Welcome to the age of diminishing returns

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The planet burns and nobody gives a damn

Above, you see the results of a search by Google Trends of the term "Global Warming". You get the same results if you seek for "climate change" or similar terms. The recent heat wave in the US, thr melting of ice in Greenland, the loss of Arctic ice; nothing seems to have stirred the interest of the public in the climate issue.

On the contrary, if you search "Trends" for such terms as "drought", you see very well the recent spike in interest. Look at this

So, people perceive that something is wrong, but they just can't connect the dots. I guess that one day, in the future, someone will wonder about the reasons of such a massive failure of our civilization to understand what was happening.

(via "Resistance is Futile")


  1. Hi Ugo,
    The issue is still "flying below the radar" with the mainstream media - you can probably guess why.

    A quick pick of six news articles this morning concerning drought revealed not a single reference to climate change or global warming.

    Meanwhile, did you happen to see anything that was happening in the arctic in the last few days?
    A very unusual and intense summer depression (963hPa/28.44"Hg!) has just passed through the arctic circle doing all kinds of interesting and worrying things to the ice pack.
    Interesting that this story doesn't seem to have made the news at all!

  2. Hi, Lucas. As far as I know, this is the only thing that has appeared in the mainstream media: a picture in the Guardian. No text, no comments. It's pretty amazing really, but it just emphasizes the point Ugo is making.

    Everybody gives a damn, but everyone is looking at others to solve the problems (politicians mainly). But we have to do it.

    1. Hi Neven,
      I've been following your blog for a while now and I really apreciate the opportunity to reconnect with my interest in physical geography.

      I really enjoyed following the progress of the "arcticane" ;-)Thank you very much for keeping up such frequent, high-quality posts!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Neven - not as bad as that - in that the Guardian's science editor did an article on the issue (which some glitch seems to have blocked for you)
      but worse than that - the the fuckwit wrote one of the worse article I've seen in that paper. Actually added qualifications to scientists' statements . . .

      Your blog is a haven from such pathetic conduct.



  3. The term Climate Change is tied too closely to the concept of sacrifice, and that is too contrary to the mythology of progress that sustains us, even now, despite even the onslaught of financial debauchery nipping at the heels of civilization. It is also something of an existential dilemma; to really look into climate change at this point, is a little too like looking into the face of death, and that for certain is not something most self respecting internet users are interested in or capable of addressing. The MSM misinformation campaign is like a welcome soporific in comparison, like a fukitol pill, for continued guilt free conspicuous consumption, indeed like a continued championing of all things Western Industrial/Technological/Economic as the salvation of humanity. That it leads inexorably to mass extinction is a thing you can shout until you bleed, and the True Believer won't hear it. This blog after all is called Cassandra's Legacy


  4. "We cannot escape ourselves." ~Henri


  5. So we don't believe what MSM are telling us, but Google is gospel ?

    Why wouldn't they fudge the survey program and lie ? Corporations that don't run news media don't have the same priorities ?

    Generating apathy is orders of magnitude more effective than using policemen with billy clubs to suppress dissent. Using dissenters to generate apathy among potential recruits is the sort of efficiency of effort that we should expect of the present regime.

    The plausibility of denial of anthropogenic global warming and climate destabilization is in terminal decline - and of various successor options, generating apathy has the particular advantages of disabling some of those with the independence of mind to take the issue seriously, while also discouraging interest among those for whom 'bad news' issues are just a drag but who might well be attracted by a winnable mass campaign.

    In short, pushing apathy, (whether intentionally or not) is likely more effective in blocking public demand for action than pushing denial.

    It seems that we either focus on assembling and promoting a short list of specific demands for policy change that are both internally coherent and commensurate with the timelagged, amplified and self-reinforcing problem we face,
    or we maintain focus on the intricacies of the threat and its technical solutions and fail to promote the viability of the crucial political re-orientation, and so tend to serve the status-quo slipway to a genocidal scale of serial global crop failures and megafamines.

    Identifying just what the policy is that is blocking global agreement on commensurate action - and so needs changing - would be a good start.



  6. If you look at Google Trends for the search terms global warming and climate change, it's interesting that by far the greatest interest still seems to be from the Philippines (Tagalog language) and Nigeria. Why would that be?

    1. For the Philippines, I can imagine it is because of sea level rise. Nigeria, I have no idea.

    2. Joe Romm once suggested that there may be teams of (low paid call centre) professionals who search the world press and literature for climate change articles and bombard them with sceptical or denialist comments to skew the public's perception about the true balance of public opinion - in short, a paid propaganda operation.

  7. I think we should use cation when using google trends for estimating the level of popularity/concern for different subjects. For instance, by looking at the trends for "peak oil" it would seem like it's well on its way towards total obscurity. From my experience this doesn't seem to be the case. It seems like more like the opposite. But sadly mostly because of silly debunking-articles based on the work of oil "experts" like Leonardo Maugeri.

    Googling a subject is usually something you do when you have very little prior knowledge. After you have followed a subject for a while you will have a set of sources you follow without resorting to google. Because of this I think it's better to think of google trends more as a first derivative of the concern instead of the absolute value. This would of course be a optimistic first derivative since it doesn't account for the people losing interest in the subject.



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014)