American Automobile Fuel Consumption Debate


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I don't think extremisms is a huge deal here. People are aware that there's the "extreme greens" out there somewhere. But, I don't believe that this impacts public attitudes towards climate change.

Far more importantly, I think, is the complexity/uncertainty of the issue. Most lay people I've spoken with have only basic, or more frequently wrong information on climate change. "The skin cancer thing, right?

Communicating the risk of a far off event, particularly one with the massive uncertainties of climate change is difficult if not impossible. Try communicating non-linear reactions, feedback mechanisms, and uncertainty in the magnitude of local change in a 45-second tv spot. Good luck.

I think that you should try to educate people in a good balance of easy to digest information v. the complexities and uncertainties of the issue. And work on easy to understand actions: Hybrid Cars, Renewable Energy, Turn Off the Lights -- that people can actually act on. Also, building consensus on willingness to pay for the climate externality can be useful.


Maybe extremism is too extreme a term. I agree that it is difficult but important to educate people about climate change.

I am interested in the idea that in the face of the challenge of communicating uncertainty, experts might choose to use data and methods that minimize the perception of uncertainty - and they might choose to attack those who point to the uncertainty. The MIT Tech Review article that Easterbrook cites gives an example.

This sort of behavior - attacking instead of engaging seems to undermine the growing consensus that something needs to be done about climate change.

I think it is important to admit uncertainity and work to build a consensus that decision makers need to do something in the near term to decrease carbon dioxide emissions. There is a danger of inaction if we get caught up disagreeing on whether the data supports a 1 degree temperature increase or a 5 degree temperature increase.


I agree with Tom. Attacking vs. Engaging is to me a big issue. Complexity is definitely there, but the operation of the solar system was complex when it first came out. Now it's taught in third grade.

I think the extremism, i.e. greens being cynical or doomsday with climate arguments, just takes away from the argument, and loses some skeptics who might be capable of understanding the current state of system complexity.

It's like the fake parking tickets that people put on SUVs. While it's hard to call that "extreme," I would view that as very cynical, condescending, and not conducive to engaging the issues.



I would say extremism may be a problem, but people have other concerns about environmentalists as well. I would refer you to this discussion on Pasty Cam (, where someone's comments about about mercury pollution from a gold mine raised scorn.

See Lee's comment and the response that followed.

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