Major Misperception On Climate

Perceived contribution (gray bars) versus actual contribution (red dots) of different industries to global carbon emissions.


This has puzzled me for years:

The general public has a major lack of understanding of how eating meat and dairy contributes to climate change, according to a survey of Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa by the market research organization Ipsos MORI. Although meat and dairy production accounts for roughly 15 percent of total global carbon emissions — equal to exhaust emissions from the international transportation sector — less than 30 percent of survey respondents identified meat and dairy production as a major contributor to climate change. More than twice as many — 64 percent — said transportation was a major contributor.

Interestingly, many people are aware that deforestation contributes to global warming, but don’t apparently don’t connect deforestation to clearing land to run livestock.

I guess the meat and dairy industry has a better PR team than the oil and gas companies.

Climate Change As Threat

Here’s some evidence that the media in the US and some other countries is not doing a very good job of explaining the implications of climate change, and how the threat of climate change should be seen relative to other threats. My guess is that far more than 40% of Americans would label “terrorism” a “major threat.” But the sort of terrorism most Americans worry about (bombs on planes, for example) is nothing compared to how climate change will impact humanity and the planet.

There are two existential threats right now. Nuclear terrorism. And climate change. But apparently that’s not the message that the public is getting (click image for full size).

And, of course, in the US climate change belief breaks down along political lines.