who pays for that?

You say I have to give up this this this this this thois this and that... ok... plan b?

I MIGHT give up this and that but never this this this or that and I NEED that other thing and hell my job is making those! Plan b?

Politicians being competent? Your taking your blue pills arnt you?

My homes gona look like WHAT? And how the heck do I fit in that car?!?!

I need to eat WHAT?

If your plan requires I stop climate change x decades before it happens and its happening.... um..... Um not to be a party pooper but doesnt that mean its already failed?

Posted by: wintermane on 19 May 06

sigh, yesterday the comment eater, ate my comment. I'll try to recreate the gist of it.

I've been reading WC for almost two years now, and posting very occasionally. One thing I really appreciate is the overall sense of positivism. There are problems, and we can fix them. It is an excellent world view.

We are not well served by either alarmist calls for radical action, nor for absolute denialist positions.

Of course we have to actually identify the problems, and the causes, before we can entertain solutions.

In my view the jury is still out on climate. There is no doubt that the climate is changing. It always has changed, and it always will (ok, we might get to engineer the climate sometime in the future).

Are we human causing the changes? Most likely not IMHO. My (long standing) opinion is that the Sun is the primary culprit. We are currently at a 7000 year high for Solar Activity (Solanki et al), whilst simultaneously the Earth has the weakest magnetic field in thousands of years (USGS/NASA).

(Secondary evidence of warming on other planets -- Mars, Pluto, Jupiter and Saturn -- corroborates, of course we don't have the detailed temperature records from these planets (NASA))

More importantly, how much climate change have we seen? how much is bad? how much do we expect? and can/should we do anything?

So far we've seen a 0.6K (1 deg F) rise in temperature over the last 100 years, give or take (IPCC).

That doesn't seem like much of a problem, yet you'd think the world was about to end from some sources (Neuman).

The physics of gas energy re-radiation (it's not a greenhouse) are not as well understood as we'd like, but it strains credulity to believe that 0.03% CO2 could make a 3 degree difference in temperature, when the entire effect is only 33 degrees (RealClimate).

So people, please lets have a little more rational discussion, less hyperbole.


PS. while their are idiots on both sides, there are also plenty of people whose opinions are worthy of respect, and choose to differ. Please check out and for alternative views

Posted by: Robert on 19 May 06

Hoocheewahwah! Now that's a flame war! Talk about your global warming! :)

Joel, thanks for the link and I'll definitely read the paper. I don't have high expectations that it will be effective, but as the general says in Wargames: I'd piss on a sparkplug if I thought it would do any good. Plus I'm pessimistic on the people side, so take me with a grain of salt. And a little lime juice.

At the same time, I'm convinced that the people side is the most important part. When we talk about worldchanging, we really mean peoplechanging because generally we assume (maybe wrong?) that the rest of the world is fine and people are the problem. So how do you solve the people problem? Politics. Yech. That's no fun, let's go figure out how to make a groovy green building that eats its own waste. Meanwhile, for every green building there's umpty-sumpin brown strip malls with asphalt parking in front going up down the road.

A wise friend of mine put communicating with people into three simple words: fear, lust, and greed. You want people's attention? Appeal to one or more of those. So, it's not enough to make a car green. It has to be FAST and green. The viridian design movement, right? That's the lust factor.

The greed is already starting to warm up: the price of oil is pulling more green from wallets, making us more Green as consumers. It will take a little time but that's definitely in motion.

The fear is here too: Katrina, Rita, Et Cetera. Heh. "Hurricane Etcetera". Coming to the Weather Channel this season!

The problem is that we want to be good people. We are genuinely convinced that the sky is falling. Really! We want to warn people. Take note! Pack your bags! Look Out! I'm all for it, but I'm a pessimist. Ray Nagin's disaster's have convinced more skeptics than Al Gore's speeches. It's just the sorry state of being human: nothing teaches gun safety better than dead children. Nothing teaches global warming quite as well as natural disasters. I don't yearn for them, but I hope that they have a positive result in getting people a little better oriented to their problems. Because if they get focused on the problem then it gets a little easier to solve. Just like the next Katrina won't be quite the same clusterfoo that the last one was.

Posted by: dsgeorge on 19 May 06

I'm worried about global warming, but even more than that, I'm worried about how dependent we are on foreign sources of energy. Wind and solar are great--we should use them as much as possible, but they won't replace coal and petroleum. We need a dense source of energy, indigenous, and easily transported. Oh and it needs to be safe too. I really think thorium is the answer, and if you'd like to learn more check out my blog at:

Posted by: Kirk Sorensen on 22 May 06

Governments can't stop climate change and resource depletion.

Only you can.

Switch to renewable energy systems now.

There are hundreds of websites selling renewable energy systems.

If you can't afford to buy a system, get a loan, spread the payments, it will pay for itself in the long run.

For more information email

Posted by: Tom Lane on 25 May 06

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

People say renewable energy will not replace fossil fuels. IT ALREADY IS.

All over the world people are fitting wind turbines and solar panels to their houses.

The price of these systems is dropping all the time.

People can now get all their energy needs from these systems.

Electrical goods are increasingly incorporating solar panels and batteries.

People can also buy electric personal transport.

There is no reason for there to be a problem.

If every building and every small vehicle had solar panels and a turbine fitted you would not have a problem. If every town had a wind farm you would not have a problem.

Government grants can save you up to 30% off these systems.

For any questions on microgeneration or renewable energy email

I am not a salesman, just a guy that knows what he is talking about.

Posted by: Tom Lane on 25 May 06



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