Once-marginalized skepticism of ‘climate crisis’ is gaining momentum despite increased rhetoric

In 2021, 67% of people ages 18 to 43 viewed climate change as a very serious problem. That number dropped to 50% in the latest poll. But that hasn't turned down the volume.

Published: May 17, 2024 11:00pm

Dr. Bill McGuire, a volcanologist and climate scientist, created quite the stir this week with a post on X that linked to an article in The Guardian about the prospect of bird flu becoming a human epidemic.

“If I’m brutally honest, the only realistic way I see emissions falling as fast as they need to, to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown, is the culling of the human population by a pandemic with a very high fatality rate,” McGuire commented on the now-deleted post.

Such rhetoric is nothing new. Dr. Michael Mann, famous for the disputed “hockey stick graph,” told the Waco Tribune-Herald in October that the planet should only have one billion people on it. It’s at about 8 billion now.

Boiling rhetoric and moving the goalposts

However, these statements may not be drawing more support for their position. McGuire received a “ratio” on the post — meaning the number of comments exceeded the number of likes — with 654 comments and 144 likes as of Wednesday.

“You need to die…To save the planet,” Dr. Matt Wielicki, former professor of Earth science at the University of Alabama, said in a post quoting McGuire’s post.

After deleting the post in the face of criticism, McGuire explained in subsequent posts that he was “talking about reduced economic activity NOT reduced population.”

Popular figures like McGuire who argue that climate change is posing a crisis have been increasing the intensity of their rhetoric over the past few years. When new temperature data showed record high temperatures last year, United Nations Secretary Antonio Gutierrez referred to it as the “era of global boiling.” Last month, U.N. Climate Secretary Simon Stiell declared that we have only two years to save the world, although the U.N. said in 2019 that number was 11 years. 

In 2006, former Vice President Al Gore projected that unless drastic measures were implemented, the planet would hit an irreversible “point of no return” by 2016. In July 2009, then-Prince Charles asserted the planet had 96 months to avoid “…irretrievable climate and ecosystem collapse, and all that goes with it."  

In January 2019, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D., N.Y., declared 2031 as the potential end of days. According to the AgWeb Farm Journal, she said that "Millennials and people, you know, Gen Z and all these folks that will come after us are looking up and we're like: 'The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don't address climate change and your biggest issue is how are we gonna pay for it?' And, like, this is the war—this is our World War ll.”

Then there are the increasingly brazen acts by climate activists, such as the pair of 80-year-olds who attempted Friday to break the glass protecting the Magna Carta in protest of continued use of fossil fuels.

There are even more frequent calls to criminalize “climate denial,” as was recently argued by popular British meteorologist Jim Dale, as well as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Climate change apostasy

If polling data is any indication, the rhetoric may be having the opposite effect of what’s intended. A Monmouth University poll released earlier this month found that, while a wide majority of people believe climate change is happening (73%), a shrinking portion of people believe that climate change poses a very serious problem.

The last time the poll was run, in 2021, it found that 56% of Americans viewed climate change as a very serious issue, but the latest poll shows only 46% see it that way. Among people ages 18 to 34, the drop is even more pronounced, with 67% viewing it as a very serious problem in 2021 and 50% viewing it as very serious in the latest poll.

Support for government action has likewise taken a tumble, at least among younger age groups. Those 18 to 34 who support government action to address climate change fell from 80% in 2021 to 62% in 2024. Older generations still want to see government involvement, with 60% of those over age 55 supporting government action in both polls. Among all age groups, support fell from 66% in 2021 to 59% in 2024.

Huge shift

Chris Martz, a meteorology student who just completed his junior year at Millersville University, was among those criticizing McGuire’s post. Martz regularly disputes the “climate crisis” narrative on his X account and his blog, and he told Just the News he’s not alone. Many people his age don’t buy into the rhetoric, and he said it has a lot to do with what happened during the pandemic.

