A few months ago James Meadway, advisor to John McDonnell, predicted on Novara media that climate change would soon become a doorstep issue in the UK. If unpredictable weather events become a regular part of life for people, the recognition of their underlying cause is immensely significant. However this passage from Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything left me feeling pessimistic. From pg 34-45:
When public opinion on the big social and political issues changes, the trends tend to be relatively gradual. Abrupt shifts, when they come, are usually precipitated by dramatic events. Which is why pollsters were so surprised by what had happened to perceptions about climate change in just four years. A 2007 Harris poll found that 71 percent of Americans believed that the continued burning of fossil fuels would alter the climate. By 2009 the figure had dropped to 51 percent. In June 2011 the number was down to 44 percent—well under half the population. Similar trends have been tracked in the U.K. and Australia. Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the Pew Research Center for People & the Press, described the statistics in the United States as “among the largest shifts over a short period of time seen in recent public opinion history.” 13 The overall belief in climate change has rebounded somewhat since its 2010–11 low in the United States. (Some have hypothesized that experience with extreme weather events could be contributing, though “the evidence is at best very sketchy at this point,” says Riley Dunlap, a sociologist at Oklahoma State University who specializes in the politics of climate change.) But what remains striking is that on the right-wing side of the political spectrum, the numbers are still way down. 14
This question of how the ruptured expectations of everyday life are explained (or explained away) is an immensely interesting one. How will denialism sustain himself when the evidence something is changing becomes increasingly impossible to deny? Accept the change and attribute it to something else? Claim the change is innocuous? Deny it all together?