Global Warming Not Our Most Pressing Concern


By Tom Harris

In an interview with the Vatican News service published on July 4, former U.S. Vice President, Al Gore said, “the climate crisis is now the biggest existential challenge humanity has ever faced.” 

We often hear that man-made climate change is our greatest threat. But according to the latest Gallup poll, very few people in the United States actually believe it is. And the United Nations’ own polling reveals that, across the world, respondents rate climate change last among issues they would like the UN and governments to focus on.

In telephone interviews conducted July 1-11, 2018 with a random sample of 1,033 adults, ages 18+, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, Gallup News Service asked, “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” The question was ‘open ended’ in that any answer was accepted.  

According to the respondents, the top problems facing America were “Immigration/Illegal aliens” (22%) and “Dissatisfaction with government/Poor leadership” (19%). Two percent of respondents cited “Environment/Pollution.” This included those who said that climate change was the most important problem facing the country. Considering that many topics—ocean pollution, species at risk, and toxic waste, to name just a few—would also fall into the Environment/Pollution” category, the fraction of Americans who labeled climate change as the nation’s most serious problem must have been very small indeed.

This sort of result is also reflected in another poll reported on in the New York Times on July 5. Among the main reasons young adults gave for not wanting (or not being sure they wanted) children, worries about climate change ranked #13 out of 19 reasons given. The first three reasons cited were “Want leisure time,” “Haven’t found partner,” and “Can’t afford child care.”

While other polls show varying levels of public concern about climate change, when people are asked to prioritize issues, climate change often does not rate highly. Even in 2014, just before then-President Barack Obama addressed the heavily publicized UN Climate Summit 2014 in New York City, Pew Research polling indicated that Americans did not consider climate change to be among the top six threats facing the country.

The UN’s own survey confirms that this trend is even more prominent internationally. After polling 9.7 million people from 194 countries, the UN’s My World global survey finds that “action taken on climate change” rates last out of the 16 suggested priorities for the agency. This despite the fact that on the survey website, the UN lists climate change action as the first choice given respondents. Access to reliable energy, better healthcare, government honesty, a good education, etc., are apparently far greater concerns to people across the world.

This should not be a surprise. In contrast to vitally important issues people must deal with on a daily basis, concerns about man-made climate change are based merely on a theoretical hypothesis, not what is happening now or even in the recent past. After all, even NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies asserts that the Global Annual Mean Surface Air Temperature Change from 1880 to 2017 is only just over one degree Celsius despite a reputed 40% rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) content. And the impact of further CO2 rise diminishes as the concentration increases.

It is not known whether the rate of sea level rise has increased or not. However, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s U.S. state-wide extreme weather records database, probably the best of its kind in the world, there has been no increase in extreme weather. So, the primary rationale for “action taken on climate change” through expensive restrictions to CO2 emissions is merely the possibility of dangerous climate change in the future. And this is based on computer models of future climate states, models that have failed to forecast what has actually happened.

In his February 2, 2016 testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space & Technology, Dr. John Christy, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, Alabama’s State Climatologist and Director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, presented the following graph.


Christy told Congress, “[T]hese models failed at the simple test of telling us ‘what’ has already happened, and thus would not be in a position to give us a confident answer to ‘what’ may happen in the future and ‘why.’ As such, they would be of highly questionable value in determining policy that should depend on a very confident understanding of how the climate system works.”

To create the models requires vast amounts of weather and climate data. We also need accurate data to input as the starting conditions for model-generated forecasts to be performed. Former University of Winnipeg professor and historical climatologist Dr. Tim Ball said that the collection and interpretation of the necessary data has only just begun. He explained that there are relatively few weather stations of adequate length or reliability on which to base model forecasts of future climate. Referring to former-President Barack Obama’s worries about dangerous future climate change, Ball concluded,“Obama’s worries therefore have absolutely no credibility in the real world.”

Ball is not alone in holding this view. The reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) summarize thousands of studies from peer-reviewed scientific journals that either debunk or cast serious doubt on the hypothesis that emissions of CO2 from human activities will cause catastrophic climate change.

Yet there is nothing hypothetical about the issues Americans, and indeed, people across the world, list as their top priorities. Problems with immigration and government are happening right now in America. And the issues rated highest in developing countries such as Nigeria, for example (2,735,062 Nigerians voted in the UN poll)—access to a good education, better healthcare, better job opportunities, better transportation and roads, political freedom, affordable and nutritious food, etc.—are immediate concerns today, as well. They understand that we have real problems to solve.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based
International Climate Science Coalition.

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David James

Tom Harris closes the stable door after the horse has bolted.

David James

Tom Harris endorses the Heartland Institute’s Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change report without disclosing he is a policy advisor to the Heartland Institute.

UN’s My World global survey is not a poll but an unscientific, on-line survey designed to build support for UN sustainable development goals.

The scientific evidence regarding man-made climate change is both clear and compelling. (Source 4th National Climate Assessment)

Citizen Reporter

Unfortunately, the actual physical evidence does not support their dire predictions/alarmism? Where is the promised 12 foot sea rise? Where is the predicted “hockey stick” temperature rise? Instead, we have “the Pause” and “models” which don’t work. Look up “ClimateGate,” which the “warmers” are desperately trying to spin.

David James

You ask me questions but don’t allow me to reply.

David James

The 4th National Climate Assessment has chapters on sea level rise, temperature rise and models with the support scientific literature.

“warmers” is a derogatory term for people who accept the scientific evidence regarding human-caused climate change.

At you suggestion I looked up the term “ClimateGate.” According to the “Climatic Research Unit email controversy” wikipedia page, “Eight committees investigated the allegations and published reports, finding no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct.”

Citizen Reporter

LOL- Wikipedia is your authority? The simple truth is that the oceans have been rising at about 6 inches per century- for centuries and this is not accelerating. The warming “pause” should give even you cause for pause. also, none of the “models” work and all greatly overstated both warming and sea rise. Finally, ClimateGate proved that the data have been fudged and actual results prove it.

David James

You asked me to look-up “ClimateGate.” This is what I found: “British Panel Clears Scientists,” New York Times July 7, 2010, “Michael Mann Exonerated as Penn State Inquiry Finds ‘No Substance’ To Allegations,” Science Insider July 1, 2010, “U.S. scientists cleared in ‘climategate'” CBC Feb 24, 2011, “No ‘Research Misconduct’ by Climate-Change Scientist, U.S. Says,” Bloomberg August 22, 2011.

Your “climate gate” assertions are not supported by the evidence.

Your claims regarding global warming, climate models, and sea level rise in not supported by the scientific evidence in the 4th National Climate Assessment.

Citizen Reporter

LOL- you are very selective in your sourcing. Have a look at Climate Depot and other sources which shred yours.

Citizen Reporter

Really??? You make me laugh. Show me the actual sea rise numbers. I’ve been living on or near the ocean nearly all my life and have not noticed the predicted 12ft. rise or even 1ft. The 6 inch per century number is still lookin’ good. I wonder why builders are still building on the coast and why banks give mortgages and insurance companies issue policies there.

Tom Harris

In reality, NIPCC is a joint project of three independent nonprofit organizations: Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (CO2 Science), and The Heartland Institute. I have played no role in the creation of any NIPCC reports published to date. And, yes, I am one of several hundred policy advisors to Heartland.

Tom Harris

What matters is whether you disagree with, or agree with, the conclusions from the peer reviewed scientific studies that the NIPCC report cite, not who is a co-publisher of the report and whether I have some association with them on other issues.