The public do not accept the ideology of some climate campaigners, and hence unconsciously reject the science of climate change

The more green groups ask us to “stop flying,” the less the public believes in man-made climate change. Niel Bowerman argues there is a link.

Today is the anniversary of “climategate”. It has damaged the credibility of the IPCC, and climate science in general, and yet scientists could not be clearer that the warming observed over the past century is largely man-made.  Is it time to ask why so many people dispute a scientific theory that the vast majority of climate scientists agree with?

Could it be that some of the public’s distrust of climate science comes not from qualms with methodologies for constructing temperature records, but rather from scepticism of the ideologies of the green groups that use climate science to reinforce their campaigns?

The UK’s recent prime-time Channel 4 documentary ‘What the Green Movement Got Wrong’ was criticised by many environmental groups, not least because it contained several inaccuracies.

Many greens rightly charged the documentary with being ideologically driven, while the documentary claimed “that by clinging to an ideology formed more than 40 years ago, the traditional green lobby has failed in its aims and is ultimately harming its own environmental cause.”  As with most debates, both arguments do contain an element of truth.

The documentary struck a chord with much of the public, who are sick of a bossy, lecturing, elitist and sometimes excessively ideological environmental movement.  Unfortunately this is likely to be one of the reasons for the drop in public belief in climate change. When green groups demand that people ‘stop flying now’ instead of also working to promote viable alternatives, the public begins to reject the science of climate change outright.

If we are to tackle climate change before it is too late, the climate movement must rapidly evolve from being seen as a lefty group taking part in self-deprivation.  Green groups must become part of a larger movement for positive change that spans political boundaries and seeks to inspire and empower, not just criticise and condemn.

Younger groups are already beginning to adopt this new approach.  Ben West, Communications Coordinator at the UK Youth Climate Coalition, said: “Many of us as young people, are excited about renewing the movement and in the possibility of creating something fit and ready to overcome the big challenges of the coming decades, rather than being stuck fighting the battles and stereotypes of our parent’s generation.”

Perhaps the American climate scientists who created their ‘rapid response unit’ would have more luck convincing the public on the science if they could persuade environmental groups to say, “We’re sorry if we sometimes lecture or sound bossy, that wasn’t our intention.  We’re just trying to create green jobs, ensure energy security, and build a clean energy future; would you like to help?”

Niel Bowerman is a research climate scientist at Oxford University, and a former executive director of Climatico.

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