Despite taking their licks in the press lately, the Chamber of Commerce and the coal industry front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) have something to celebrate today. A new poll released by the Pew Research Center has found the number of Americans who believe that pollution is causing climate change declined 20 percent over the past two years. Only 57% of Americans believe there is solid scientific evidence that the global climate is warming.
Some pin this decline on the economy, arguing that Americans have other things to worry about and climate change has drifted off their radar screen.
But, as I explained to the Guardian newspaper today, "a big part of this problem is this campaign to mislead Americans about climate science. This is a very sophisticated group of people who know how to create doubt and confusion and they have done a very good job of it."
This downturn in public understanding of the climate crisis confirms that the corporate investment in climate confusion is paying a dividend. The public confusion campaigns launched by ACCCE, the Chamber, National Association of Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute and a host of others, are all deliberately targeted at moving the dial on public opinion.
These Astroturf groups have set a clear and specific goal of muddying the waters, and this poll shows that their strategy is working. Front groups and lobbyists for dirty industry have effectively sown the seeds of confusion within the American public.
Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence, the pleadings of nation’s like the Maldives and villages in the Arctic that are literally being wiped off the map by rising sea levels, and siren calls from the international community for action to address climate change, Americans are still questioning whether it is real or not.
Shocking, isn’t it? Not if you know what the industry lobbyists and front groups have been up to for the past 20 years.
The only consolation in this news is that half of Americans polled remain in favour of putting limits on CO2 emissions and making companies pay for their emissions, which are the basic tenets of the cap and trade bill now before the Senate. Additionally, a majority of Americans, 56%, want the U.S. to join the international community in a global agreement on climate change.
That offers a glimmer of hope in otherwise disappointing results. Now it is up to President Obama to represent that majority viewpoint in Copenhagen.
James Hoggan is a 35 year veteran in public relations and the author of the new book Climate Cover Up that will be released this week US-wide.