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Science vs. Scientific Consensus On Global Warming

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Posted on October 14 2010 8:00 pm
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Over at the New York Times, Ross Douthat, who’s a true believer in global warming, wrote a surprisingly intriguing piece called, “Why Don’t Republicans Believe in Climate Change?

The reason I say, “surprisingly intriguing” is because most pieces of the sort that Douthat’s writing are tedious, insult laden borefests. Pieces like that are so common and repetitive that you can practically recite them in your sleep, “Zzzzzzzz, Republicans hate science, scientific consensus, zzzzzzzz, crazy to suggest otherwise, Polar bears, zzzzzzz.”

Douthat, who’s squishy, but thoughtful, takes a different route:

Ron Brownstein and Bill McKibben both have pieces up lamenting the ascendancy of climate change skepticism in the Republican Party. While McKibben ponders the intellectual roots of this phenomenon (a subject I touched on, as he notes, in a column earlier this year), Brownstein points out that the G.O.P. is an outlier among the developed world’s right-of-center parties…

…What’s interesting, though, is that if you look at public opinion on climate change, the U.S. isn’t actually that much of an outlier among the wealthier Western nations. In a 2007-2008 Gallup survey on global views of climate change, for instance, just 49 percent of American told pollsters that human beings are responsible for global warming. But the same figure for Britain (where Rush Limbaugh has relatively few listeners, I believe) was 48 percent, and belief in human-caused climate change was only slightly higher across northern Europe: 52 percent in the Czech Republic, 59 percent in Germany, 49 percent in Denmark, 51 percent in Austria, just 44 percent in the Netherlands, with highs of 63 percent in France and 64 percent in Sweden. (Doubts about anthropogenic global warming are considerably rarer, the study found, in southern Europe, Latin America and the wealthier countries of Asia.)

There’s a reasonably large Western European constituency, in other words, for some sort of climate change skepticism. (And probably a growing one: In Britain, at least, as in the United States, the economic slump has dampened public enthusiasm for anti-emissions regulation.)

…The debate over climate change isn’t unusual in this regard. On issues ranging from the death penalty to (at least until recently) immigration, America’s major political parties generally tend to be more responsive to public opinion, and less constrained by elite sentiment, than their counterparts in Europe.

At the end, Douthat mades a brief nod to a, “pretty sturdy scientific consensus,” but that begs a central question that never seems to be answered: Why do supporters of global warming constantly try to convince people with talk of scientific consensus instead of the actual science?

Continue reading at Right Wing News.

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