The Psychology of Global Warming: Alarm-ist Versus Alarm-ing

ByABC News
December 8, 2005, 5:07 PM

Dec. 8, 2005 — -- Journalism has no precedent for a story of the scale or seriousness of global warming.

The vast majority of credible climate scientists -- well over 95 percent, according to specialists in assessing scientists' opinions -- agree that the average temperatures of the oceans, the land surface of the planet and the lower atmosphere (anything lower than the tip of Mount Everest) have been climbing at an accelerating rate.

The same specialists say that nearly as many scientists agree that manmade greenhouse gas emissions are a significant factor -- and a good many say the only significant factor -- in the dangerous global warming now under way.

If 95 of the world's best, most experienced experts in child well-being were to tell you that your child was under lethal attack -- and with dramatic signs already visible if you only look -- would you say, "I think I'll wait until the other five experts are convinced before I do anything about it?"

It would be the other way around, and yet that is how a lot of people -- and some parts of what's called "the mainstream media" -- often seem to be reacting to what the vast majority of scientists are telling us.

The latest news includes a study by one of the Galileos of global warming, NASA's Dr. James Hansen, who told the 11,000 Earth systems scientists at their annual meeting that mankind has at most 10 more years within which significant emissions cuts must get well under way or else the planet's temperatures will, within the next 30 to 40 years (by the time today's toddlers are entering middle age), climb to levels higher than at any time in the last 500,000 years. Civilization is less than 10,000 years old.

At the worldwide global warming talks in Montreal, scientists elaborated on surprising new reports that the Atlantic currents' "conveyor belt" system has already slowed down -- one of the predicted effects of global warming, possibly spurred by fresh water pouring in from the melting Greenland ice cap.

These slowing currents include the Gulf Stream, which carries tropical heat up past New England and over to Britain and northwest Europe. If these currents stop completely, which a new University of Illinois study gives a 45 percent chance of happening before the end of the century, these regions would be far colder.