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TIME Cover Today: Amazing Climate Crisis Poll

by Captain Future Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 03:45:37 AM EST

Using a variation on a line from a science fiction movie ("Be Worried. Be Very Worried") TIME Magazine's cover story is about the reality of the Climate Crisis.

The story is currently on pay-per-view, but maybe the most interesting aspect of it is public: the Time/ABC/Stanford poll which is likely to lead ABC news broadcasts today (Monday.)

It starts out with this interesting little fact: almost 90% of Americans say global warming is probably happening, and nearly 70% say their government ought to be doing something about it.


 
Here are some basic findings of the poll (excerpted, paraphrased and partially quoted, but in blockquote for convenience:)

85% of Americans say global warming is probably happening.

88% believe global warming threatens the future, with 60% agreeing it threatens future generations a great deal.

49% say the issue of global warming is 'extremely' or 'very important' to them personally, up from 31% in 1998.

When asked about the causes of rise in the world's temperatures, 49% feel it is a combination of the results of human activity and natural cycles.

68% believe their American government should do more to address global warming.

52% report that weather patterns in the county where they live have grown more unstable in the last three years.

70% thinks weather patterns globally have become more unstable in the last three years.

66% say Bush's policies did little or nothing to help the environment this years.

75% want Bush and Congress, along with American businesses, to take action to help the environment.

62% believe much can be done to curb global warming.

61% would support government mandates on lowering power plant emissions.

There is less support however for gasoline taxes.

The only finding contrary to mainstream science is that 68% believe scientists disagree on global heating, which essentially they don't, except on details. But even swallowing this Bush mantra, more than two-thirds believe the government should do more to deal with the Climate Crisis, almost half say the issue is extremely important to them, and almost 90% believe that global heating is a real problem that will affect the future.

Finally, the Democrats have an issue they didn't know they had. In a 1998 poll, the percentages of Democrat, Republican and Independent voters who were sure global heating is happening were not far apart---all between 30 and 40 percent. Now 46% of Democrats and 45% of Independents are certain, while 26% of Republicans are.

The TIME story follows a week of news prompted by an issue of Science devoted to global heating.  It prompted the following headline on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle last week:  

OCEANS RISING FAST

The story began:

Glaciers and ice sheets on opposite ends of the Earth are melting faster than previously thought and could cause sea levels around the world to rise as much as 13 to 20 feet by the end of the century, scientists are reporting today.

If the researchers' estimates are correct, a rise in ocean waters projected by the new studies not only would drown many of the low-lying inhabited atolls and islands that are already endangered by rising ocean waters, it also would threaten coastal cities and harbors on every continent.

The study, which for the first time combines data from both polar regions, is significant enough.  But that headline is the kind seen in science fiction movies:that the camera fixes on, with dramatic music underneath.

But in a science fiction movie the next scene would have all the world leaders gathered to decide what to do about this crisis.

The TIME poll says it plainly: Americans now expect this to happen. They want their leaders to get serious about this.

The Climate Crisis is real, and it's right now.  It's a complex set of problems.  There are some we are facing and will face because of greenhouse gases spewed into the atmosphere in the past and present. We can recognize these manifestations as part of the same phenonmenon, and develop a strategy to deal with them.  Or we can be taken by surprise, and try to deal with them one by one, always behind, never getting the benefit of anticipating them or preparing for them.

There are other problems, like the rise in sea levels, that we may be able to limit or forestall if we limit  emissions of greenhouse gases seriously and severely.

This will take a national effort and a global effort.  It is the test of world civilization.  If we rise to the occasion, we perhaps can save life as we know it on this planet.  If we don't, our civilization will not get another chance.  It's that sci-fi simple.  

Display:
15 to 20 feet higher by 2100...wow...San Francisco and NYC and many other cities get a lot smaller. And what happens to Holland, and all the other coastal and low lying lands?? That's pretty devstating prediction, if it is even close to true.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 04:13:25 AM EST
better sell the summer home on the beach before the word gets around eh?

alohapolitics.com
by Keone Michaels on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 11:12:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The list of flooded areas is endless -- the Ganges Delta, Florida, the Bahamas, the list goes  on and on.

