Much to the delight of the alarmist community, John Oliver brought media-darling Bill Nye to his HBO show on Sunday to illustrate what a cable-news debate on global warming would look like if it were based on the much cited 97-percent consensus that humans are contributing to global warming. Oliver comically had 97 people on one side of his desk arguing that humans are warming the planet with three people on the other side denying a link.
The HuffPo declared that Oliver and Nye schooled the skeptics. Salon called it a “brilliant take down.” Talking Points Memo saw it as a “real” climate debate. Mother Jones wrote the segment showed why cable-news debates on global warming were “ridiculous.”
The problem is, however, Oliver based the entire bit on a misrepresentation.
The segment started with Oliver asking why it’s still an “uphill climb” to get Americans to believe in the science of global warming. After showing a clip of MSNBC’s Alex Witt discussing this Gallup poll with the headline, “One in Four in U.S. Are Solidly Skeptical of Global Warming,” Oliver had this to say:
Who gives a s***. That doesn’t matter. You don’t need peoples’ opinion on a fact. You might as well have a poll on which number is bigger, fifteen or five? Or do owls exist?
This makes for a funny line, but it’s not what Gallup polled. Oliver’s monologue made it seem that Gallup was asking about a belief in the science.
Here’s what viewers saw:
But Gallup actually asked how worried people were about global warming:
Asking how worried a person is about global warming is a much different question than asking if a person believes the science. This is an important distinction as there is a segment of the population that trusts science, but doesn’t agree on the threat.
Now back to Oliver’s original question on why the alarmists face an “uphill climb.” The Gallup poll he cited answers it for him, but the missed it.
Here’s why: Gallup asked if ”Global warming will pose a serious threat in your lifetime?”
Now let’s do some math. Gallup found of the ”Core Believers,” the 39-percent of Americans who “attribute global warming to human activities and are worried about it,” only 65-percent of that group think global warming will “pose a serious threat” in the near term.
That equals about 25-percent of Americans who think we need to do something about global warming right away.
I won’t go as far as saying that only 25 percent of respondents thought global warming was caused by man, worried about it, and were worried about it in the near term is as fact as incontrovertible as the existence of owls, but it’s a very good explanation of why the alarmists have an “uphill climb.”
As far as switching the debate — as Oliver, Nye, and the rest of the alarmist community suggest — to one of “what to do about global warming,” I’m all for it. But they won’t like that debate very much either as Americans just don’t believe — even Americans who trust the science — that global warming is an imminent threat.