Growing Public Apathy on Climate Change Topic Worries Scientists

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Growing Public Apathy on Climate Change Topic Worries Scientists

Public interest in climate change has been decreasing steadily since 2007, according to research.

Google Trends studies performed by Oxford and Princeton University researchers have revealed that people have been losing interest in the subject of climate change over the past several years. According to a report published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, worldwide search interest in the topic has been waning since 2004.

The researchers observed the Google Trends for the terms "climate change" and "global warming" in English, Chinese, and Spanish - the Internet's three most popular languages. Google Trends databases more than 80 percent of the world's Internet search engine activity. The 2006 release of Al Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," was followed by a rise in search interest in climate change that peaked in 2007, when the IPCC's fourth climate change report was released.

Thereafter, the researchers found that media coverage of climate change resulted in short-lived rises in public interest that ultimately had no long-term effect on global search interest, even for incidents like "climategate" that caused major controversy. The study also notes that independent polling data corroborates these results for U.S. citizens.

A public with little interest in climate change is unlikely to push for policies that actually address the problem, said study author William Anderegg, a postdoctoral research associate in the Princeton Environmental Institute who studies communication and climate change. "If public interest in climate change is falling, it may be more difficult to muster public concern to address climate change," Anderegg said. "This long-term trend of declining interest is worrying and something I hope we can address soon."

We've seen a few headlines in the world of climate change in the past couple of months. A new U.S. Government report issued in early May claimed that climate change is worse than we predicted. The 2014 IPCC report claims global warming is a threat to human security. The UN World Meteorological Organization has stated that global warming has accelerated and will go on for centuries. Does climate change still interest you, or are growing numb to having the same information repeated year after year?

Source: Phys.org

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They keep predicting DOOM DOOM DOOM, but nothing is happening. The first warnings said the sea level would have risen by 1 meter by now, obviously nothing has happened.

People are starting to ignore the bullshit.

Not really surprised that people have stopped caring.

"Oh wow, the weather is lovely! What's that? We had no spring last year, instead an extended winter and then suddenly the weather became insanely hot? Well that's good, isn't it?

A lot of people I know don't care if we get high temperatures at otherwise strange times during the year, they're just happy that the sun is out, global warming be fucked.

To quote Huey Freeman:

"The heat makes everybody crazy"

It's because the news has been saturated with it for years. The truth is, we are damn burned out from it. Furthermore, every time a new report pops up, it's just more of the same. It's constant rehashing of the same ideas again and again. Obviously, climate change is an important subject (whether you believe it's natural or man made). But individuals can do NOTHING about it. I can't change anything that's happening. If you were to take the entire internet readership and put us together, we can't stop it change what any of those reports say.

I think William Anderegg is just concerned that his funding will dry up. The three articles mentioned here are literally saying, "we were right, it's bad". We either 1) think they are right and see point in continuing to read about or 2) are just in a state of constant denial about it and "new" scientific research isn't going to sway us. No matter which one you choose, it's not going to draw much interest.

It might be in some part that people feel there's nothing they can do about it.
You can buy a hybrid or a Tesla, if you can afford one, but that doesn't mean your neighbors can or will.

*sigh* Sure, I'm concerned about climate change but so what? What am I going to do? I've switched out the bulbs and cut down on my consumption. Now what? Nothing. Interest is for people who weren't already aware of it. Am I supposed to stare on in wide-eyed wonder at information that has been shoved down my gullet for years now? Old age correlates with higher death rates?! You don't say... *Shocked*

They generally made a mistake with calling it global warming to begin with when it's actually more extreme weather in both directions which, frankly, is more scary. But them jumping the gun on what it actually was is a real blow to the cause in a lot of people's eyes. Not that people don't believe something is up, just that now people aren't sure what is actually happening or if they have it right now.

Well, to be fair, Al Gore did tell me seven years ago the ice caps would be gone by now (or was it last year?) and, although I haven't checked them personally, I have reliable sources telling me that they are still there.

Now if you all will excuse me I need to go up to the parking garage get in my gas hog of an SUV, crank up the a/c to the point of near freezing lowering the gas mileage further and drive about 70 miles home all by my lonesome just like a do 4-6 times a week.

erbkaiser:
They keep predicting DOOM DOOM DOOM, but nothing is happening. The first warnings said the sea level would have risen by 1 meter by now, obviously nothing has happened.

People are starting to ignore the bullshit.

Who are "they," specifically? Most of the time, when people claim that "they" have said these things, it's not the scientists who said it.