New York would survive pretty well, except for parts  of Brooklyn.

Share. Share resources, share delight, share burdens, share the healing. If we only could realize that sharing will bring us back from mass suicide.

by Isis on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 01:04:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
75% want Bush and Congress, along with American businesses, to take action to help the environment.

62% believe much can be done to curb global warming.

61% would support government mandates on lowering power plant emissions.

There is less support however for gasoline taxes.


That is to say, there is huge support for a magical solution that costs nothing and has no impact on lifestyle, but "less" support for the single simple approach that would have the most immediate results...
by asdf on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 05:27:57 AM EST
Not surprising, is it? You'd probably find the same qualitative result in Europe, too.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 05:28:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As you've sometimes said, persuading people to cut down on energy use is a hard sell...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 06:02:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Given the correlation between energy use and GDP per capita, that's hardly surprising. Not to speak of the correlation between electricity availability and life expectancy.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 06:03:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Historical life expectancy, anyway. When cities are under 20 feet of water, future life expectancy may be quite a bit shorter.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 06:25:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The limits of growth, cognitive dissonance, and all that...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 06:30:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The connection exists because we've never tried to break it.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 07:12:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, reality is going to force us to try pretty soon.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 07:13:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just look at Iraq for an example of lowered life expectancy because of loss of electricity. Perfect example.

Share. Share resources, share delight, share burdens, share the healing. If we only could realize that sharing will bring us back from mass suicide.
by Isis on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 12:23:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
'Twas a snark addressed to asdf...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 06:51:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I disagree that people want a solution without cost.  First of all, a different poll showed people were willing to pay a few cents more a gallon to deal with the Climate Crisis.

But until government and business start leading and explaining, and most importantly, show their willingness to sacrifice, why should a sane working person want gas taxed?  We are after all talking about the U.S., where ordinary people are told to bear the burden, while the oligarchs are enriched by everything--Irag, the war on Terra, hurricane Katrina relief.  

If gas taxes were part of a strategy that included everyone, and people were confident the tax would actually go towards Climate Crisis efforts, and not into some politicians' pocket, the willingness would be there.

Right now there is no stragegy--and we're all left to deal with transportation etc. on our own.  I don't blame people for nixing a gas tax alone.  I agree with them.    

"The end of all intelligent analysis is to clear the way for synthesis." H.G. Wells "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." Bob Dylan

by Captain Future (captainfuture is at sbcglobal dot net) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 07:38:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A few cents more a gallon? Do they realize that in Europe we're at about $7 per gallon and we probably don't pay enough tax on fuel, nor use the fuel tax revenue for the right purposes?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 07:40:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is not the absolute level - it takes less than a year to get used to whatever level is reached (see how everybody has forgotten about extravagant 40$+ oil already?)

What's needed to change behavior are regular increases, so that the price of gasoline is a permanent pain to consumers. THAT's the only way to get behavior to change.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 04:45:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not convinced about the non-elasticity of the demand curve for oil. The problem is that the relatively small--and gradual--changes in the retail price of oil products hasn't been enough to show the effect. At $2 or $3 per gallon, even with a big SUV it's not a big enough cost in one's monthly budget to compensate for the advantages you get with a big car. 10 mile commute = 400 miles per month = 20 gallons = $60: Big deal.

It's not a gasoline tax of "a few cents" that's needed here, it's a tax of, perhaps $25 per gallon. The reason: Because you're right, Americans could learn to accept $7 per gallon just like Europeans have, and Europeans ALSO pay too little for oil.

To have a meaningful impact on the utilization of oil for fuel, the cost has to change significantly. "Somebody" with a PhD in economics might be able to predict what that change would have to be--I sure can't. It's an incredibly complicated problem because you have to figure out where to apply the tax (as has been discussed in one of the earlier Countdown articles), you have to figure out how to take into consideration various other price distortions caused by subsidies and regulations, you have to take into account variability over time, and the effects of possible technological shifts. That's why they pay the PhD Economists so much, right?

