Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

The Climate Change Express: Ignoring Your Views at Every Meal

Ordinary people don’t care about climate change. How many times do they have to say so?


photo credit: John Collier, The American Memory Collection (click)

Imagine you’re on a multi-day train ride. Perhaps you’re crossing Australia. Or Africa. Perhaps you’re retracing the historic Orient Express route, from Istanbul to Calais.

At every meal you’re handed a menu with three choices: chicken, beef, or vegetarian. And at every meal the waiters serve everyone on the train the vegetarian option.

It doesn’t matter how clearly, loudly, or politely you speak when placing your order. It doesn’t matter whether you tip the waiters generously or not at all – the result is always the same.

The train is an alternate universe in which your input is ritually requested and then ritually ignored. No matter how many times (or in how many languages) those in charge are reminded that the vast majority of the passengers aren’t vegetarians, you all continue to be served what the kitchen thinks is healthy for you.

Welcome to the climate change discussion circa 2014. Ordinary people are the passengers being transported by this steam engine. Our political leaders are the waiters.

We keep being asked how serious a problem we consider climate change to be. We keep sending the same message – that it’s at the bottom of our priority list. Yet our message is systematically disregarded.

This week, the Gallup polling company released new survey results. Americans were asked how much they worry about a list of 15 issues read to them in random order. A clear majority (58%) said they feel a “great deal” of personal concern about the general state of the economy, the deficit, and healthcare.

What are Americans least concerned about? Third last: the environment. Second last: climate change. Dead last: race relations.

Only 24% of people worry a “great deal” about climate change. Nearly as many – 18% – say they don’t worry about climate change at all. Another 33% said they worry about climate change “only a little” (see the last page of this PDF).

The people who are hyper-concerned about climate change are the vegetarians on the train. They’re vastly outnumbered by the rest of us. Yet we’re all being force-fed a vegetarian diet.

Last month, US Secretary of State John Kerry declared that climate change is a weapon of mass destruction – “perhaps even the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” By equating it to the danger posed by terrorism, he revealed how out-of-touch he is with the American public

In the Gallup poll, future terrorist attacks ranked #5 among the issues Americans worry about. Climate change ranked #14. Ordinary people don’t care about climate change. How many times do they have to say so?

Please note that another American polling outfit has long been reporting similar results. Each year, the Pew Research Center asks Americans which issues should be a “top priority” for the President and Congress. In 2007, dealing with global warming was in 17th place out of a possible 18 issues.

In 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 it was dead last out of 19 choices. In 2013 it was last out of 20 choices.

And now, in 2014, it has captured 19th place out of 20 (28% of people think global trade is a national priority, while 29% think global warming is – compared to 80% who are concerned about the economy).

Nor is this just an American phenomenon. In June of last year, and again in September, I reported on a United Nations online poll. Its methodology is entirely bogus. This is what’s charitably called an “unscientific” poll. Those who participate are self-selected. Their opinions cannot, therefore, be considered representative of their entire society.

Nevertheless, UN bureaucrats must consider these results meaningful. Why run such a poll otherwise?

In that instance, as well, people are given a list of 16 issues and invited to select their top six concerns. By last June, 622,000 individuals from around the world had voted (see the screen capture of the results by Hilary Ostrov here). By mid-September, the number had swelled to 930,000.


click to go to the UN survey; please note that this total differs somewhat from the total the UN provides in the graphic below

As of today, we’re told that 1.5 million people from 194 countries have cast a vote.

Action taken on climate change is among the 16 things people can choose as a top priority. How important do we think it is compared to jobs, education, and healthcare worldwide? Bottom-of-the-barrel.

In June 2013 it was dead last. In September it was dead last. And today, it remains the very last concern out of a possible 16 priorities.


click to enlarge

The public has spoken. Resoundingly. We are shouting in the ears of the waiters on the train. But those waiters are still serving us vegetarian food.

This is perverse. And it is profoundly undemocratic.



Print Friendly, PDF & Email


This entry was posted on March 14, 2014 by in ethical & philosophical and tagged , , .
%d bloggers like this: