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Published: Saturday 27 July, 2013

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In recent years, a number of interest groups and industries have sought to influence public opinion on the topic of global warming. Some groups have sought to bring public opinion more in line with the beliefs of climatologists, by arguing that global warming is real and is driven by the human burning of fossil fuels. Other groups have sought to drive a wedge between climatology and public opinion by various means, arguing either that scientists are pushing a hoax, or that global warming is quite real but that humans have no control over it. In this regard, it is possible to ask the question Are ads denouncing the reality of global warming effective? The answer of course, is yes. Ads denouncing the reality of anything can be effective, if the ads are well designed to appeal to basic fears and dislikes. Any wellfinanced and well designed advertising campaign will be able to change the minds of certain individuals.

In response to this question, however, we are forced to say, so what? The basic question of global warming is not what the public believes. The basic question is simply: what is REAL. Forty years of intensive climate research have already answered that question. Climatology has explained that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere do operate in a heattrapping mode by preventing solar radiation from escaping back into space. Since the human habit of burning oil and coal has caused a sharp increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, global temperatures are rising and can be expected to rise more steeply in the future.

So, we have Reality, which is becoming more solid every year, and we have Public Opinion, which is wandering around on this topic. Back when Al Gores An Inconvenient Truth was in the theaters, there was a sudden upwelling in public acceptance of the science. After a determined disinformation campaign by groups allied with the coal and oil industries, public opinion sank back again, with a large minority of Americans refusing to accept t shopping shoes he prevailing science. There was the Climategate campaign, in which climate researchers upset at the amount of time they were wasting due to harassment from denialists wrote a few annoyed emails that were portrayed as a smoking gun by global warming denialists. But the smoking gun did not exist. Scientists do their jobs, like the rest of us, for a paycheck. To argue that a scientist cannot be trusted to tell the truth because he is being paid seems odd, when most of us would not trust a doctor or a lawyer who is not good enough to get paid for his work.

In general, the operative emotion in the global warming debate is fear. Scientists argue with some justification that the prospect of droughts and coastal flooding in future decades is disturbing, as these consequences of global warming have the potential to cost the human race immense sums of money, as well as taking millions of lives. Denialists respond by peddling fears of a scientific takeover of the world economy, which would be frightening if it were true. But once again, we have reality and we have opinion. Science performs research and then seeks to explain dangers to future human survival. Denialists are quick to criticize science and to propose that untrained individuals can understand science better than scientists can in the field of climatology. But this viewpoint does not seem to hold water for other disciplines such as medicine, biology, or chemistry. Shall I operate on your heart valve with my steak knife, or would you prefer that a surgeon handle the task?

To conclude, the human brain is prone to influencepeddling. We see this every election, every court case, every celebrity breakup there are always supposedly two sides, and we never can get everyone to come down on the same side of any given debate. But the odd thing about global warming is that public opinion lacks the power to actually identify the truth. Science should not be seen as a football game in which the fans get to push for their teams victory by roaring so loud that the other team cannot hear their quarterbacks signals. Science is about reality, not opinion. So sure, ads on either side of the public debate on climate change can potentially be effective. But changing public opinion does not change the science. Someday, we can expect that public opinion will become more consistent with scientific opinion on global warming. Until shopping shoes that time, shopping shoes we will have a public debate that wastes time, unlike the scientific debate, which is already essentially completed. shopping shoes