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Posted on Mon, May 7, 2012 : 11:05 a.m.

Climate change: Are you 'alarmed' or 'dismissive'?

By Wayne Baker

0507 ov NASA Global Temperature trends.jpg

Global Temperature Change as calculated by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In this chart, the analysts used mean annual temperatures based on data compiled from meteorological stations. The period from 1951 to 1980 was set, in this chart, as zero or “the base period.” The key conclusion of this chart is that overall temperatures are, indeed, climbing.

Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is discussing American attitudes toward climate change.

Doesn’t the weather seem a bit out of whack? The period between fall and spring was the winter that never was. I didn’t fire up my snow blower even once. The early start to summer was glorious — I even went boating on Ford Lake over a month ago. It’s all quite nice, but at least to me, a little unsettling, too.

Could I be one of The Alarmed? The Alarmed are one of six types of Americans, based on beliefs about climate change and global warming. The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication documented these six types a few years ago, and have been tracking them ever since. This month, they issued their latest report on the six Americas.

If you are absolutely sure global warming is taking place and that human activity is the main cause of it, then you might be one of The Alarmed. Members of this group are convinced by the scientific evidence about climate change. The Alarmed know a lot about climate change and what they know worries them. They believe global warming has already caused harm, and that it is a threat to them and to future generations of Americans.

But they have arch rivals: The Dismissives. This group is at the other end of the scale, totally sure that global warming is not real. They, like The Alarmed, feel they are well informed and knowledgeable about global warming. What they know is simple: the scientific evidence of global warming is bogus, and humans have no role in climate change. They harbor no fear of global warming — for themselves personally or for future generations.

Four other types of Americans reside between these two poles. We’ll visit them this week as we discuss the Six Americas.

For today, pick between The Alarmed and The Dismissive:

Are you "alarmed" about global warming?

Are you dismissive of it all?

Are you somewhere in between?

Dr. Wayne E. Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at or on Facebook.



Wed, May 9, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

@Meme, I'm not sure what you're trying to say. It looks like you're asking, if scientists are so sure about climate change and the potential negative effects, why are they not marching in the streets? That's actually a good question. Scientists aren't political activists. Their jobs are to, you know, do science. That's not done in political action. That's done in the laboratory. The science tells us the planet is warming. Whether we do anything about that is a question of values. How much do we value the future compared to today? That's a political question, and perhaps moral question, but not a scientific question. Secondly, the scientists who have be more outspoken about climate are harassed, threatened and smeared by the right wing. Their children are threatened. Their jobs are threatened.

Meme Mine

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

"The vast majority of scientists in all fields (over 90 percent) believe global warming is real and that mankind's action is a major contributor to it,....." "a threat to the planet"-IPCC/Earth Hour IF millions of people in the global scientific community have condemned their children as well to a CO2 hell, they would be marching with the dozens of climate change protesters we see now. Even occupywallstreet does not support climate change belief. Climate change is no longer science, it is a hate crime, a CO2 death threat and a consultant's wet dream and a goose stepping Liberal virtue. "a threat to the planet"-IPCC/Earth Hour............and this is not exaggerated political science? How about YOU start acting like its real then. Nothing could be worse. So get your THE END IS NEAR sign and start acting like it's as bad as you believe it is.

Meme Mine

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:42 p.m.

Remember, its not WHAT is being said, it's WHO is saying it. "They say" "They say" This is not a good enough reason for this planet lover to condemn my kids to the greenhouse gas ovens. "a threat to the planet" -IPCC

Meme Mine

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 3:40 p.m.

Climate change is real and is happening and if we don't stop it now, a climate crisis will affect future generations to come. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!!!!!! And you want me to blindly trust political science and vote for you? Ha Ha ha!!!! Climate Change Is REAL alright, REALLY NOT A Crisis and REAL planet lovers are REALLY happy a crisis wasn't REAL, not disappointed.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 5:23 a.m.

larry, "Increased atmospheric CO2 is harmless" Not true. Read:


Tue, May 8, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

@larry, Hansen used several models that had varying sensitivities. The fact that one model outperformed others shows we do a pretty good job at estimating future climate scenarios, as this model is actually the one most closely used by the IPCC. Of course the climate has warmed and cooled in the past; unfortunately for us, this generally happened over MILLIONS of years. Whatever natural fluctuation is happening is by far outweighed by human forcing of the climate with the emission of GHGs. This is what science tells us.