And two of the arguments here are invalid. First, fuel taxes are absolutely regressive, but that's a completely separable problem. The purpose of a tax meant to recover a social cost (pollution, in this case) is to make the price of the goods reflect the entire cost. Solving the problem of poverty is completely separate. Obviously one would need to have some kind of compensating mechanism, but poor people aren't going to be able to drive their cars as much, that's part of what it means to be poor. (Alternative: Move towards socialism.)

Secondly, "dumb politicians not spending the money on the right thing" is also not a valid reason to oppose higher fuel taxes. Politicians always do dumb things, that's how they are as we all know. They would get their hands on this big windfall and probably spend it foolishly, like perhaps rebuilding New Orleans in the same place, or putting a dike around Venice. But that's tough. Politics is how it is.

Subsidizing specific technologies is also dangerous. Politicians are notorious for backing the wrong technology. Personally I'm enjoying the $4000 state tax credit that came with my hybrid car, but frankly that's a pretty stupid way to run things. What should be done is a quick retraction of the many subsidy programs, the application of a well-though-out social-cost tax, and then push the d*mn politicians out of the way and let the technologists figure out how to optimize the resulting system.

Fat chance...

by asdf on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 08:10:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a better approach would be to give people who must drive an incentive to purchase transitional vehicles, whether hybrids or electric, rather than a gas tax.

U.S. gasoline prices have always been artificially low due to the manipulation of world politics and economics by the oil industry. I have no problem raising the price of gas, but I don't trust that anyone in America, it's corporations or it's governments would  do anything useful or progressive with the money raised.

Plus, taxes and price increases are regressive for the poorest Americans who live in regions where driving is even more of a necessity for survival than suburbanites and ruralites that can afford an increase in prices.

We need to get off of hydrocarbon vehicle dependence.

Share. Share resources, share delight, share burdens, share the healing. If we only could realize that sharing will bring us back from mass suicide.

by Isis on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 12:29:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
afew made a smart comment not so long ago when I got myself in a row on the decreasing concentration of minerals in foodware. I probably misquote him, but it was in the spirit "if misrepresentation helps to get traction at the larger public, I don't mind at all".

This Time poll probably went in tandem with the recent Science publications on the glacier melt simulations which IdiotSavant wrote about, I noted the name of Overpeck in the linked report. Never mind that the models use over-simplificatios for melting glaciers or pretty stiff CO2 atmospheric increases anyway...

If this is what the public wants and wants CO2 reduction, based on what the press enlarges, I won't jump for the wagon whatsoever. I want CO2 reduction, too. And I want more: I want O3 reduction and I want nitrogen reduction, too. (Since when have we stopped bothering about those GHG??) But oh well. CO2 is the booman. Go with it.

On one condition: I don't want people complaining if we get massive CO2 reduction and global warming doesn't come down...

by Nomad on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 06:06:01 AM EST
As it happens I am home today, so I turned on Good Morning America to hear what they had to say about the poll.  Not a peep.  All they wanted to talk about was illegal immigration, what a grave crisis we face from our broken southern border.  Why, did you know that by 2050 one in four Americans will be of Hispanic descent?  Horrors! Can't have that!  I listened to as much of that as I could stand -- about fifteen minutes -- and turned it off.  If there's any other crisis in the world, you wouldn't know it by listening to ABC News.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 09:11:43 AM EST
This is horrible!

Pretty soon all my neighbor's will have names like Chavez, Pino, and Salazar.  I'll be forced to eat enchilada's with red or green sauce washed down with Dos X'ies beer.  Mexican will be commonly spoken in public places and ...

Wait a minute.  I already live 'There'.

(Never Mind)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 12:47:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The US public will support actual measures to cut Global Climate Change and the US politicans will leap into action to enact laws to affect GCC only when Miami is 5 meters under water.  

