Sunday 22 November 2009

Do you believe in climate change?

Last week in The Times they reported on a poll they'd conducted which revealed that only 41% of people questioned, believed that climate change was the result of man made activities! You can read the article here.

I was surprised to hear this as we're always being told by politicians and environmental groups that climate change is one of the most important issues facing the world. Obviously this message isn't getting through according to the Times poll, but why is this?

The report said that only 41% of people excepted established scientific fact that global warning is a man made phenomenon. Almost a third (32%) held the view that the link had yet to be proven. 8% said it was environmentalist propaganda, and 15% said that global warning isn't even taking place!

These finding suggest to me that political leaders and environmental groups are failing to successfully argue the case of global warning. Secondly the consensus view that says global warning is real and man made has a number of sceptics amongst the public.

I don't always get the impression there's a real debate on climate change. The consensus view never seems to be challenged in mainstream media, but the poll by the Times suggests that there's an alternative view out there that isn't being heard.

Another thought I had when reading this report is this. I don't think that climate change is a major political issue for most people. What with the world economic crisis, and the ordinary concerns of day to day living, climate change isn't that big a deal!

I have to be honest myself and say that although I believe global warming is taking place and I appreciate its importance, it's never been top of my own political agenda.

There's so many worthy causes and political issues competing with each other for our attentions. For example I've always been concerned about human rights and I've been a member of Amnesty International for a number of years. Global warning is just as important as human rights but I just feel more passionate about human rights then I do about global warming.

So where's it all going wrong? Why aren't we being convinced by the politicians and environmentalist?

Firstly, the affects of climate change don't have that immediate and direct impact on most people's lives. We hear about how the world will be so many degrees hotter in 100 years time, but the majority of people today won't be around then. It's too far in the future so the dangers don't feel as obvious.

I know environmental groups will argue that this shouldn't matter, but it's still difficult to persuade people that the effects of industrialisation and the increase in C02 emissions will have potentially disastrous effects for future generations when there's so many other issues that concern people.

It's not like for example the threat of global terrorism, whereby people have seen and experienced the attacks of 9/11 in New York, or here in the UK with the 2005 London tube bombings.

You don't have that immediate threat and impact with global warming. I know you can argue that populations in the developing world are already suffering the consequences, but sometimes you have to accept that these people are too far away and distant for us in the West to identify with. I'm not saying that this is right, it's just how it is.

One of the problems I feel is that the threat of climate change has been over played. People have switched off from listening to apocalyptic visions of the future which despite scientific research are often the worst case scenarios

World leaders have a great opportunity next month at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit to convince sceptics that global warming is real and represents one of the world's biggest threats.

This conference will be the biggest climate change conference in history and will look for an agreement amongst the world's major industrial nations to reduce global C02 emissions over the next 10 - 20 years.

There's so many obstacles that need overcoming for the summit to be a success. Firstly world leaders need to convince people in their own countries of the threat of climate change.

Secondly that people in the West need to change and adapt their lifestyles; and finally in persuading growing economic powers like China and India that they need to limit their own economic growth and ambitions to combat against climate change. It's not exactly going to be easy. I'm doubtful as to what will be achieved at the summit.

I think there needs to be a new approach from politicians, scientists and environmental groups. Hearing nightmare visions of the future won't necessarily work in convincing people of the current problems we face.

The consensus of climate change may be universally held amongst these elites and protesters but perhaps a more subtle approach and some new strategies are needed to convince the sceptics out there.

1 comment:

  1. Something I think is interesting, alongside the 'is it happening or not?' shenanigens, is the way we consume.

    I think we generally live without consideration for the resources of this planet and with little responsibility for our behaviour in terms of the environment.

    The way we consume says a lot about our ideals. Whether or not this contibutes towards climate change is not the point.