The global warming skeptics are still out there. A new report by the National Academy of Sciences, released today, concludes that the Earth is heating up at a rate that "is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia" and that "human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming." But a surprising number of ABCNews.com readers have gotten in touch to say they don't buy it.
For an upcoming ABC special, readers were asked to submit their tales and videos of how global warming is affecting their lives in ways large or small. 5,000 responses have been received so far, and most are skeptical about the prospect that global warming exists.
"Global warming is a crock of horse crap," wrote a reader from Aurora, Colo. "Any story someone sends you is fictional."
Indeed, many of the stories we've recieved seem to be from people who reject global warming because they see it as left wing cause.
One reader from Washington, D.C., talked about how his heat didn't work during the winter and a handyman said some sensors in the furnace were broken. "Why did the furnace fail? Obviously, it was overworked, struggling to overcome the super-freezing effects of global cooling which was caused by global warming which is caused by Bush stealing the election."
You get the picture.
So while the scientific community is unified on the effects human activities have on the planet, why are some Americans still so skeptical?
"It's a relatively complex scientific issue, and whenever you're trying to educate the public about that, it's a problem," said Susan Joy Hassol, an independent climate analyst and author who has worked with scientific organizations, the U.S. government and other countries on global warming.
In addition, she said, there are powerful lobbyists in the fossil fuel industry who have created a "very well-funded disinformation campaign" to raise questions about the topic, even though the debate no longer exists in scientific circles.
The media have been a factor too, she said. "The journalistic norm talks about balance, but you don't hear with AIDS that some scientists don't think HIV causes AIDS or gravity is real."
"It's frustrating for people like me who work in the scientific community and know how the science is really settled on this issue," Hassol said, adding, "We know that it's warming, we know that it's human activity that's causing this warming."
The differences in opinion tend to be along political lines, as a reader from Rindge, N.H., noted. "I have noticed that global warming has produced a distinct whining noise in my left ear. It appears that there is a direct correlation between temperature and the left's need for making noise about any cause du jour.
"When people begin paying attention to the real science and disregarding the voodoo chants and rituals, then we can have a discussion about if humans are significantly affecting the Earth's warming pattern."
The Debate Is 'Over'
Hassol said the political divide is a testament to the power of some in the fossil fuel industry who want to present a different take. "You see the polling break down along party lines," she said, but added that there are efforts to move the issue beyond partisan politics. Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman created the Climate Stewardship Act to address global warming, she noted.
So while the public is skeptical, she said, it should recognize the scientific community's consensus about global warming. "Scientists are skeptical by nature," she said. "They don't say anything until they're quite sure. There was once a debate over this issue but it's over, and it's been over for a long time."