This is what defeat looks like for the Left, and perhaps also for environmentalists

Summary:  For over a quarter-century the Left has sought public policy changes to fight global warming and the resulting climate change, relying largely on alarmist forecasts. Increasingly wild forecasts, disconnected from the work of climate scientists, the IPCC, and the major climate agencies. What have they reaped from this massive commitment of resources? The answer might affect America’s broader political evolution and the balance of power between Left and Right.


Typical Leftist claims, almost devoid of support from climate science

Earth doomed within 20 years due to climate change“, UK Metro, 10 October 2013 — “Life in parts of the planet will start to be wiped out by climate change within two decades – far sooner than previously predicted, research shows.” The article refers to “The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability” in Nature (10 October 2013), which says nothing remotely like that.

{Climate change is} “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”
— Secretary of State John Kerry to 16 February 2014 at Jakarta, reported by the Washington Post

Kerry: world will end
Dean Scott: Bloomberg senior climate change reporter

Globe Aflame



  1. This is what losing looks like for the Left
  2. Building bipartisan support
  3. Effects of alarmism on elections
  4. Losing the next generation of voters
  5. Conclusions
  6. For More Information

(1)  This is what losing looks like for the Left. For environmentalists

Since 1988 the Left, and its sub-community of environmentalists, have increasingly focused on fighting climate change as their primary issue. In a sense, they’ve wagered their credibility and political capital on this one issue. How’s that working for them? The polls show the answer. This is what losing looks like for the Left, and perhaps for environmentalists. See the results of a Gallup survey of Americans on 6 – 9 March 2014. Climate change is 14 of 15  (the rank order probably matters more than the specific numbers).

Next, I’m going to read a list of problems facing the country. For each one, please tell me if you personally worry about this problem a great deal, a fair amount, only a little, or not at all? First, how much do you personally worry about…

Gallup: list of worries
Gallup, 6 – 9 March 2014

Note that the answers to “do you worry about climate change” are quite different when asking only about various environmental problems (see this Gallup survey). People say they worry a lot less about the environment when these issues are placed in a larger context.

This might be part of a larger change in public opinion. See the results over time when asking “please tell me if you personally worry about the quality of the environment …”


Gallup: concern about the environment


(2)  Building bipartisan support

Large policy changes in America almost always require bipartisan support. That’s not happening in the climate wars.  See the answers to how many people worry “a great deal” about major issues, by political party. Climate change has the 4th largest partisan difference of these 15 issues.

Gallup: worry by party
Gallup, 6 – 9 March 2014


(3)  Effects of alarmism on elections

“Although many harsh words are said about the childlike response of the public to the coming emergency, the response doesn’t seem to me very surprising, either. It’s hard to keep apocalypse consistently in mind, especially if you want to get out of bed in the morning.”

— “Elegy for a Country’s Seasons“, Zadie Smith (British novelists), New York Review of Books, 3 April 2014. I asked the author if it was OK to write about climate change “Without even bothering to cite any science? As fantasy? With amnesia about historical weather patterns & events?” Her reply: “yes“.

More possible evidence that public support has decreased for radical policy action about climate change: “Alex Sink Rides Global Warming Alarmism to Surprise Congressional Defeat in FL-13“, James Taylor (Heartland Institute), Forbes blog, 12 March 2014.  See this television ad from the $350,000 campaign by the LCV Victory Fund and the Sierra Club Political Committee.



“Ignore the storms. Ignore polar cold. Ignore sea levels rising all around us. Ignore climate change. That’s David Jolly’s view. But Gulf tides are rising, and the risk of flooding has doubled. NASA and the U.S. military agree: Pinellas needs to prepare.”

Quite righteous. But there is no climate science consensus on the relationship between the “polar cold” and global warming — let alone anthropogenic warming. There are papers in the peer-reviewed literature on both side of the issue. Ditto for increased storms and accelerated sea level rising. No surprise, given the small magnitude of the warming since 1950, after which “human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature” (from the latest IPCC report).

