After a series of highly publicized error in a landmark report about manmade global warming, and lingering controversy over hacked emails between climate scientist – public confidence is beginning to erode and could result in further stalling efforts in Congress to pass climate change legislation.
In recent weeks, Texas, Virginia and Alabama officials filed challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that manmade greenhouse gases threaten public health, and Senator Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from the coal state of West Virginia introduced a bill to postpone for two years, EPA rules stemming from that determination.
In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations scientific body considered the leading authority on global warming, concluded the widespread warming of the atmosphere and oceans and the melting of the sea ice and glaciers could not be explained without taking into account manmade emissions of heat trapping gases. The group said it was 90 percent certain that humans are the main reason for the worlds temperature rise in the past 50 years.
While the authors of the report stand by the central findings, some scientists involved with the UN panel say the errors have damaged their reputation.
“This issue is so politically sensitive, scientists need to be careful they focus on the science and not the advocacy. The science is robust and can speak for itself,” said Adil Najam, a lead author of two Intergovernmental Panel assessments and director of Boston University’s Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future.
Recent polls by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and George Mason University show a decline in public concern about global warming with 50 percent of respondents saying they are “somewhat” or “very worried” about global warming, a 13 point decrease from the fall of 2008. Sixteen percent are considered “dismissive” – believing that global warming isn’t happening and is probably a hoax, up from 7 percent in 2008.