Story timeLet's reason by analogy a little bit. Let's pretend that there's someone with a gun to your head, and he gives you a hard quantum mechanics (a famously counter-intuitive branch of physics) problem with two answers, only one of which is correct. If you answer wrong, bang, you're dead. To help you, the man gives you two surveys. One was conducted with people picked at random in the general population, and 95% of them think that the correct answer is "A". The second survey was taken by physicists who specialize in quantum mechanics, and 95% of them think that "B" is the correct answer. Which survey would you trust more while looking down the barrel of a gun?
That's kind of what is going on with climate science. On one side, you have a vast, vast majority of experts in the field, the people best positioned to interpret the data and figure out what's going on (see Out of 11,944 peer-reviewed climate papers, 97.2% agree on man-made global warming, and 13,950 Peer-Reviewed Scientific Articles on Earth's Climate) who agree, and on the other side, you have the general population.
Science isn't a popularity contest, so to reach conclusions you look at the data and see what it says. But politics is a popularity contest, with the majority shaping policy. That's why it's so important to close the perception gap between what the scientists see and what the public believes they see.
87% say it should be a priority to develop sources of clean energyOne way to track progress is with surveys of the general population. Granted, they have their limitations; a lot depends on how questions are asked, and since they don't oblige people to anything, they could be saying one thing and doing another. But they still give useful information.
A recent one by Yale and George Mason University found this:
In the survey, released Tuesday by Yale and George Mason universities, 70% of American adults say global warming should be a priority for the nation’s leaders, while 87% say leaders should make it a priority to develop sources of clean energy. Those support levels have dropped by 7% and 5% respectively since fall.
Six in 10 Americans want the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions regardless of other countries’ emissions efforts, according to the survey. Only 6% say the U.S. should not reduce its greenhouse emissions. [...]
A majority of Americans supports policies like taxing carbon, giving tax rebates to people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels, and funding renewable-energy research, the survey shows. (source)
Now the trick is to turn this amorphous support into real policies and actions. That's the real challenge!
Via LA Times