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The More Americans Learn about Global Warming, the Deeper in Denial They Sink


It must be true; I heard it on NPR this morning. On my way to work, I was listening to this segment on NPR’s Morning Edition about how and why climate change has become less and less a priority for Americans.

A recent Harris Poll, among the latest of several over the past year, shows that barely half of the American public believes that the carbon dioxide that’s building up in the atmosphere could warm up our planet.

But here is the best part about this segment: After explaining that Americans have much to worry about these days and that, naturally, they will tend to worry more about things that are of more direct concern to them, we find out that democracy is an important reason for this problem:

Even as scientists become more confident that climate change is a serious hazard, public opinion is shifting the other way, says Kari Marie Norgaard at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash.

“This seems irrational,” she says. “And in that sense, it’s challenging the basic premise that we have of an enlightened, democratic, modern society.”

Or is it simply fear and denial?

Norgaard studied this shift in public opinion and found that as people start to feel overwhelmed by the scope of the problem, they simply turn away from the topic. It’s a form of denial, she says.

“We just don’t want to know about it, so we are actively distancing ourselves from it or trying to protect ourselves from it.”

So basically, the more we know about global warming and believe in it, the more we want to bury our heads in the ground like ostriches.

Seriously? Yes. However, in this craziness I would like to salute the host of Morning Editions, whose name escapes me at this time. He noted that because Obama, our green leader, had changed his plans about attending the Copenhagen meeting from the start and would now only show up at the end, he will have to make a separate trip to Oslo to receive his Nobel Peace Prize, seriously increasing his carbon footprint. That must be denial.