Thursday, August 21, 2008

Who Cares about Polar Bears?

Global warming could cause the extinction of the polar bear, but do Americans really care? Maybe not so much.

When asked how much it would bother them if global warming caused polar bears to become extinct, only 46 percent of the public says it would bother them "a great deal," according to the General Social Survey. An almost equally large 44 percent say the extinction of polar bears would bother them only "some" or "a little," and 10 percent say it would not bother them at all.

It takes something more personal to alarm the American public. When asked whether it would bother them a great deal if global warming caused sea levels to rise more than 20 feet, a much larger 71 percent of the public says yes. No one wants to give up their week at the beach.

When the General Social Survey probed the public's attitude toward five global warming problems, the rise in sea level was the issue that concerned Americans the most. Number two was the melting of the northern ice cap. The extinction of polar bears ranked a lowly fourth, behind the threat to the Inuit way of life. Worries about arctic seals came in last.

The General Social Survey also asked the public how much influence environmental scientists should have in formulating global warming policy. The results are disturbing: only 49 percent of Americans think environmental scientists should have a "great deal" of influence on global warming policy.

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