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Do extreme weather events make you more liberal?

I will happily admit, the next several posts over the next several days constitute me trying to play some amount of catch-up with my ever-burgeoning Firefox tabs and RSS feeds. I’m trying to post a bunch of days ahead of time, too, so I might be reporting on some older stuff. But I’ll try to keep it fresh and relevant with my opinionation. Apologies if we’re covering ground you’ve already covered, you savvy and avid reader you.

Via Peter Sinclair’s excellent Climate Denial Crock of the Week, this story from USA Today explores the ramifications of a study about how people react to global warming policy when having been exposed to examples of the kind of extreme weather event that climate realists have been warning of for decades.

[A] new study finds that people who have endured extreme weather events are more likely to support environmental legislation, even if it means restricting individual freedoms.

The study was led by Ann Owen, a professor of economics at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.

Additionally, the authors write in the study that “our results are consistent with the idea that experiencing extreme weather causes individuals to become more aware of the issue of global warming, and increases their perception of the risk of global warming.”
[...]
Although the survey focused mainly on heat waves and droughts, and was conducted in the summer, Owen says their findings can be extrapolated to any type of severe weather event, including blizzards and tropical storms.

So, potentially, study authors report that weather disasters may hurt conservative candidates more than liberal candidates, because of their positions on environmental policy.

Also interesting are the study’s other findings:

- People who believe that global warming is an important issue are more willing to support regulation that might restrict individual freedom.

- People who consult more news sources and environmentalists are less likely to have their attitudes toward global warming changed by current weather conditions.

- Experiencing extreme weather has the greatest impact on respondents who are less aware or knowledgeable about global warming.

I can’t help but think this is just the sort of effect you’re gambling with when you take a stance that is demonstrably contra-reality. Since the political right has aligned itself against the very idea that the globe might actually be warming, and that even if there was we might actually be responsible, when people see evidence — visceral, first-hand evidence — of that fact, in the extreme weather predicted by climate realists for, as I’ve said, decades, they are going to react in kind. And “in kind” means “against the people who are denying the truth which is plain as day even to the common rabble”. You’re just going to lose support for your contradictory ideas when they’re shown to be wrong. It should be obvious.

If you want to make a political party predicated on the idea that the moon is made of green cheese, as soon as someone lands on there and determines it is not in fact made of any dairy product whatsoever, you’re going to lose a lot of clout — everything else you say is going to sound like just another lie. Of course, there will always be those hangers-on to the old philosophy, for whom evidence is not evidence enough, but that way lies delusion predicated on hyper-skepticism. That way lies, in other words, madness.

That’s what we’re fighting here, primarily, in the skeptic community, isn’t it?

Comments

  1. Aquaria says

    Although the survey focused mainly on heat waves and droughts, and was conducted in the summer, Owen says their findings can be extrapolated to any type of severe weather event, including blizzards and tropical storms.

    So, potentially, study authors report that weather disasters may hurt conservative candidates more than liberal candidates, because of their positions on environmental policy.

    I’ll believe this assertion when there’s Democratic control of even one branch of Texas government within the next ten years.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    … Owen says their findings can be extrapolated to any type of severe weather event, including blizzards …

    From what basis does she make this big-leap extrapolation?

  3. aspidoscelis says

    2, Pierce R. Butler:

    That part is more than a little baffling. Climate denialists love blizzards; whenever it gets unusually cold, they all say: “Global warming my ass, it’s freezing out there!”

    However, “It was really hot here this summer” is just as poor evidence in favor of anthropogenic global warming as “It was really cold here this winter” is in opposition to it. We can’t reliably estimate long-term global phenomena from highly local and temporally limited personal experiences. “Visceral, first-hand evidence” is bad evidence in this context.

  4. says

    I’ll agree that first-hand experience is extraordinarily bad evidence in this context, but we have lots of real data showing this climate change is happening. But if that’s what it takes to peel people away from a party determined to deny reality, I’ll take what I can get.

    However, it’s sad and terible that the only way to get people to pay attention to the global warming problem is to have it affect them directly. It means it will be practically impossible to get enough people to do something about it in time to ward off the worst effects.

  5. Aliasalpha says

    Oh it wouldn’t be that hard to influence people Jason, all we need is a huge mad scientist style weather control device capable of creating devastating weather conditions. I promise that my ransoming major cities will only be a side venture, the real goal will be promoting sensible environmental legislation…

  6. aspidoscelis says

    4, Jason Thibeault:

    Agreed; this would seem to be a case of people getting to the right answer by the wrong method. Better than them getting to the wrong answer, but still not great.

  7. F says

    Jason Thibeault #4

    However, it’s sad and terible that the only way to get people to pay attention to the global warming problem is to have it affect them directly.

    Did it? Was anyone’s particular mind-changing extreme weather even attributable to anthropogenic climate change? That’s a big problem. While it may be useful and expedient for people to imagine that some weather-induced disaster affecting them is attributable to climate change, this isn’t always the fact of the matter. And when it is not the case, this is misinformation (which I though active skeptics worked to dispel), and it just may come back to bite us in the ass.

    Extreme weather has always existed, and science would have to work very hard to determine what bits of it were made worse by AGW. Some of it will be rather more obvious, I’m sure, but that won’t be the interpretation of most people changing their minds because they were affected by extreme weather. Now, if you’re willing to accept delusionary support for your cause, or you endorse psychological manipulation, you may be in luck unless that anti-contra-reality backlash returns.

  8. Riptide says

    OP: “I can’t help but think this is just the sort of effect you’re gambling with when you take a stance that is demonstrably contra-reality. … You’re just going to lose support for your contradictory ideas when they’re shown to be wrong. It should be obvious.”

    And yet the churches do not lay empty…

  9. klem says

    “And yet the churches do not lay empty…”

    True, that’s why religion is based on faith. It does not matter what evidence you provide which disproves the religion, the faithful ramain. Sounds just like climate alarmism to me.

    cheers

  10. Beth says

    F said:
    Was anyone’s particular mind-changing extreme weather even attributable to anthropogenic climate change?

    I don’t think any particular extreme weather event can be definitely atributed so anthropogenic climate change, but one prediction is that anthropogenic climate change will lead to more frequent and more severe extreme weather events. Thus, while people may not be certain that their particular event was caused by climate change, it’s quite reasonable for them to become more aware of the consequences after such a personal experience.

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