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Avoiding Another Kyoto Commitment

A study says government leads public opinion on anthropogenic climate change.

by
Tom Harris

Bio

July 24, 2012 - 12:00 am

The only solution that makes sense for Canada and the U.S. — and indeed for all developed nations — is to get out of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) that spawned the Kyoto, Cancun, and Durban agreements in the first place. Like Kyoto, the FCCC text lays out simple steps for withdrawal, stipulating:

Any Party that withdraws from the Convention shall be considered as also having withdrawn from any protocol to which it is a Party.

But, as last month’s Angus Reid public opinion poll found, almost three in five Canadians still believe that global warming “is mostly caused by emissions from vehicles and industrial facilities.” Government strategists have obviously therefore concluded they must continue to play along with the climate scare until public opinion changes. Consequently, the Canadian government continues to support alarm, telling citizens that “scientists agree” we are causing a climate crisis and that we must reduce GHG emissions to prevent a two-degree temperature rise. That none of this makes sense is immaterial.

Government cannot lead public opinion, they assume. But recent research shows this is not the case. In “Shifting public opinion on climate change: an empirical assessment of factors influencing concern over climate change in the U.S.,” published in February in the scientific journal Climatic Change, Professors R. J. Brulle of the Department of Culture and Communications at Drexel University in Philadelphia, J. Carmichael of McGill University, and J. C. Jenkins of Ohio State University showed that the stated positions of politicians and other “elites” in society is the major factor driving public opinion.

Their analysis, based on the construction of “aggregate opinion measures” from 74 separate surveys over a nine-year period, supported the 2009 conclusion of Harvard University’s Susan McDonald:

When elites have consensus, the public follows suit and the issue becomes mainstreamed. When elites disagree, polarization occurs, and citizens rely on other indicators … to make up their minds.

Brulle and his colleagues showed that, beginning in the first quarter of 2006 and continuing until the third quarter of 2007, when prominent Republicans worked with the Democrats in support of the dangerous human-caused global warming hypothesis, the public was far more supportive of this position: ”These elite cues worked to increase concern about this topic,” Brulle et. al. said, as did the release of Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth.

But starting in 2008, the Republicans split with the Democrats on climate change. Coupled with increased unemployment, this led to a sudden drop in the fraction of the public who ‘”worried a great deal” about climate change.”’ (Click here for graph adopted from Brulle et. al. 2012.)

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