(4)  Losing the next generation of voters

“Global warming isn’t the immediate existential threat that nuclear war seemed to my coming-of-age generation three decades ago. But certainly climate change poses a legitimate (albeit less clear) threat for the future my two young children will inherit. I suppose it’s possible that endless doomsday imagery and rhetoric will eventually turn climate change into a galvanizing issue for millions around the world.”

— Good Leftist Keith Kloor gives the mildest possible criticism of Leftists’ unscientific alarmism in “The Inevitable Failure of a Climate Change Message“, blog of Discover, 14 March 2014 (the title is bolder than his analysis).

Perhaps after generations of shrill, confident false alarms, a generation has arrived that’s more skeptical of the Left than their predecessors:  “The green movement has a Millennial problem“, Christopher Ingraham, blog of Washington Post, 7 March 2014. Here’s the bottom line:

PEW: millenials as environmentalist

Famine 1975
A best-seller published in 1967, one of a long list of false alarms

(5)  Conclusion

“Civilizations in the final stages of decay are dominated by elites out of touch with reality. Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth.

“… This time, the difference is that when we go the whole planet will go with us. Catastrophic climate change is inevitable. Arctic ice is in terminal decline. There will soon be so much heat trapped in the atmosphere that any attempt to scale back carbon emissions will make no difference. Droughts. Floods. Heat waves. Killer hurricanes and tornados. Power outages. Freak weather. Rising sea levels. Crop destruction. Food shortages. Plagues.”

— “Time to get crazy“, Chris Hedges (journalist), Truthdog, 2 July 2012

Does poorly justified alarmism, no matter how good the cause, deserve to win? Polls suggest it is not winning. The Left is gaining neither immediate political advantage from these tactics, and might lose even more in the future.

Worse, they might be damaging our ability to prepare for both normal weather (we’re not prepared for the past) and for possible future climate change. The boy who cried wolf damaged the village’s defenses against wolves. And a wolf eventually came.

(6)  For More Information

See Wikipedia for details about Famine 1975! America’s Decision: Who Will Survive?

(a)  Posts about extreme weather:

  1. A look behind the curtain at the news of extreme climate events in the US, 22 August 2012
  2. Hurricane Sandy asks when did weather become exceptional? (plus important info about US hurricanes), 28 October 2012
  3. Has global warming increased the frequency & virulence of extreme weather events?, 10 February 2013
  4. The Oklahoma tornadoes can teach us about our climate, and ourselves, 22 May 2013
  5. The IPCC gives us straight talk about Extreme Weather, 4 October 2013
  6. A summary of the state of climate change and extreme weather, 12 December 2013

(b)  About the consensus of climate scientists:

  1. Puncturing the false picture of a scientific consensus about the causes and effects of global warming, 20 September 2010
  2. Climate scientists speak to us. What is their consensus opinion?, 19 February 2014

(c)  About the Left’s crusade about climate change:

  1. Possible political effects of the pause in global warming, 26 August 2013
  2. Climate change sinks the Left, while scientists unravel mysteries we must solve, 24 January 2014
  3. Watch the Left burn away more of its credibility, then wonder why the Right wins, 29 January 2014
  4. Apocalyptic thinking on the Left about climate change risks burning their credibility, 4 February 2014
  5. The Left sees “Climate buffoons” and “deniers”. What do they see in the mirror?, 7 March 2014

(d)  Examples of the Left’s exaggerations and misinformation about climate change:

  1. Mother Jones sounds the alarm about global warming! This time about the north pole., 10 December 2012
  2. Kevin Drum talks about global warming, illustrating the collapse of the Left’s credibility, 17 December 2012
  3. Lessons the Left can learn from the Right when writing about climate change, 12 December 2012 — More from Phil Plait
  4. Fierce words about those “wacky professional climate change deniers”, 20 January 2013
  5. A powerful story about global warming in Alaska that has set Twitter aflame, 23 June 2013
  6. The North Pole is now a lake! Are you afraid yet?, 3 August 2013
  7. Climate science deniers on the Left, captured for viewing, 29 September 2013
  8. Why the Left is losing: another example of incompetent marketing, 26 February 2014

