Disturbing Trends in What Americans Believe about Climate Change

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released results of a major survey tracking what people believe about “Global Warming.”  It is not encouraging!  Across age, gender, race, political affiliation, and religion there have been declines in the number of people who believe that human activity is involved and increases in the number of people who don’t think it is happening.  My own demographic (white, male, 54 years old, political Independent, Evangelical Christian) is among the most skeptical, though the Baby Boom slightly bucks the trend for age.  Some friends and I are working on a strategy to challenge the Church on this issue.

The emerging scientific evidence continues to strongly indicate that climate change models are too conservative if anything.  So why this trend? It would be appealing to cite a “FOX News” factor because their audience is the furthest along this road, but the changes in other groups suggests an even broader problem.  I’ve already argued that making this something about saving polar bears is a bad education strategy (its really about starving poor people in places like Africa).

What do you think is going on here?  Any good ideas for how to counter-act this across-the-board rejection of good science?  As I watch the way that climate change is already effecting agriculture this really concerns me.  It makes it increasingly unlikely that Congress or States will pass rational legislation in this area.  I am saddened to see most farm groups lining up to oppose a cap-and-trade even though it could potentially lead to payments to farmers who sequester carbon by using the best farming practices (no tillage, cover crops, controlled wheel traffic…).

I would be even more discouraged about this if there wasn’t an unexpected bright spot – many major food companies and multi-national technology companies are taking carbon emissions very seriously and are working on ways to reduce their “footprint” (and often that of their suppliers and customers).  I don’t think this is because they “didn’t get the memo,” but because they have taken a serious look at this threat.  They have realized that addressing it is not just the right thing to do, it can often improve their bottom line (efficiency tends to do that).

So I’m not completely depressed by this new survey, but I’m still disturbed by the trend.


You are welcome to comment on this site or you can email me at [email protected]

Graphs by Steve Savage









  1. Dudde

    Thanks Steve for yet another good and interesting post. I’m also a little disturbed and puzzled on how people don’t revere this as a serious and deadly threat to a lot of people in the Earth.

    It would be interesting to see what Europeans and others would answer on the very same questions. I truly doubt that 1/3 of Swedes (my countrymen) would say that they don’t think global warming is happening. Back home the debate has been going on for quite some time now, but it’s not about whether it’s happening or not, rather how we can tackle it in the best and most effective way.

    So how come Americans are more ignorant then others on issues like this? Well my best guess is that you are for more exposed to counter-productive lobbying that any other western country. I find it very sad that out-of-control greed makes some companies and single interests stand in the way for things we have to do to save a lot of peoples lives, maybe also including our own.

    Thanks again for great blog. Keep up the good work!

    Cheers! // Dudde Sweden

  2. Tom Rod

    Could it be that many people are unimpressed with the climate of fear politicians use to institute personal change under the premise of global warming? It’s interesting to note that conservatives (those resisting change) are the most unlikely to accept global warming. Could be due to disillusionment.

  3. Steve Savage

    Thanks Dudde. There was a very good “Non Sequitur” cartoon on 10/14 that concluded, “stupidity is a condition, ignorance is a choice.”

    I’d agree with you if I heard much from the politicians about climate change. There is a need for some real statesmanship and articulation, neither of which seems to be well supplied in the political realm today on either side of the aisle

  4. Franke James


    Excellent article and great graphs from the Pew study.

    Let me give a quick intro — I am an artist and environmental author with 20 years experience in design & marketing.

    So, I am very interested in the question: How do we motivate people to make significant lifestyle changes? How do we make going green so appealing and compelling that people will change their lifestyles and take personal responsibility? It’s a marketing, education and government policy challenge to change behaviors. It can be done. Why do I believe that?

    We can look 30 years back at many successes that have improved society — 5 examples are recycling laws, drunk driving laws, anti-smoking laws, seat belts laws — and the New York Pooper Scooper Law from 1978. That last one is a favorite of mine. It’s hard to believe that 31 years ago people didn’t pick up after their dogs. But now, fines coupled with social pressure have resulted in most people picking up after their pets. I like to say, “If we can convince people to pick up dog sh*t, who knows what social change is possible?”

