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The Changing Season: Are global warming researchers losing a PR war? February 22, 2010

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According to the BBC, the world’s climate scientists are losing a PR war to special interest groups that are working hard to convince the masses that global warming is a sham theory. Sir John Houghton, who has won a Nobel peace prize for his work on global warming as a member of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), claims that scientists are ” losing that war because we’re not good at PR. Your average scientist is not a good PR person because he wants to get on with his science.” This is not far from the truth: a Populus poll has indicated that 25% of Brits are skeptical about the theory of global warming, compared to just 10% who claimed to be skeptical in November 2009. There are a lot of reasons, though, for the scientific community’s failure to persuade people to take action against global warming, including complicated psychological responses to extreme weather patterns.

For an example of the kind of rhetoric that climate experts are up against, see the following segment from the popular television political pundit, Glenn Beck:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ft8LfE7AI2w

Discussion Questions:

1.  What is the nature of the rhetoric refuting the theory of global warming?

2.  What is the danger of the public failing to listen to the scientific community?

3.  How might scientists counter the hostile rhetoric against their research findings regarding climate change?

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