The Chamber of Commerce, the main business lobby; the American petroleum industry and the other business lobbies have publicly proclaimed, with enthusiasm, that they're carrying out a campaign to convince the public that global is a liberal hoax. And it's succeeded, unfortunately. The latest polls I've seen have only a third of the population believing in anthropogenic global warming.
The media contribute to this state of affairs in their own way. For example, The New York Times runs a front page on what meteorologists think about global warming. They conclude that they don't believe it. This is deliberately misleading. Meteorologists in the main read scripts that tell you whether it's going to rain tomorrow. But that's presented as if it's a significant contribution to the discussion. Their opinion, on the whole, is as informed on the subject as hairdressers are. It's the same when, in pursuit of the fabled "objectivity", the media presents two sides. One side is 98% of scientists who know anything about the subject, and the other side is a Senator and a couple of stragglers. People are then invited to make a choice between them. But they leave out a third side: those substantial numbers of climate scientists who believe the consensus predictions are much too optimistic. That's the debate people are presented with, so it's not surprising the effort to manufacture consent around climate change denial has been pretty successful.
What is interesting about this, and tells you something about the nature of our society, is that the same CEOs and managers trying to convince the public climate change is a liberal hoax know perfectly well it's dangerous, and have the same beliefs as you and I have, But they're caught in an institutional contradiction. As leaders of major corporations they have a role to maximise short-term profit. If they don't do that, they're out and someone else is in who will. They may know they're mortgaging the future of their grandchildren, and that everything they own will be destroyed, but they're caught in the institutional structure - it's what happens in market systems. The financial crisis is an example of the same thing. You may know what you're doing carries systemic risk, but you can't calculate that into your transactions.
This is a very serious problem. It means we're marching over the cliff and doing so for institutional reasons that are pretty hard to dismantle. Other factors - the fears and hostilities that exist out there in the country carry over to this. If you look at polls, everyone hates Congress, hates the Democrats, hate the Republicans even more, hate big business, they hate banks, and they distrust scientists. So why should we believe what these pointy-headed elitists are telling us? We don't trust anyone else, we don't trust them.
You could almost interpret the election a couple of days ago as a death knell for the species. There was an article in Bloomberg Business Week - hardly a radical rag - running through the Republicans coming to Congress, and they're worried about them. One of the reasons is because they're global warming deniers. Almost all of them. It means powerful house committees on science and technology are going to be in the hands of people who think there's nothing to it. One of them was quoted "It can't be a problem because God will take care of it." When this is happening in the richest, most powerful country in the world it's a danger to the survival of the species. No one's not going to do much if the United States do not take the lead, so we're essentially saying let's kiss each other goodbye.