    But clearly with the Pew study we have a long way to go — especially in North America. Change is bubbling up from the grassroots but it has not taken hold yet. Environmental awareness is growing. Just look at Oct.24th International Day of Climate Action — 181 countries, and over 5200 actions.

    2009 reminds me of the early days of the world wide web. Back in 1995 I jumped onto the web. I embraced it with fervor and changed our business to include online services. But so many others (clients 😉 scoffed at us and said it was just a trendy fad. Most people did not believe the web was going to change their lives, and the world at large. But it has revolutionized the world. You can’t walk into a coffee shop today without hearing conversations about blogs, email, Facebook etc. Almost everybody is online now — including grandparents. It is part of the fabric of our lives.

    Although climate change is here now, many North Americans don’t follow the scientific news. They may have heard about the melting polar ice, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans, droughts, floods and climate refugees — but they don’t think it’s going to change their lives in the near future.

    Within 10 years climate change is going to be part of our daily lives — just like the web is today.

    As environmental writers we can (and must) do our absolute best to educate people and encourage them to take personal action. I think of the next generation — our future grandkids — and how furious they will be that we didn’t take action when we had the chance. They will say we were stupid and selfish and mean — and they will be right. So, I may not be able to change government policies but I can change my own habits. I want to be able to tell my future grandkids that I saw the writing on the wall and I took action to reduce my carbon emissions.

    But the world is edging closer to 400ppm — or higher — and we’re facing a possible 4 degree change in global temperature…

    Well, I think you’re right to be concerned. I am very concerned. We must keep working to educate people about climate change and how important it is to take action now.

    Dr. James Lovelock, the author of over 200 scientific papers, and most recently The Vanishing Face of Gaia says, “Our wish to continue business as usual will probably prevent us from saving ourselves.”

    My reaction to Lovelock’s statement is irritation. Society can change. And it’s people like you and I that are going to make it happen. We cannot continue with business as usual.



    Franke James, MFA
    Author, Bothered by My Green Conscience
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/frankejames

  5. Special K

    Somewhere between 390 and 350: Still uncertain

    Andy Maser: Kayaking For Climate Change | The Outside Blog
    By Guest Blogger
    On August 5th, Trip Jennings, Sam Drevo and I spent the evening herding 20 sea kayakers, whitewater kayakers and one standup paddle-boarder into the
    shape of a giant floating “350” [1] on Portland, Oregon’s Willamette River.

    And with no intent to be rude:

    To civilians who to “350” allude
    As the level, certain,
    That won’t ring down the (world) curtain:
    It’s likely only an estimate, crude.
    [1] On October 24, thousands of student groups, faith groups, community organizations and outdoor
    enthusiasts around the world will participate in 350.org’s International Day of Climate Action , and
    we’re rallying the paddling community to be a part of it all.
    Why 350? In 2007, NASA’s chief climatologist, Jim Hansen, released a study marking 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere as the safe level for humanity. Anything higher than that and we risk reaching environmental tipping points that could make our planet much less hospitable–the level is currently 390ppm (emphasis added).

    [What will happen between 390 and 350
    350.org hasn’t yet said
    But, theoretically, as between life and death (planetarily speaking),
    The latter will by then be ahead].

  6. David

    I think we need strong government action on this issue, and I think it’s ridiculous that the United States (and the Europeans) have been twiddling their thumbs trying to find the most palatable and profitable way of doing something that is absolutely necessary.

    In the 1960’s, we didn’t try to make money off of ending segregation. We didn’t take polls to see if integration was popular. We put our foot down and did it because it was the right thing to do. In the 1930’s, we didn’t try to figure out how to make a quick buck off of keeping the elderly and disabled from starving. We just did it because it needed to be done. Now we’re going to trash the planet because it’s profitable and change is unpopular? What has this country come to?

    Unfortunately, with only a few exceptions, the mainstream environmental movement has been taken over by corporate interests who have no interest in actually changing anything about the way we use fossil fuels. But that’s another problem. Needless to say, I wouldn’t expect anything to be done on this anytime soon. Even if a climate bill passes in Congress, the fine print is going to allow industry to pollute as much as it wants — that’s all a carbon market does.

  7. EnvSciStudent


    On both sides. The extreme environmentalists spout doom-and-gloom predictions. The anti’s cite recent studies that 1998 was the warmest year on record and, therefore, Global Warming is a myth.