Eclipse Dragon:
It might be in some part that people feel there's nothing they can do about it.

It might also be because if we actually do something about it, it will mean effort. It's easier to pretend it's not an issue.

But this is not really unexpected. A good chunk of the West has shortened attention spans when it comes to this sort of thing. Worse if you're American and it's foreign affairs.

So... Since 2007 people started to care less. Hmm, well maybe. Just maybe... Something happenend around that time with which people were more pre occupied then the environment. Anyone want to take a wild guess as to what this could be?

I have another (added) reason for the decline in interest. The economy, 2007 is when is all went to crap, and people tend to be more interested in whether they have a job next month than whether or not they'll drown in 20 years.

In times of prosperity people will look out to help others/the world, in times of shortfall they'll be looking out for themselves (and family/friends I guess)

EDIT: Ninja'd

People are stupid and shortsighted and if it doesn't affect them in their lifetime they don't care. The climate change fad was a nice little self destructive and self loathing twist of the nipple for a while but no one with sense really, actually thought that it would happen like we were being told.

You either have terror mongers making people feel guilty for being shat into existence and promising them a future of pain and suffering without bees. Or people living in denial that nothing is happening and that we are all fine while their kids become walking tumours. The reality is somewhere in the middle. My gut feeling is that if the shit does seriously hit the fan. Third world countries will suffer most and "developed' (rich) countries will have to use the same iPads and phones for a few years straight. Maybe eat meat only 3 times a week.

The Inconvenient truth is that life will go on much as it has throughout history. The poor living short painful lives getting leeched off of by the rich and our collective population and life expectancy drops. If it happened tomorrow, I am more likely to get killed looking for food or disease than anything else. And that pretty much defines the majority of the lives of living creatures. And if by some weird miracle, humanity ends. Well big deal in the scheme of things. Nothing lasts forever. At least we saw some great tv and played some good games It was a good vacation from the natural world.

Zachary Amaranth:

erbkaiser:
They keep predicting DOOM DOOM DOOM, but nothing is happening. The first warnings said the sea level would have risen by 1 meter by now, obviously nothing has happened.

People are starting to ignore the bullshit.

Who are "they," specifically? Most of the time, when people claim that "they" have said these things, it's not the scientists who said it.

Eclipse Dragon:
It might be in some part that people feel there's nothing they can do about it.

It might also be because if we actually do something about it, it will mean effort. It's easier to pretend it's not an issue.

But this is not really unexpected. A good chunk of the West has shortened attention spans when it comes to this sort of thing. Worse if you're American and it's foreign affairs.

This particular topic has been all around us for several years. How do you expect people to maintain interest in anything that has been hammered into us for so long? Short attention spans would actually make us renew our interest every few months we go without hearing about it. A long attention span means we lose interest and maintain the lost interest without new input (of which there has been very little).

But seriously. What am I supposed to do beyond making sure my own personal lifestyle isn't contributing more than normal to the problem? I'm not going to go out and picket polluting manufacturing plants. I'm not going to uproot my family and spend my days in a tent. Beyond switching out the bulbs and making my home energy efficient to the point of having solar panels, what else is there? Nothing. If I were to see a bill that impacts it I'd vote in favor of measures that reduce our global impact. That's about all I can do. I already wrote my congress representatives and all I have to show for it is a lot of shitty spam from them come election time.

Consider my interest thoroughly waned. But I'm not sure my interest is necessary to maintain efficiency.

Goddamit, Gore had to take the most alarmist predictions for his film and now people get to wipe their hands and say "Welp, I guess every scientist was wrong, back to life as usual."

iseko:
So... Since 2007 people started to care less. Hmm, well maybe. Just maybe... Something happenend around that time with which people were more pre occupied then the environment. Anyone want to take a wild guess as to what this could be?

Oh I know, it was Half Life! And TF2! And Portal!

And then Gabe Newell, the gaming sex god, abandoned us. So now people have become sad and destitute over the lack of Half Life 3, and are slowly letting the world go to hell. Waiting for the day when their god returns.

... Am I close?

I think the reason for the decline in interest is that everyone thinks the problem is too big for individuals to tackle and that the governments are too corrupt to do anything substantial (whether that's true in their country or not), so they're just resigning themselves to the fact that they'll just have to put up with crappy weather and poor quality food for the rest of their days.

It wouldn't surprise me if interest returns following a purge of corrupt politicians and the implementation of a way to keep them out of government.

erbkaiser:
They keep predicting DOOM DOOM DOOM, but nothing is happening. The first warnings said the sea level would have risen by 1 meter by now, obviously nothing has happened.