“I've noticed a huge shift … in attitudes towards trusting scientific authority, in consensus, science, and government experts,” Martz said.

Besides the government mismanagement of the health crisis, Martz said, the censorship on major media platforms, which involved collusion with the federal government, have led to an overall degradation in trust of expert sources.

Other polls have also shown that in terms of priorities, climate change falls pretty low compared to other worries, often coming in last behind immigration and the economy.

Martz said that young people who go to the grocery store and spend a hundred dollars for a bag of groceries aren’t going to be as concerned about bad weather as they are about the economy.

“It's crippling them,” Martz said.

Tom Shepstone, an energy expert who publishes "Energy Security and Freedom" on Substack, told Just the News that the experience in Europe, which is much further along on the path to zero emissions than the U.S., has left people more skeptical about energy policies based on climate alarmism. With industries shutting down, Dutch farmers protesting climate policies, and people having trouble paying electricity bills due to rising energy costs, more Americans are wanting to avoid the same mistake.

“I think there's a great awakening taking place, that people are understanding they've been robbed,” Shepstone said.

Burned out from COVID and climate hysteria

Wielicki told Just the News that he thinks the Monmouth poll was good news. “That poll was very encouraging. The biggest change is in the youngest demographic, which was pretty shocking,” Wielicki said.

When he was teaching at the University of Alabama, he would present a lot of information in his lessons that disputed the catastrophic narrative — the flak he caught from administrators over what he was teaching his students ultimately led to his decision to leave academia — and he said the students were quite receptive.

“They were so refreshed to get some good news about the environment. They’re just thirsty for that,” Wielicki said. He said as the first generation that has had the worst of the apocalyptic rhetoric drilled into them since they began their childhood education, they’ve become burned out.

“They’re now starting to reject it. I’m happy to see that, but it’s still going to be an uphill battle,” he said.

Martz said it helps that Tesla CEO Elon Musk purchased Twitter and made it one of the few platforms where challenges to the “climate crisis” rhetoric can be openly discussed. Accounts like that of Tony Heller and Michael Schelleberger, he said, are exposing readers to other viewpoints.

“People are seeing good science versus junk science, and they’re taking a second look at it,” Martz said.

Community standards

As for the other platforms, the censorship continues. Wielicki posted segments of the skeptical documentary “Climate The Movie: The Cold Truth,” in which he’s featured, on his TikTok account. The videos got flagged for violating community standards, he said.

Tom Nelson, who produced the movie, has been debating climate change issues and interviewing those who question catastrophic narratives on his podcast for years. Nelson told Just the News that he’s seeing a shift, and he also blames the response to COVID for growing skepticism.

“I’ve heard similar stories from a large number of people who believed in the COVID narrative at first, then realized that the media ‘experts’ were lying to us. When many of these people then asked themselves ‘What else are they lying to us about?’ they quickly discovered that the climate crisis narrative was also bogus,” Nelson said.

He’s detailed a few instances since the movie came out of climate activists and scientists toning down their rhetoric, such as Sabine Hossenfelder, who posted a video questioning the “fear mongering” about climate change.

In another example from last month, MSN featured a piece on Dr. John Clauser, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics, in 2022. He was among the 1,600, many of them scientists, who signed a declaration that there is no climate crisis.

Likewise, this month, the scientific journal Nature published an opinion piece arguing that climate scientists were engaged in too much political activism, blurring the lines between activism and science.

The discussion on the impacts of climate change appears to have shifted considerably. In 2017, one-in-four Americans thought climate change could make the human race go extinct, according to a Yale poll, a belief that isn’t supported by any emissions scenarios modeled by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Change.

Now, a growing number of people, especially young people, question if it’s a very serious problem, a priority, or if the government should be addressing it. It would seem, as Bob Dylan once sang in another era, the times, they are a changin’. Perhaps a more modern song title is equally appropriate: REM's "Losing my Religion."

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