    The general public watches local weather forecasts which are significantly in error on a routine basis; if you can’t get it right three days from now, how can you predict 10yrs hence? (Don’t go there; I KNOW the difference between weather and climate.)

    Realistically, NO ONE knows the short or long term consequences of CO2 levels at their present values and rate of increase.

    Americans are middle-of-the-roaders and extreme rhetoric will alienate them.

    Somewhere, between air pollution and doomsday, there is a middle ground environmental message that both sides could agree to meet on and send that message to Joe and Josephine Public. Perhaps then there would be enough public consensus to actually steer this country in a unified direction. Until then, it will continue on as it is.



  8. Bill Powell

    Human caused global warming is a fraud upon the world perpetrated by people like Al Gore to make people like Al Gore a ton of money. We are finally realizing that.

  9. Rmoen

    Climate science is an extremely complex discipline, based upon reams-and-reams of raw data. It’s a young science with many discoverious ahead.

    Unfortunately, the global warming ‘discussion’ has left the realm of climate science and become a politicized ‘battle’ with zealots for foot soldiers.

    I blame the politicization of climate science on the United Nation’s ‘Climate Change 2007′ report that claimed CO2 drives global warming. This conclusion, made in the report’s summary, went well beyond the scientists’ findings in the body of the report. The fact is, the UN’s claim is not backed up by a smoking gun that proves CO2 drives global warming. The implications of this ‘leap of faith’ are huge on our energy policy.

    Hindsight also makes it clear that the UN had not even proved their most basic point: that climate change is global. Their data and more recent discoveries suggest climate change varies by region.

    If ‘drives’ and ‘global’ are correct, America and the rest of the world must quickly restructure our energy infrastructure to reduce CO2 emissions. But if CO2 merely ‘contributes’ to global warming we need to rethink our response to whole thing. If Mother Nature actually drives climate change, then we should not move precipitously to burden our economy with carbon taxes and alternative-energy subsidies. I, for one, do not want to pay a dollar or two more per gallon, skimp on the heater or see the blight of wind mills because of faulty science. Moreover, America just can’t afford it.

    Sadly, we out-sourced our scientific opinion to the United Nations. …an organization more concerned about political influence and funding than conducting good science. …an organization that needs to perpetuate the Kyoto Protocol to remain in the game.

    It’s crystal clear. The United States needs our own objective, transparent climate commission to think-through global warming. We need the advice of a Climate Truth Commission before we burden our economy with expensive energy. Both sides of the man-made global warming issue should welcome such an approach. Each is so darn sure of its facts.

    — Robert Moen, http://www.energyplanUSA.com

  10. Brad Arnold

    Regardless of what the American people believe, a severe carbon diet is unfeasible (the IEA says worldwide emissions will grow 50% by 2030) unless a breakthrough energy technology (like the following) emerges:


    Check out above link to a 2 and a half minute youtube video of a CNN report. What are the odds that the independent testimony below is fraudulent (not bloody likely unless you are a paranoid conspiracy theorist)? Here is a silver bullet technology: clean cheap and abundant energy.

    In a joint statement, Dr. K.V. Ramanujachary, Rowan University Meritorious Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Dr. Amos Mugweru, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, and Dr. Peter Jansson P.E., Associate Professor of Engineering said, “In independent tests conducted over the past three months involving 10 solid fuels made by us from commercially-available chemicals, our team of engineering and chemistry professors, staff, and students at Rowan University has independently and consistently generated energy in excesses ranging from 1.2 times to 6.5 times the maximum theoretical heat available through known chemical reactions.”

    Also, check out this article: http://green.venturebeat.com/2008/05/30/blacklight-power-claims-nearly-free-energy-from-water-is-this-for-real/

    Brad Arnold
    St Louis Park, MN, USA
    [email protected]

  11. Steve Savage

    Glad to hear from so many folks and from different viewpoints. As I have said, I’m convinced this is real because of changes that effect agriculture, but I agree with the folks who say this whole discussion has been derailed by politics. The fact that your political orientation is the greatest factor in what you will believe signals that. I’d like to get into the raw data to see if the religious factor is just because Evangelicals are so Republican or if it is its own driver.