Until then, forget it.

 

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 12:57:44 PM EST
no they won't.  they'll find some hallucinatory way of blaming it all on Castro, and invade Cuba.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 03:49:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or France.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 05:58:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe I needed to create a clearer U.S. context.  There have always been issues deemed more important, even through eight years of Clinton-GORE.  But for the past 5 years plus, all Americans heard from the federal government is that the gov's role was to study global warming, because the science was uncertain.

In this context, I view these polls results as hopeful.

As for today's news coverage, it is disappointing, but pretty much reflected in the comments.  Everyone has other concerns that are more pressing.  Half a million people by police estimate (which means likely up to a million)marched in Los Angeles Saturday, against the immigration bill before Congress.  Iraq is clearly falling apart in the ugliest violence.  Those are the kind of stories TV news will cover first, they need to be dealt with first.

But there is always something that needs to be dealt with first.  We need a future consciousness, and the ability to concentrate on it without getting totally sidetracked, or indulging too much in emotional defenses against anxiety and fear.

I'm currently reading H.G. Wells again, a book he wrote in 1939.  He saw this need clearly, and it is today the greatest need.      

"The end of all intelligent analysis is to clear the way for synthesis." H.G. Wells "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." Bob Dylan

by Captain Future (captainfuture is at sbcglobal dot net) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 04:49:50 PM EST
Future Consciousness - you need to make that a bullet point. The idea behind it has been discussed at least fleetingly on ET too, for example when the differences between China and the agressors of Europe were discussed. After centuries of colonisation and continuous agressive expansion, western civilisation still still hasn't run into the proverbial chasm. Wars don't count, they're part of the package.

We need a clear separation of thought between future consciousness and the Candy of Today - the stuff the majority of the media lives on.

by Nomad on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 05:32:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
some representative commentary on the TIME article

one commenter kind of sums it up for me:

"Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us."

No, and no. It would be too much to expect, I guess, to lead off with "All the climatologists turned out to be correct, after all."

it's that primate thang, y'know... loll around in the berry patch at the peak of the season partying hearty, until the bear is actually chasing you -- and only then run for the nearest tree, the whole time whining about being blindsided and how unfair it all is :-)

I'm kinda with Nomad though -- don't faint, Nomad -- in that people are thirsty for these dumbass single-point solutions;  they want to be told it's only CO2 that is at issue, and then they want to believe in magic bullets and fairy wands that are going to fix the CO2 problem so we will all live happy-ever-after continuing to guzzle energy at ever increasing rates.

this enthusiasm for point-fixes and linear monopath causation chains is awfully dangerous...  back to the perils of a mechanistic, reductionist worldview which encourages the fond notion that if you just insert a throttle or a reversing gear at point B16, the simpleminded machinery will respond in a predictable linear way -- problem solved.  this is a fine line of thinking for making watches or tuning up diesel engines, but it fails pathetically when brought into contact with enormous multivariate chaotic or near-chaotic systems, i.e. complexity.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 06:18:40 PM EST
this enthusiasm for point-fixes and linear monopath causation chains is awfully dangerous...

Just gotta say, that is an extraordinary sentance!

by US Blues on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 09:06:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ummm -- as in, incomprehensible?  if so, sorry -- writing in haste as usual.  I've got an essay percolating on the back burners of the brain and these ideas are my constant companions -- so I tend to babble about them like old friends, by nicknames or in shorthand as it were.

I'll try to expand on the theme later.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 09:26:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I agree possibly 10 out of 10 with you, why would I faint?

The longer I'm on this planet, the more I'm starting to fear we're already deeply dunked in a reductionist worldview where black and white are the only two possible adoptable options. Shades of gray have gone out of fashion. Politicians and press, yapping simplified bite-sized talking points and toffee-flavoured solutions. Put the coin in the slot and the can comes out. Bah.

Has something gone terribly wrong in education that too few people don't have a proper BS-detector or is it just a natural tendency?

by Nomad on Tue Mar 28th, 2006 at 06:49:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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