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It’s Getting Hotter, but Lots of Us Still Don’t Believe It


Are the trees still green where you live? If they are, and if you’re wondering whether you’re just losing track of the time of these seasonal changes, no, your memory is not playing tricks on you. Fall really is starting later.

But millions of Americans must not be looking out of their windows. A new survey by the Pew Research Center says that a large number of us are still buying into the propaganda that nothing unusual is really happening, and that even if it is, this has nothing to do with us humans.

As regards the late arrival of fall, the folks at Climate Central write:

Over the past 25 years, the onset of autumn has shifted throughout the lower 48 states, with leaves now staying on trees about 10 days longer than they did in the early 1980s.

… This long-term trend toward a later autumn is related to the fact that temperatures overall are getting warmer. In other words, there is natural year-to-year variability as well as a long-term trend in the data.

… On a global scale, this has implications for the carbon cycle: a shift in the length of the growing season means leaves will stay greener for longer and can continue absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide for more time during the year. This can affect the timing of when and where CO2 builds in the atmosphere.

That’s if you’re thinking globally. If you’re thinking locally, don’t be surprised if you find yourself raking your lawn in December in years to come.


The trend in climate change can be seen in facts and figures everywhere. Last month was the warmest September on record (tying with September 2005). in another report from Climate Central:

The last below-average September temperature was in 1976, when Gerald Ford was President and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak formed Apple Computer Company, and the last below-average month for any month of the year occurred in February 1985, during the Reagan Administration.

The first nine months of 2012 were the eighth warmest such period on record, and barring unusual cold during the October through December period, the year is likely to fall within the top 10 warmest years on record globally. In the U.S., the year is on track to be the warmest year on record, after the country experienced its third-warmest summer and warmest spring since records began.

But while more American are starting to accept reality, lots of us are still in denial. According to the latest study by  Pew Research Center, one third of Americans don ‘t think there is solid evidence of global warming. And only 42 percent of those who accept that the climate is changing believe that this is because of human activity. Denial is strongest among those who tend toward the political and social right.

Denial is strongest among those who tend toward the political and social right. Only 63 percent of moderate Republicans and 49 percent of conservative Republicans believe the climate is changing, while 93 percent of those who identify as liberals (and 90 percent of moderate Democrats) believe it. And while 58 percent of of Democrats believe there is scientific consensus that human activities like burning fossil fuels are causing the climate to change, only 30 percent of Republicans agree with this.

What’s the explanation for the partisan divide on a matter where the facts are undeniable?

The Daily Beast argues that propaganda from huge global oil companies like Exxon Mobil is directed largely through the political right wing – suggesting that in this particular case, there really is a proverbial “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

As to the facts: It is indisputable and observable that the Earth’s average temperature has been rising for the last several decades. Eleven of the 12 hottest years on record have occurred since the year 2000.

And as to the opinions, all reputable climatologists agree that human-caused (“anthrogenic”) climate change is real. And almost every climate skeptic been funded by the energy industry.

As far back as 1995, the Global Climate Coalition (funded by ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum, Texaco, and so on) admitted in internal documents that human-caused climate change “is well established and cannot be denied,” yet it was happy to conduct a well-documented misinformation campaign that claimed “scientists differ” on the matter.

Since 1998, ExxonMobil alone has spent $22 million on conservative think tanks, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute ($2m), Center for Strategic and International Studies ($2.4m), Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy ($1.0m), American Enterprise Institute ($2.8m), Heritage Foundation ($630k), Heartland Institute ($676k) and many, many others.

The Daily Beast notes that in 1998, the American Petroleum Institute put together a plan to foment doubt and confusion about climate change. One of its authors, Steven Milloy, is a former paid lobbyist for ExxonMobil (as well as Phillip Morris and Monsanto).

Basically, there’s more denial now than there was ten years ago:

In 2001, between 67 percent and 77 percent of Americans believed anthrogenic climate change to be real. Now, according to the Pew poll, only 42 percent do. That’s the kind of shift that only billions of dollars of propaganda can buy.