    Since almost none of us are climate scientists, what we believe is merely interesting to track, not decisive in any way. As a society, we have tended in an anti-science direction, but this is definitely a question for which the science is key. I’ll be the first to admit (as a scientist) that scientists are not at all good about communicating with the public. We are also really poor at engaging the political system. The fact that Al Gore needed to be the “face” of this message reflects those failures. The problem is that the stakes are so high.

  12. Mark

    Great article Steve & I am confident that the world will get it together however I am not confident that Americans will be there to help. …. “none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who believe they are free.” In my view, in the land of the free, people are no longer inquisitive enough to form their “own” educated view based on research. All too easy to be told what to think!

    Freedom & democracy without thinking, questioning, challenging or holding sources of misinformation accountable… really?

    Its time to start questioning. On one side of the discussion we have the scientific community & on the other we have lobbyists, corporations and politicians. Find out where ALL of them get their information and read for yourself. Its not that hard.

    Unfortunately for us we have been spoilt over the last 30 years with bullet points, sound bites and candy coated news stories resulting in us becoming lazy thinkers. We no longer have the desire to think or research for ourselves. Add to this poor quality information, huge quantities of information, and you get too much to think about so we are tuning out. Add apathy to laziness.

    I personally think the well-being of mankind and every other species inhabiting this world with us at least disserves independent research on my part.

  13. Steve Savage

    I think you make some profound points. We who really care about these issues need to do our homework. Virtually every source of information comes from an agenda, it is our responsibility to sort that out.

  14. Steve Savage

    As the author of this blog post, I’m not trying to filter the comments because starting a discussion is my goal. Still, I’m not saying I’ve assessed any of them. On the whole I think there are some very interesting points being made and some interesting plugs to evaluate. This post is on track to hit 500 page views in the first 12 hours which is a record for what I have experienced. This is what I like about the Sustainablog and GreenOptions communities – there a lot of people represented who spend

  15. Mary Brown

    Steve says…

    “The emerging scientific evidence continues to strongly indicate that climate change models are too conservative if anything. ”

    Nothing could be farther from the truth. The temperature forecasts by the IPCC are now outside their 95% confidence interval. In other words, they have been waaaaaay too warm, overestimating the warming. The warming has stalled and the reality is that climate change is a minor issue and this is finally being reflected in the polls.

    As a meteorologist, I firmly believe in global warming theory…I’m just not very worried about it.

  16. Byron Smith

    Robert, you have not outsourced your science to the UN. The IPCC does no science. It is a collating body that brings together thousands of studies (based both in the US and all around the world) and reports on the overall trends and conclusions of hundreds of articles and experiments in a wide variety of fields. If you read the report carefully, you will see that CO2 “contributes” to shifting climate patterns because it is not the only greenhouse gas (methane and nitrous oxide are also important, and indeed both are more powerful greenhouse gases than CO2, though both have a smaller overall effect than CO2, since we produce so much of the latter). Although scientists still debate details (and by far most of the debate is about the IPCC report being five years out of date (due to the slow process of consultation and collation involving hundreds of studies) and actually way too conservative. Things are far worse than the 2007 IPCC report suggests), the overall picture is not seriously disputed in a single peer-reviewed journal article. Of course the changes will vary by region; climate is complex, the whole thing doesn’t just heat up by 1º at a time. Which means that some regions will suffer far more severe effects than others. And one of the sad ironies of climate change is that the regions that have contributed most of the problem are likely to be less affected than those who have contributed little. But of course, the atmosphere and climate don’t respect national boundaries and neither will refugees fleeing food shortages, water shortages and the civil unrest that these often result in.

    Thank you Steve for posting these stats. I’d heard the headlines about them, but hadn’t seen them broken down by demographic groups. Depressing stuff.

  17. Jeff Goldstein

    It’s all about education. Those loud voices espousing that GW is not real, or that it is certainly not from human activity, are swaying those that are willing to listen. We’re doing a bad job of *educating* those willing to listen with regard to climate change. The misinformation is stunning, and it is presented in a manner that seems reasonable to folks.

    I’ve tried to do my part-
    Here’s a post on the myth that increasing concentrations of a TRACE gas like CO2 can’t possibly impact the global environment:

    And here are some PERCEPTION-CHANGING posts on Climate Change and Global Warming at Blog on the Universe.

