Grownups Say The Darndest Things

When you have a climate-change discussion with someone who either hasn’t been paying attention, or who’s swallowed the corporate media’s denialist message, you’re very likely to hear these two arguments:

“It’s all part of a natural cycle.” — the argument that the Global Weirding we’re now experiencing is just a manifestation of natural variability.

But as John Timmer reminds us, the term “cycles” means “…something… well, cyclical. As in things go up, but come back down again. A look at the temperature records of the last century-plus shows that this is exactly what is not happening. Temperatures go up and flatten out at times, but they never go back down. More specifically, next month, it will be 20 years since the last time we had a month where the global temperature was below last century’s average.”

“Scientists were predicting global cooling in the 1970s.”

Well, actually, they weren’t:

The supposed “global cooling” consensus among scientists in the 1970s — frequently offered by global-warming skeptics as proof that climatologists can’t make up their minds — is a myth, according to a survey of the scientific literature of the era.

The ’70s was an unusually cold decade. Newsweek, Time, The New York Times and National Geographic published articles at the time speculating on the causes of the unusual cold and about the possibility of a new ice age.

But Thomas Peterson of the National Climatic Data Center surveyed dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles from 1965 to 1979 and found that only seven supported global cooling, while 44 predicted warming. Peterson says 20 others were neutral in their assessments of climate trends.

The study reports, “There was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an imminent ice age.

“A review of the literature suggests that, to the contrary, greenhouse warming even then dominated scientists’ thinking about the most important forces shaping Earth’s climate on human time scales.”

“I was surprised that global warming was so dominant in the peer-reviewed literature of the time,” says Peterson, who was also a contributor to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007 report.

For more on the “scientists were warning us about global cooling” myth, read David Kirtley’s important analysis at Greg Laden’s blog.

As to whether reasoned argument can actually change people’s minds — well, that’s another question entirely, and the answer is apparently not:

WASHINGTON: It may sound strange but even global warming opinions among the common men on the street waver as the weather changes from hot to cold and vice versa.

During unusually hot weather, people tend to accept global warming threats but they generally swing against it during cold events, says a fascinating study.

Conducted in the wake of polar vortex that hit North America last week, a new study claims that the acceptance of climate change depends on the weather on the day when people are asked about it.

“While a number of studies have looked at the relationship between daily temperature and global warming judgments or opinions, very few have explored the psychology that underlies the effect,” said lead author Lisa Zaval from Columbia University.

The researchers looked at five recent studies on the effects of warm weather on climate change opinions and found evidence for something called ‘attribute substitution’.

That’s where a person forms his/her opinion using more readily available information – like today’s temperature – rather looking at more diagnostic but less accessible information, like global climate change patterns, said the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The Climate Message site is here to make it easier for musicians and performers of all sorts to get the word out to our audiences. At the very least, we shall be bearing witness — at the very best, we can make a difference in the world’s future. But either way, we’ve got to do enough homework so we can change those minds that can be changed.

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