Optimists, fatalists, and skeptics

Library of Parliament, Ottawa

In a poll on Facebook today, 1001 people answered the question: “Will humans be able to overcome the global warming crisis?” Among them, 50% said no, 31% said yes, and 19% said that “it’s not really an issue.” The poll demonstrates the curious collection of attitudes that exists about the problem: the tendency, highlighted by Al Gore among others, to go immediately from doubting the reality of climate change to believing that humanity is simply doomed to endure whatever it will involve.

The breakdown of the responses by sex is also interesting. Men are much more likely to affirm that global warming is not a problem (24% compared to 12% among women). They are slightly more likely to believe that the problem can be solved (32% compared to 29%). Finally, they are significantly less likely to respond that the problem cannot be addressed (44% compared to 59% of women). It is odd that there is such a tendency towards skepticism among men and towards fatalism among women. Of course, all sorts of problems exist with treating these results too seriously; most notably, self-selection effects make it unlikely that this is a representative sample of even the population using Facebook, much less the general population.

After all, more than 81% of respondents were under 24, and 27.3% were between 13 and 17. Those aged 35-49 (n=44) were the most optimistic, with 39% saying that the problem can be solved. The greatest pessimists were in the 25-34 group (n=130), with 59% saying no. Finally, the most skeptics were in the 18-24 group (n=540), where 22% claim that climate change isn’t a serious issue.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

3 thoughts on “Optimists, fatalists, and skeptics”

  1. Squirrels of doom

    In the July 20 issue of the Washington Post, columnist Al Kamen reports that the BBC has translated an story headlined ‘spying squirrels,’ published in the Iranian newspaper Resalat on the use of trained animals to conduct espionage against their country: ‘A few weeks ago, 14 squirrels equipped with espionage systems of foreign intelligence services were captured by [Iranian] intelligence forces along the country’s borders. These trained squirrels, each of which weighed just over 700 grams, were released on the borders of the country for intelligence and espionage purposes.’ According the story the squirrels had ‘GPS devices, bugging instruments and advanced cameras’ in their bodies. ‘Given the fast speed and the special physical features of these animals, they provide special capabilities for spying operations. Once the animals return to their place of origin, the intelligence gathered by them is then offloaded. . . .’ Iranian police officials captured the squirrels before they could carry out their assignments.”

  2. I suspect that people who are both over 35 and on Facebook are definitely not indicative of the population at large.

  3. News release via Canada NewsWire, Toronto 416-863-9350 -ME-

    Attention News Editors:

    TORONTO, July 25 /CNW/ – The environment and global warming – mentioned by one-third of the population as top issues – continues to be seen as the most important issue affecting the world today, far ahead of war (7%), turmoil in Iraq and the Middle East (6%), conflict in Afghanistan (5%) and poverty (5%), according to a new survey by TNS Canadian Facts.

    Almost everyone thinks that global warming is a serious issue facing us today (91% agree) and supports immediate action (89%). Support for action is driven by a clear sense that global warming is not merely a theory; more than eight in 10 are convinced that global warming has been scientifically proven.

    Despite the public salience of the issue, there is a sense that governments of all levels are not doing enough to tackle global warming. Seven in 10 Canadians think the federal government (72%) and their provincial government (70%) are not doing enough. Municipalities, perhaps surprisingly, are more likely to be viewed as doing the right amount (32%) but even here many Canadians would like to see more action (59%) through eco-friendly programs and policies.

    “Responsibility is clearly divided with many consumers pointing to government inaction on the global warming file even as they themselves see things they personally can do,” said Richard Jenkins, vice-president of TNS Canadian Facts.

    Generally speaking Canadians are most willing to do the relatively easy and cost-free activities to reduce their environmental footprint. The top three actions that Canadians are most likely to take to help the environment are recycling (91% definitely will), purchasing appliances that are energy efficient (66%), and replacing traditional light bulbs with environmentally-friendly ones (63%). Canadians are not as willing, however, to change their driving habits.

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