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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Yesterday's news
January 27, 2010 - 8:17pm

No, I'm not concerned with what will be (by the time you read this) last night's State of the Union address. I've seen and heard too many of those over the years to have any doubt that the state of our union will be declared to be strong. Realities notwithstanding.

What I'm intrigued by, and sad I didn't know about earlier, is a report out of George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication -- an outfit with which I'll definitely have to become more familiar. Catchily titled "Global Warming's Six Americas 2009" (even though we all know there are only three Americas -- North, South and Central), it breaks US public opinion regarding climate change down according to a six point scale (alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful and dismissive) and provides an analysis of the thoughts and beliefs of each segment.

I'm still working my way through the report's 140 pages (this being the beginning of a semester, I obviously have nothing else to do with my time), but a couple of points have already caught my attention.

First, the two categories at the most convinced/most concerned/most motivated end of the scale account for 51% of the result set (18% alarmed, 33% concerned). This is a truth that too often gets lost in the "one from this side, one from that side" style of what passes for journalism.

Second, the fact that folks in the "dismissive" category both consider themselves very knowledgeable on the subject and admit that they haven't thought much about it. I suspect that this combination is more common than most of us expect, but the quality of the debate might improve if this syndrome were pointed out a bit more often.

Based on reading the introduction and the table of contents, and on reviewing the 55 pages of tables which present the data, I'm looking forward to reading the category analyses. They should prove informative, and knowledge of the patterns described should prove useful.

I just wish I'd discovered the report when it first came out. Demographic analyses don't change as rapidly as the weather, but they do change. And stories about the economy and health care finance have shown a tendency to drown out other concerns. And alarms.


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