People are starting to ignore the bullshit.

As someone who cares about the environment, no, generally it's just getting jaded. They did predict doom and doom will come, in the mean time it's catastrophe after catastrophe and I have gotten a little desensitised to it. Just because your house isn't underwater doesn't mean species haven't been going extinct, global temperatures haven't been rising, polar sea ice hasn't been getting thinner and natural disasters haven't been increasing in frequency and severity.

OT: This happens to me as well, I'm not as motivated as I was a few years ago about climate change. But partly I think it's because people are already informed/entrenched. I'm not all over every environmental issue, but I'm still going to vote Greens and if you ask me what priorities or challenges are for the world, climate change is still way up there. Not that it seems to matter, I live in a country of people who voted for a PM who doesn't believe in climate change and has already axed several departments related to it.

Lightknight:

But seriously. What am I supposed to do beyond making sure my own personal lifestyle isn't contributing more than normal to the problem? I'm not going to go out and picket polluting manufacturing plants. I'm not going to uproot my family and spend my days in a tent. Beyond switching out the bulbs and making my home energy efficient to the point of having solar panels, what else is there? Nothing. If I were to see a bill that impacts it I'd vote in favor of measures that reduce our global impact. That's about all I can do. I already wrote my congress representatives and all I have to show for it is a lot of shitty spam from them come election time.

Consider my interest thoroughly waned. But I'm not sure my interest is necessary to maintain efficiency.

I agree. There's only so much people saving water and energy can do. This issue is firmly in the hands of governments at this stage. I could buy and install solar panels, but with no rebate, it is prohibitively expensive. I could go without electricity but I'd be without education or career prospects as well. The kind of solutions we need come from national changes.

Nobody seems to "care" because there is only talk of climate global warming and no real push to do anything about it. IMO it's a natural occurrence that planets go through. However I do agree that humanity is not helping, but until the majority of the population comes together and makes a huge push to correct the "damage" we have done and are doing, this will all be a moot topic.

Lightknight:
Short attention spans would actually make us renew our interest every few months we go without hearing about it.

No, not really. Unless you also have a short memory.

But seriously, don't ask what you're going to do if you then go out of your way to point out that you're not going to do anything. There's nothing you WILL do, so don't dress it up.

The fact of the matter is there's absolutely fuck all we can do about it. People think voting for environmental parties will get things done, when in a realist's world all they are doing is wasting a vote. The general public are far too concerned with their own lives and economy to even begin to think of matters on a worldwide scale. Species go extinct all the time, I just say we let the natural disorder of the universe mess everything up and see what happens.

After all, it makes for entertainment.

Fox news screaming "its not real its a hoax by the Liberals!" isn't exactly helping either. Its okay though I'm not having kids and reducing my carbon footprint as best I can. So that is the best I can do.

some sort of public campaign would help

WHY DO YOU NOT CARE ABOUT THIS THING YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER!? you must live on content fear of it worrying that the icecaps will all melt like they said they would for the last 20 years.

People are bored or ignore the whole problem for several reasons. Politicals are unable to change anything or the crisis or perhaps they think a savior will come to spare mankind if you pray...

i think sometime about the people who inhabited the pacific's islands that are submerged for nearly five years. Yeah, no consequences... Of course... Until it's too late, as always.
but i've hope because mankind is building a new territory with a whole ecosystem (it's awesome in fact) in the middle of the pacific, a place that, for lack of ocean current, is a glassy sea. Yes, a new floating countrie, made with garbage...

FogHornG36:
WHY DO YOU NOT CARE ABOUT THIS THING YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER!? you must live on content fear or it worrying that the icecaps will all melt like they said they would for the last 20 years.

Let's be fair now. How can we forget that group of scientists that went up there a few months back to study the vanishing ice and wasn't able to find a single solitary drop of frozen water. . . . . . or did they get frozen in and trapped in ice requiring help from multiple countries to get their boat free? I can't remember.

erbkaiser:
They keep predicting DOOM DOOM DOOM, but nothing is happening. The first warnings said the sea level would have risen by 1 meter by now, obviously nothing has happened.

People are starting to ignore the bullshit.

Because science journalism is often quite terrible, and presenting the actual results in a proper, nuanced way is either too complicated for the general public or simply too dull.