Tue, May 8, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

Here are the Global Warming forecasts made in 1988 by Hansen et al (lead scientists of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC))...and we can now examine their validity 30 years later: One can see clearly that all the 1988 forecasts were not realized. There is natural warming, and we are in a natural warming period. But this is not enhanced by increased CO2 in the atmosphere. Increased atmospheric CO2 is harmless, and may actually help the growth of crops and plants to help feed the poor and hungry.

Dog Guy

Tue, May 8, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

There is nearly unanimous agreement among working scientists on so many things because those who do not agree lose their jobs. I miss the innovators, the Bach-y-Ritas, the non-doctrinal, non-PC scientists who sought truth rather than grants or positions. The scientific method now consists of taking money to prove the payer right. Innovation is abandoned to the nut in his basement.

Sarah Rigg

Tue, May 8, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

The vast majority of scientists in all fields (over 90 percent) believe global warming is real and that mankind's action is a major contributor to it, and the number endorsing this jumps up to 97 or 98 when you only count scientists working in fields closely related to climate change. If 98 percent of doctors agreed that some factor caused or greatly contributed to some medical condition, we'd call the other 2 percent "quacks." In the climate debate, these 2 percent are "brave dissenters" who are going against some type of science conspiracy, apparently. Both sides in the debate don't deserve equal time because both sides don't have facts equally on their side. All that being said, it annoys me when The Alarmed point to any one day, week, month or year as being evidence of global warming. There area natural dips and spikes at any time in history. You have to look at the big picture, over decades. Saying, "Boy this winter was warm so global warming must be true" just gives the anti-science kooks ammunition.


Mon, May 7, 2012 : 5:31 p.m.

@XMO, the letter has NO scientific content, the writers have NO climate science expertise. You also have to consider the denominator. More than 18,000 people work for NASA. How many retired NASA people are there? So let's see, 48/18,000 = NOT MANY!


Mon, May 7, 2012 : 5:19 p.m.

Forty-nine former NASA scientists and astronauts sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden last week admonishing the agency for its role in advocating a high degree of certainty that man-made CO2 is a major cause of climate change while neglecting empirical evidence that calls the theory into question. The group, which includes seven Apollo astronauts and two former directors of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, are dismayed over the failure of NASA, and specifically the Goddard Institute For Space Studies (GISS), to make an objective assessment of all available scientific data on climate change. They charge that NASA is relying too heavily on complex climate models that have proven scientifically inadequate in predicting climate only one or two decades in advance. Read more:

Sarah Rigg

Tue, May 8, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.

Since when are astronauts experts on climate?


Tue, May 8, 2012 : 2:10 a.m.

Harrison Schmitt who is one of your Apollo astronauts is quite delusional and a rabid right-winger. If viewed with even a little bit of objectivity your list of "experts" turns out to be quite a bit less than you assert here.

Drew Montag

Mon, May 7, 2012 : 5 p.m.

What, no poll? Count me as Alarmed.


Mon, May 7, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

And by the way, this piece seems woefully slim. If you're going to refer to a report, let's get the key piece of the report in print, shall we: From the study Baker refers to: "Despite the fact that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening and is caused primarily by human activities, only 44 percent of those in the "Alarmed" group (those most concerned about climate change) were aware of this high level of scientific agreement. The other groups understood it even less."


Mon, May 7, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

For anybody who wants to explore the climate data, google NOAA climate services or use this link: Or google NOAA climate change impacts: I really wish we had a real newspaper. You know, the kind that used to take seriously the job of informing readers.


Mon, May 7, 2012 : 4:14 p.m.

Why must everyone always be placed into a specific group? When you place someone in a specific group you're also attaching ALL the other "characteristics" that members of that group are associated with. This happens regardless of their predisposition to said traits. How about we discuss the ideas behind global warming....and not the people that hold whichever belief?


Mon, May 7, 2012 : 4:17 p.m.

Because there are two types of people, those who like to be in groups and those who do not?