    Understanding Human-Induced Climate Change: “A Day in the Life of the Earth”

    How many more people on Earth in a day, a week, a month, a year? (Stunning)

    The biomass of the Human race must be huge to impact climate! Uh … nope.

    Apples – and the fragility of the Atmosphere

    Dr. Jeff Goldstein
    Center Director
    National Center for Earth and Space Science Education

  18. Earnest Crist

    As a farmer and rancher in a red state, I can tell you the biggest problem we have is the lack of good information making it out to the agriculture producers of our country.

    You mentioned how the ag groups are all taking the position of opposing cap and trade–they are simply following the wishes of their members who are apeing what they are hearing in the mass media in the heartland. Listening to the farm news any more is like listening to Fox News–anything the administration supports is horrible and there is a “war on rural America.” Throw in the fact that the oil and gas industry is also big in most ag states, you get a situation where the only message folks get is that “cap and trade is a plot to destroy food production, give faceless bureucrats control over your lives and drives up your fuel costs.”

    That’s it. Nothing about money from carbon credits or methane credits (If they do, they say, “they just want you to plant trees on farm land!! Of course, trees don’t grow in most of the great plains and producers know that the credits alone will not work without farm income,so this is used as a fear tactic to make credits look bad. Nothing is said about credits for no-till and strip-till, nothing for pasture management, nothing for riparian restoration, just stupid fear tacticts). Nothing is said about how this is comparable to the dust bowl in that farming practices and other human activity has caused nature to get out of wack, only on a global scale this time. No good information at all.

    It’s kind of like living in Iran or North Korea–the state media gives you one line and you get nothing anywhere else–yes, you can get CNN or MSNBC if you have a dish or live in a town with cable and in some places you can get NPR, but the local media pretty much apes the line given to them by the political elite which, again, might as well come from Fox News.

    y’all want to do something, find a way to send good info to local weekly papers–It is old media, but folks in these small towns read their weekly papers from cover to cover (they talk about local sports, what the kids are doing in 4-H and FFA and who died, who had grandkids etc). If you could get articles and letters to the editor in them, it would at least get conversations going in the coffee shops, beauty parlors and barber shops (that is where the real pulse of small town American can be taken). These papers will print just about anything to fill in space between ads–and people read them completely—you have a whole week instead of one day with a daily and they are the only place to read about community events.

    It would take some work but that is one way to get some good info out into some areas. It at least is an idea. It won’t work over night, but it would at least help.

  19. mel

    I’m not a fundamentalist, and don’t know how fundamentalists would weigh ideas, but doesn’t the whole idea of danger through global warming contradict Genesis 8: 21-22 (particularly verse 22)? God has basically promised Noah that we’re forever after safe on earth, and ecological disaster simply cannot happen.

  20. Steve Savage

    The promise to Noah was narrow – no more floods like that. The theological principle that creation is compromised because of the fall and the promise of a “new heavens and new earth” at the end of time seems to me to be pretty compatible with the idea that God would allow us to face the consequences of how we treat Creation. I think he made us smart enough to understand what we are doing and creative enough to come up with solutions

  21. Marcelo Campos

    Hi Steve, I agree with your comments and am sadened by the implications concerning legislation. It appears to me that in the second table (% believe.. human activity) you inverted the dates, 08 vs. 09.
    please check it out…

  22. mel

    OK. I was wondering if an argument from Gen. 8:22 had ever come up. The pushback in the blogs I’ve seen has usually been a more general argument that humanity lacks the power to ruin the earth, that we’re not big enough for that.

  23. Steve Savage

    Marcelo, The second chart is a little confusing because unlike the first one which is showing movement to the right over time, the second one shows a retreat to the left – to fewer people believing that humans are involved

    Mel, I’ve heard the argument that we humans are too puny to cause a problem. I’d point to Genesis 11 and the story of the Tower of Babel. “But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” (v 5-7, NIV)

    It doesn’t seem that God considered humanity to be powerless to do big things

  24. Bobby B.

    From Steve’s original article: “My own demographic (white, male, 54 years old, political Independent, Evangelical Christian) is among the most skeptical, though the Baby Boom slightly bucks the trend for age. Some friends and I are working on a strategy to challenge the Church on this issue.”

