The PR machine has spent twenty years pretending to be scientific while they push poll the phrase “carbon is pollution” (Don’t you want to stop pollution?) But turn the polling inside out and the nonsense is exposed. Stephen Harper takes the PR team’s theme to its logical conclusion and uses it against them.
Forget plate tectonics and continental drift. A trace gas in the atmosphere can reshape the Earth, at least, that’s apparently how many people see it. A new survey shows that over a third of the population think that climate change induces not just tsunamis, but even volcanic eruptions. Worse, 37% of people are so convinced carbon is pollution that they think it would be a worthwhile aim to reduce the carbon content of their body. (The ultimate diet, you might say).
About a quarter of the population are so plum-confused about what carbon is, they would rather not eat food with carbon in it. (Crikey!) The numbers taken in by the mass delusion are shocking. Nearly half the population think food would be safer without carbon.
This is the unscientific bias of our national bureaucracies, institutions, and science communicators laid bare.
Stephen Harper randomly questioned 100 people with one the most original, useful surveys I’ve seen yet. Even though the numbers are small, his questions give us real insight into just how successful our various science journalists, science communicators and government public relations departments are at getting across the basics. After all, Tim Flannery, CSIRO, and the Department of Education want to make sure people understand “the science” don’t they?
Indeed, believers of the Theory of Man-Made Catastrophe often blame their poor communication skills for the rising tide of skepticism. Au Contraire, I say. They’ve done a masterful job of conveying the public relations message “carbon is pollution” and have been extraordinarily successful at hiding the basic facts of life like: we are carbon life forms, and literally everything edible in your kitchen was made with CO2 (bar salt, water and industrial food additives).
The carbon in meat, milk and salad came from the sky. Did they forget to mention that? I can’t think why.
Don’t misread this, it’s not about how clever the public is or isn’t, it’s about how well “the science” has been conveyed. All the glossy brochures, school handouts, 3,000 page reports, press releases, endless repetition of “carbon pollution” by politicians and journalists, and coloring in competitions have been effective propaganda. The Ministry of Disinformation has been hard at work.
Thanks to Stephen Harper for this original, insightful contribution. It must have taken weeks to compile. The questions and results are documented in this PDF. The survey covered a broad cross section of ages and voting types, and Stephen plans to keep surveying to increase the size of the survey.
THE PUBLIC FAILS THE KNOWLEDGE TEST ON CARBON
IS MEDIA POLLUTION THE CAUSE?
Guest Post By Stephen L. Harper
April 29th 2011
A survey just conducted in the streets of Perth, Australia shows a disturbing lack of basic understanding of the roles carbon and carbon dioxide play in life processes on planet earth. It also highlights some monumental elementary misapprehensions regarding climate change issues.
A staggering 37% of carbon-based-life-form respondents are keen on reducing carbon in the human body. Perhaps the amputation of an appendage at the end of the leg will be the new way to reduce one’s carbon footprint.
Equally remarkable is the finding that 44% of respondents wish to eliminate carbon and carbon dioxide from food and drink altogether. Nonplussed are the 28% of respondents who don’t think there is any carbon or carbon dioxide in food and drink in the first place.
Another alarming finding is that 47% of respondents think carbon dioxide is a pollutant. Marginally less at 44% give poor old carbon, the sixth element of the periodic table (and my personal favourite, since without it we would not exist), the big thumbs down.
A solid majority of 77% know that carbon dioxide is invisible which is encouraging. Yet, there are still many labouring under the misconception that carbon dioxide is black, grey or white – and in some fanciful imaginings, green, blue, yellow or even purple. Thankfully no polka dots.
Knowing CO2’s colour is one thing but knowing its concentration in the atmosphere is quite another.
CO2 comprises less than 1/20th of one percent of the earth’s atmosphere – it is a trace gas. Just 7% of respondents knew that CO2’s concentration was under 1%; a sizeable 44% saying more than 10% concentration and 21% saying CO2 represents more than 50% of the atmosphere – an asphyxiating notion if ever there was one. So it would seem the alarmist media has done a sterling job in creating the perception that CO2 is the dominant player in the earth’s atmosphere.
One fifth of the population estimates CO2 is 1000 times higher than it is.
These days we hear that climate change is the animating agent for many things, but it will be news to vulcanologists, seismologists and oceanographers that climate change causes tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Or so say a disturbingly high percentage of respondents to the survey at 53%, 40% and 37%, respectively.
Younger people (18-25) were easily the group most bent upon ascribing causation of these natural events to climate change. For starters, a whopping 82% cast climate change as the villain most likely when unwelcome tsunamis visit our shores. In the same vein 76% of this group think a small increase in a trace gas (CO2), trumps tectonic plate movement and complex processes in the earth’s crust as the causative agent for earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
People wildly overestimated the power of the Australian government to control planetary warming.
When asked what difference a 5% reduction in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 would make to global warming more than a third imagined a forestalling of more than one degree of warming and 14% predicted a staving off of more than 2 degrees of warming. These are staggering over-estimates.
These are staggering over-estimates.
If we accept the IPCC’s worst-case scenario (the IPCC being the UN’s purported gold standard of climate science) of 4.5 degrees warming by 2100 (and this itself is a huge over-estimate), pro rata this to 0.5 degrees by 2020, multiply this by Australia’s 1.4% of global emissions and multiply that answer by 5% (the proposed emissions reduction) we get 0.00035 degrees of warming forestalled. And if we consider that the 5% reduction would happen in a step-wise manner over a ten year period, the actual quantum of greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 2020 is just 2.5%. So the warming prevented is 0.000175 degrees – an unmeasurable amount that is essentially zero. Now that’s “action on climate change” you can believe in. Or not.
When asked what percentage of climate change is human-induced versus natural, the average of respondents’ answers was a 55%/45% split. Respondents were also equally divided (48%/51%/1% – yes/no/don’t know) on the question of support for the federal Labor government’s “gift to the nation” of a carbon tax (which PM Julia Gillard expressly ruled out prior to the October 2010 federal election). Coalition voters were the least supportive at 25%, with Labor voters at 60% and Greens voters an enthusiastic 64% happy to submit. Greens voters were also the most eager to contribute financially offering up an average $1,142 a year sacrifice to the carbon reduction god.
This survey did not test the knowledge the general public has of climate science itself. It examined perceptions of climate change and the public’s understanding of basic scientific concepts concerning carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and carbon (and CO2) in living things and in food. The responses are troubling to say the least. The public’s knowledge in these areas is very poor and in some cases some beliefs are downright alarming.
Of course, not everyone’s understanding is dismal and compromised. Many people know enough to shield themselves from the depredations of blatant scare-mongering. In particular, independent voters acquitted themselves very well, proving consistently to be the most well informed of all groups (whether classified by age or political preference). Nevertheless, all is not well regarding the public’s comprehension of these issues.
What do we make of the results of this survey?
Why is public knowledge of basic scientific facts so poor? No doubt people’s general educational levels play a part, but many of the perceptions are so fanciful that they could not have come from a misremembered science class. No, it is most likely the media who are responsible, creating a huge bogey out of carbon dioxide and carbon in the minds of the public with their incessant and indiscriminate alarmism regarding global warming/climate change. If the public has been so comprehensively duped what hope is there for rational discussion of the issue formerly known as “the great moral and economic challenge of our time”?
The author can be contacted at sharperx AT iinet.net.au
The full survey questions and results are in this PDF.
Image credit: Original cereal pic Scott Bauer (photographer)