The Politics of the Anthropocene Part 2: The Data

Back to trying to politicize the Anthropocene. The key, as I see it (May 3, 2016), is that all of us must learn how to speak and listen in the same “language” (within English, Spanish, French, etc.). To do so we have to be able speak and understand both the language of science and that of governance. Certainly within democratic societies, some fluency in these languages is vital to making practical collective decisions that will benefit all of us, as well as our future generations.

The crucial element to achieving such bilingualism is adapting our educational system.

The Pew Research Center has extensive coverage of Science and Society. Hopefully these data will quantify the disparity between public opinion of scientific agreement and actual scientific consensus. All the data in this blog are taken from this source. Before I present the data, we have to clarify the methodologies that Pew Research uses to gather the data.

Survey Design – General Public

A combination of landline and cell random digit dial (RDD) samples was used to reach a representative sample of all adults in the United States who have access to either a landline or cellular telephone. Both samples were disproportionately stratified to increase the incidence of African-American and Hispanic respondents. Within each stratum, phone numbers were drawn with equal probabilities. The landline samples were list-assisted and drawn from active blocks containing one or more residential listings, while the cell samples were not list-assisted but were drawn through a systematic sampling from dedicated wireless 100-blocks and shared service 100-blocks with no directory-listed landline numbers. Both the landline and cell RDD samples were disproportionately stratified by county based on estimated incidences of African-American and Hispanic respondents.

Survey of scientists:

The survey of scientists was conducted online with a random sample of 3,748 U.S.-based members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) from September 11 to October 13, 2014. AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society, and includes members from all scientific fields. Founded in 1848, AAAS publishes Science, one of the most widely circulated peer-reviewed scientific journals in the world. Membership in AAAS is open to all. The survey was conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

Here are some of the most relevant findings:

Obviously, given the focus of this blog, I emphasized climate change in my data selection. Climate change is also probably the most interdisciplinary topic being tested here; additionally, it requires numerous important governmental decisions be made now. These decisions will involve major changes in the energy supply that will directly affect both consumers and producers. The nature of these decisions means they are all political and understandably play central role in every election campaign.

Meanwhile, I included the survey that asked the general public if most scientists believe in evolution and the “big bang” theory. The results of this survey show that the public believes scientists are divided on the “big bang” but generally agree on evolution. Since these two questions are discipline-specific and don’t require any political decisions to be made (aside from the obvious inclusion or exclusion in the curriculum of innocent young students), the results reflect the quality of our educational system but do not have any impact on our daily life. Given that, those more familiar with the topics should have more say on related policy (such as curriculum). On the other hand, management of climate change and other issues that directly or indirectly affect us in the Anthropocene should be open to all. Everyone deserves a vote on those political issues that directly influence daily life.

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About climatechangefork

Micha Tomkiewicz, Ph.D., is a professor of physics in the Department of Physics, Brooklyn College, the City University of New York. He is also a professor of physics and chemistry in the School for Graduate Studies of the City University of New York. In addition, he is the founding-director of the Environmental Studies Program at Brooklyn College as well as director of the Electrochemistry Institute at that same institution.

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