    Consider your primary education for a moment. You were likely taught the 3 R’s and some basic science before entering college. You learned that math and science are good tools for evaluating the micro-universe in which you live (i.e. “How much fuel will I use driving to and from work this week?”). However, they can be poor tools for predicting infinitely larger systems with random, unrestricted variables (i.e. “How much will a new car cost twenty years from now?” or better yet “What variables must one ignore to predict the rise in global temperature over the next two or three decades, and how does one restrict and attribute that prediction solely to man?”). Computers can only provide the speed necessary to calculate man’s flawed models of the universe’s natural systems. Even Newton understood that mathematics had limitations.

    You said Evangelical Christian. If Evangelical Christians are to put their hope for eternity in God, is it natural for them to believe in a limited god? Captain James Tiberius Kirk asked, “What does God need with a starship?” Before you challenge the church ask yourself, “How can one convince Christians (who claim to believe that God holds the universe in the palm of His hand) that God needs their help to fix His dying creation?” If a God big enough to control the universe can care about something as insignificant as a human being, will He not maintain the starship on which those He created in His image reside?

    You also flagged “54 years old” and “male.” Regardless of race, creed, political affiliation or religion, what do most middle aged males have in common? WORK. Most of us are busy trying to earn a living to provide for our families. Most of us also realize that the “fixes” being proposed by the IPCC and the new administration in the United States simply take more of that living out of our pockets and erodes more of the freedom that we enjoy as Americans. Consider the following portions of Section 201 of Waxman-Markey HR2454:

    1. Pages 214 & 215 under the title “(3) VIOLATIONS.”, which reads, “(3) VIOLATIONS.—It shall be a violation of this section for an owner or builder of a building to knowingly occupy, permit occupancy of, or convey the building if the building is subject to the requirements of—…”

    2. Pages 215 to 220 under the title “(e) STATE ENFORCEMENT OF ENERGY EFFICIENCY BUILDING CODES.—…” describes the responsibilities of the states to conduct warrantless inspections and issue citations for corrections and monetary penalties.

    3. Pages 220 to 224 under the title “(f) FEDERAL ENFORCEMENT.”, which calls for federal enforcement in non-compliant states, reads in part:

    “(f) FEDERAL ENFORCEMENT.—Where a State fails and local governments in that State also fail to enforce the applicable State or national energy efficiency building codes, the Secretary shall enforce such codes, as follows: (1) The Secretary shall establish, by rule, within 2 years after the date of enactment of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, an energy efficiency building code enforcement capability. (2) Such enforcement capability shall be designed to achieve 90 percent compliance with such code in any State within 1 year after the date of the Secretary’s determination that such State is out of compliance with this section. (3) The Secretary may set and collect reasonable inspection fees to cover the costs of inspections required for such enforcement. Revenue from fees collected shall be available to the Secretary to carry out the requirements of this section upon appropriation.
    “(g) ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURES.—(1) The Secretary shall assess a civil penalty for violations of this section, pursuant to subsection (d)(3), in accordance with the procedures described in section 333(d) of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6303). The United States district courts shall also have jurisdiction to restrain any violation of this section or rules adopted there under, in accordance with the procedures described in section 334 of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6304). (2) Each day of unlawful occupancy shall be considered a separate violation. (3) In the event a building constructed out of compliance with the applicable code has been conveyed by a knowing builder or knowing seller to an unknowing purchaser, the builder or seller shall be the violator.”

    Currently floating around the internet are a video and a streaming audio file of Congressman Steve Scalise’s (R-LA) comments on this bill, which include the following quotation: “We’re setting up a global warming Gestapo that can literally come in and now this new term, ‘unlawful occupancy.’ Now living in your home is considered unlawful under this bill. This is ludicrous.”

    Section 201 makes the legislation personal to anyone that lives in or owns a dwelling. The rest of the bill penalizes industry in the United States, which will devastate our livelihoods and ultimately pass inflated costs to unemployed consumers who cannot bear such a burden. Is it any wonder that people are beginning to doubt the purity of global warming “science”?