(e)  Speculation about the consequences of blowback from the Left’s crusade:

  1. Possible political effects of the pause in global warming, 26 August 2013
  2. Climate change sinks the Left, while scientists unravel mysteries we must solve, 24 January 2014
  3. Watch the Left burn away more of its credibility, then wonder why the Right wins, 29 January 2014
  4. What does the American public want done to fight climate change?, 2 February 2014
  5. Apocalyptic thinking on the Left about climate change risks burning their credibility, 4 February 2014



8 thoughts on “This is what defeat looks like for the Left, and perhaps also for environmentalists”

  1. Leftist thinking in 21st century America

    Climate-conscious Oregonians must fight the New Deniers“, Mary DeMocker, op-ed in The Oregonian, 14 March 2014 — Excerpt:

    Every time I reveal my secret identity — Climate Mom, defender of Earth, crusader against carbon-spewing bullies and their slack-spine political minions — I’m surrounded by New Deniers.

    … A Tunisian man set himself on fire in 2010 and sparked an international movement. Don’t tell my family, but I’ve considered that route. I mean, wouldn’t any parent sacrifice a kidney, lung or life for her child? Imagine the headline: “Soccer mom desperate to save children’s future self-immolates.”

    But I can neither tolerate pain nor willingly traumatize children, so I ditched that idea.


    Photo accompanying the op-ed:

    Protestors from an anti-fracking group wait for the start of a demonstration outside EU headquarters in Brussels in late January. The European Commission proposed a framework for climate and energy policies beyond 2020:

    [caption id="attachment_66298" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Anti-Fracking Candle AP Photo by Virginia Mayo[/caption]

  2. My friend Peter Bocking once said that if Al Gore’s hair were set on fire it would provide enough heat and light for a small English village.

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  6. “Fear has worked wonders for the Right but despite massive investments it has failed to produce much for the Left.”

    The war fear of the Right simply asks people to continue our warmongering ways with little sacrifice from anyone but a few unfortunate impoverished “volunteers.”

    The Left’s GW fears are asking for changes in a way of life that is decades even centuries old –a much tougher nut. GW is a problem on a scale like no other I can think of, it makes sense that there would be resistance to accepting it. If the Left did drop the fear element, I question the likelihood that support for doing something about GW would go up.

    In each issue on that poll list there is an element of fear, this seem inherent with any list of political issues.

    1. Gloucon,

      (1) The Right’s use of fear is not just in the WOT. That’s been a basis of their racial and ethnic policies — fear of the “others”. I suspect that these fears, especially of the Black underclass, are more fundamental to their success since their internal revolution in 1964.

      (2) “this seems inherent with any list of political issues.”

      I totally disagree. Fear is our reaction to problems, not “inherent” in any situation. More specifically, what is special about the current situation is that appeals to fear dominates how our leaders seek our support. That’s unusually historically. I suspect that past leaders would have been seen as weak if their speeches were based on fear.

      (3) “global warming being a problem on a scale like no other”

      I doubt you can find much support for that view from the climate scientists’ Working Group One of the recent IPCC AR5. The economic problem of the great depression, the threat of fascism, the near-brushes with atomic Armageddon during the cold war, the war on poverty, the great rollback of pollution in the developed nations during the 1960s – 1970s (continuing today) — these are very different problem, but on a scale as large or larger than global warming.

      BTW, FYI, perhaps you are aware of this — the world has been warming since the early 19th century; anthropogenic warming has been significant only after WWII. Per the IPCC “human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010”. I doubt that it lies within our power to substantially affect the natural component of warming.

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