After all, shouting about possible dramatically rising sea levels and sounds a lot more exciting than something like "A 0.4C rise in overall global temperature leads to a shift in dry and wet seasons that will reduce overall crop yields."

The former makes a good headline, but is a lot more speculative and long-term. The latter is, generally (don't quote me on the actual temperature I'm just making an example), a lot closer to the truth but sounds a lot less exciting, while still being a lot more dangerous and for plenty of people actual doom.

Thing is; just not so much for us. It doesn't sound or look so dramatic as a flooded New York or Amsterdam.

Lightknight:
But seriously. What am I supposed to do beyond making sure my own personal lifestyle isn't contributing more than normal to the problem? I'm not going to go out and picket polluting manufacturing plants. I'm not going to uproot my family and spend my days in a tent. Beyond switching out the bulbs and making my home energy efficient to the point of having solar panels, what else is there? Nothing. If I were to see a bill that impacts it I'd vote in favor of measures that reduce our global impact. That's about all I can do. I already wrote my congress representatives and all I have to show for it is a lot of shitty spam from them come election time.

Consider my interest thoroughly waned. But I'm not sure my interest is necessary to maintain efficiency.

I'd actually be quite satisfied if most folks would be so responsible as you are, worst is how people think "What I do alone won't matter, so I'll do nothing." Which means that no one will do anything and nothing of significance will happen.

But you're still right that there's a limit to what the general public can do, thing is; public awareness is necessary to put it on the political agenda to get those bills made in the first place. Politicians are not going to run on causes no one cares about.

It is of course a shame that individual action seems to be so unrewarding, hence why people have to band together to make an impact. But if people stop caring they won't band together either.

In the end it's a screwed up situation with lots of vicious circles.

Im of the opinion that we need a mass extinction event anyway.

synobal:
Fox news screaming "its not real its a hoax by the Liberals!" isn't exactly helping either. Its okay though I'm not having kids and reducing my carbon footprint as best I can. So that is the best I can do.

What is the United States fascination with making scientific issues into political ones. I am assuming by your comment you believe in climate change and I just don't understand how media gets away with ignoring all the evidence. Over 99% of all peer reviewed publications in the area agree with the climate change theory.

gigastar:
Im of the opinion that we need a mass extinction event anyway.

Well then you'll be happy to know we're living one.

OT: Part of it is that it's been spun as part of a massive prisoner dilemma. Where if [your country] takes all the right steps, others will take economic advantage and the environment is still fucked. So therefore, the spin says keep on doing what you're doing.

What I think should be done is more micro-scale. If YOUR water supply is conserved YOU don't run out of water. If YOUR CITY goes green, YOU breath easier. Scale that up to the national level as well, where each country has their own "our environment is dying" issues.

That's the problem with the first world. Apathy. People just don't care about things that don't affect them directly. So long as we have food in our bellies and the power stays on, we're content.

As the saying goes. "Out of sight, out of mind"

Hixy:

synobal:
Fox news screaming "its not real its a hoax by the Liberals!" isn't exactly helping either. Its okay though I'm not having kids and reducing my carbon footprint as best I can. So that is the best I can do.

What is the United States fascination with making scientific issues into political ones. I am assuming by your comment you believe in climate change and I just don't understand how media gets away with ignoring all the evidence. Over 99% of all peer reviewed publications in the area agree with the climate change theory.

Its not america its big money and corporations. Fox is the propaganda arm of the republican party the republican party is owned largely by big oil and other moneyed interests who see solar and clean energy as a threat and thus fox does propaganda that climate change is some big hoax.

Cracked.com's latest book mentioned that the public didn't really give two shits about the Moon landing other than a "Oh, okay, that happened".

We're kind of seeing that happen again.

MCerberus:

gigastar:
Im of the opinion that we need a mass extinction event anyway.

Well then you'll be happy to know we're living one.

I meant that humans needed a mass extinction event. But yeah, you got a point there.

I find it amusing that governments and scientists across the globe are growing more and more worried as extreme weather and funky climates start messing things up while the general public gets less and less concerned.

We just have to wait for it to hit America, then we'll get into gear... 4 years later when we stop arguing about it.

erttheking:
That's the problem with the first world. Apathy.

What an odd thing to say. People in the second and third world care more about it do you think? Or do they have other things to occupy themselves?

gigastar:

MCerberus:

gigastar:
Im of the opinion that we need a mass extinction event anyway.

Well then you'll be happy to know we're living one.

I meant that humans needed a mass extinction event.

To what end? And why?

People are saying the oddest things in this thread.

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