  25. Steve Savage

    Bobby B,
    Here is my understanding of the theology here. As for God needing human’s help, it isn’t a matter of need but of His choice. One of his main charges to Adam was to tend the garden. God does not “need” to depend on people to advance the Kingdom of God, but he chooses to do so through the often weak Church. He has obviously given us the freedom to do dumb things – consider the dust bowl era.

    I would not want to conflate the “purity of global warming science” with what happens in the political sphere. The terms “good science” and “good legislation” will probably never appear together. First of all, I’d be surprised if any climate change legislation gets passed considering the trend in the Pew study. Politicians are not that courageous. I have much more hope that private industry will continue to be the source of leadership as it was all during the Bush era. There is serious money to be made in the process of innovating out way out of this mess. In my real job I get to see some of that happening.

    Don’t slip into conspiracy theory thinking on this one, Bobby. You are better than that

  26. Bobby B.

    What conspiracy theory thinking? My legislation examples come straight from HR2454. It is an ominous bill that people need to read. Even if it doesn’t pass, folks need to realize what their elected representatives have considered.

    As far as the theological aspect, tending the garden could simply be a reference to edifying the man through work. 2nd Thessalonians 3:10 says, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” Of course, any Bible interpretation can be debatable depending on the presenter and the audience. However, if the Word is used to move people away from evangelizing towards other activities, one has to consider the source of the interpretation.

  27. Steve Savage

    Bobby B,
    back on the theology front, in places like John 17 is it clear that the world will know about God and Christ by observing how the christian community interacts with itself – its unity. I think that principle extends to how people see the christian community interact with the world. That is why I favor “creation care” as part of evangelism. We christians need to demonstrate out love for our fellow Christians, our fellow humans in general, and for the planet we believe that God made to be our home.

  28. ADScott

    If ALL of us in America went back to living in caves it would not cancel out the combined effect India and China will have in the next 20 years.

  29. Steve Savage

    You bring up a good point – the US represents a small population with a big per capita carbon footprint and India and China represent huge populations with modest per capita footprints. Each has its own responsibility

  30. Bobby B.

    Although the term is relatively new, the “creation care” concept is one that has been around for decades. I remember being a kid in church in the late 1970’s listening to my pastor plug his personal conservation efforts. The near depression brought on by Jimmy Carter I (we now have Jimmy Carter II in office) had everyone scrambling for ways to save energy. Then, just as now, it was the West’s moral imperative to live in an environmentally responsible manner to keep the rest of the world from collapsing. That pastor’s examples paralleled with today’s version of creation care in that it emphasized the restricted use of resources by people in the developed world to benefit some invisible neighbor in the third world. One energy saver for which he was particularly proud was turning the hot water on and off while shaving instead of just letting it run continuously. I never understood how some poor fellow living in a hut with no amenities and no money – just like George Obama – would ever come to appreciate my pastor’s noble, water saving efforts; much less come to equate those efforts with any sort of Christian outreach.

    As an agricultural scientist and a Christian, you can appreciate the Biblical importance of feeding both the spirit and the body. The fellow in the hut could care less if some Christian buys an electric vehicle, installs solar panels on his roof, or even if he turns the water on and off while shaving. He wants his belly full and his spirit lifted. Since the industrial revolution, the United States and other western nations have converted large amounts of energy (for which we are chastised) into large amounts of food (which everyone wants and needs). The overproduction has been purchased by taxpayers (via government mechanisms) and sent to hungry people all around the world for decades. Have these efforts completely alleviated world hunger? No, but there are a host of reasons for this that we have not the room to discuss in this forum. Nonetheless, those efforts provided inroads (albeit indirectly and unintentionally) for Westerners to introduce themselves, their culture and their religions to other parts of the world. Filling bellies often yielded open ears and receptive hearts. Wouldn’t evangelism have a better chance of flourishing if legislation was designed to fuel Western economies in environmentally responsible (albeit not kooky) manners that actually lowered the cost of producing goods – especially food – so that their abundance could continue to be shared with the world’s needy; at least until they learned to better provide for themselves? How does evangelism through creation care work when its proponents frequently support legislation that seeks to lower the standard of living in the West while knowing full well that doing so will do nothing to benefit their fellow human beings elsewhere in the world?

    To close, I will be the first to admit falling short of the second greatest commandment regarding my neighbors. I am one who evangelizes quietly by working in his local community and gives but a little monetary support to missionaries willing to travel afar. However, I will never understand how destroying the livelihood of one class of people does anything to improve the lot of those who are less fortunate.

  31. Steve Savage

    Bobby B,

    One of the reasons I enjoy working of “truly” sustainable agriculture is that it results in “creation care,” feeding “the least of these,” and is good for a farmer’s bottom line at the same time. What I am talking about is not Organic, which most people assume is the ideal system. Organic has major pollution issues and productivity issues. I’ll be writing a series of posts about that sometime. I think there a lot of win/win possibilities in the whole sustainability area and that is why so many companies have voluntarily moved in this direction. The challenge is to sort through the disinformation and the things that people assume are important that really are not (like local). Ideally, I would hope that the Church could play a calm, rational, “truth telling” role in this overly hyper-partisan debate.

  32. Bobby B.

    I understand that you support applying modern, sustainable scientific techniques to increase the farmer’s yield per unit of energy spent. Although church goers would likely be receptive to your ideas, many within the membership have become suspicious of the larger, more visible versions of government-sponsored environmentalism. Those who read the news regularly see no shortage of stories regarding questionable data gathering techniques and data manipulation by government-supported scientists turned global warming proponents. Common folks have begun to question the legitimacy of the science, because they understand the personal impact the proposed “fixes” will have on their livelihoods. Since there exists the modern imaginary wall of separation, the holiday season once again promises to be replete with stories of leftist groups (ACLU, CAIR, etc.) and government entities (town halls, school boards, etc.) demanding that people refrain from displaying the Christian faith in any public square. Christians within the ranks of the middle class – who generally support science that improves everyone’s tomorrow – understand that their faith and their pocketbooks sit ever increasingly within the government’s crosshairs.

    You used the term “disturbing trends” to convey the idea that Americans are buying into the global warming belief system less and less, then the topic slid into politics and religion. After decades of being called “corporate shills” and “deniers” by the greens, “racists” and “bigots” by the left, and “backward zealots” and “creationists” by the enlightened, is it any wonder that common people are starting to question the motives of those who have pushed the agendas and the science that has been manipulated to support those agendas? The debate began when those who questioned the results were personally attacked through name calling and threatened with having their credentials revoked. It became hyper-partisan when the common folks realized that consensus, threats and personal attacks have no place in real science.

    I do hope that your work is impacted positively by whatever the future brings.

  33. Steve Savage

    Bobby B,
    Because I haven’t been working in and academic science setting for more than 20 years, I am probably a little naive about some of the politics that go on there. In my 32-year science career I’ve never been given a hard time because of my faith. I wish I could say the same for my science within the Church.

    I certainly do recognize that my fellow scientists can be as anti-scientific as ordinary folk when it comes to something they don’t study. For instance, lots of plant molecular biologists blithely go along with an anti-chemical stance because they actually have no idea how critical chemicals will always be to successful farming. This is why I find Robert Paarlberg’s effort so remarkable. Here is a link to one of his lectures at Welsley.

    Rob isn’t an agricultural scientist, but he understands it very well. He talks about the disjoint between what science says about food and what most people believe.

  34. Dave Dempsey

    There are at least two reasons for these disturbing findings. First, gloom and doom prophecies paralyze people into inaction, and imply a rapid change and deterioriation that should be apparent as we watch. Instead, the signals at this point (in the U.S.) are mostly subtle.

    Second, deniers of climate change have successfully turned it into an Al Gore v. Rush Limbaugh matter. While Limbaugh is a polarizing figure, personalizing the issue between these two lends itself to ‘he said, she said’ journalism in which both sides are assumed to be spinning. I respect Gore very much, but we need to de-politicize, find new and scientific spokespeople who clearly have no personal/political agenda, and focus on the facts.

    And most of all, let’s appeal to the hopes of all people for a better future and the jobs and quality of life improvements that can come from a clean energy/energy efficient economy.

  35. Steve Savage

    Well said. This has become something about the messenger. If Gore hadn’t done the movie I’m not sure the scientists would have been able to do the communication well enough to get much attention. Is just unfortunate that he was such a lightning rod. I’m trying to work on this subject in agriculture, but unfortunately the overlap of farmers and Fox News is large.

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