Cold ‘confuses’ climate debate

A new survey conducted for four Norwegian newspapers shows that fewer Norwegians now think people are to blame for climate change. Researchers think they’ve been “confused’ by the last few cold winters.

The bitter cold that's gripped Norway and many other countries recently may be undermining concerns over global warming. This photo was taken late last week in Telemark, with a 21-minute exposure, so the stars appear to move as the earth slowly rotates below and snow-covered trees and the mountain "Gaustadtoppen" in the background remain motionless. PHOTO: Matt Lato

As Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and other leaders from around the world gather in Cancun this week, for the latest UN summit on climate change, record low temperatures in much of the northern hemisphere are confusing the debate. It’s not as easy to convince people about the dangers of global warming when the thermometer hasn’t gone above the freezing point for days if not weeks on end.

The survey conducted by research firm Respons for newspapers Bergens Tidende, Adresseavisen, Stavanger Aftenblad and Aftenposten showed that 51 percent of Norwegians now believe climate change has been created by human activity. That compares to 58 percent in February 2007.

The survey showed that 36 percent now link climate change to “natural swings” while 12 percent had no opinion. That’s up from 31 percent and 11 percent in 2007, respectively.

“Attention around the climate had to decline after the widespread media coverage in 2007,” Professor Mike Hulme of University of East Anglia in Great Britain told newspaper Bergens Tidende. Hulme, one of the world’s leading climate experts, also pointed to controversy around the UN’s climate panel and the lack of any clear results from the last UN climate summit in Copenhagen last December.

“And last year’s cold winter in Europe, also in Norway, has probably influenced a great deal of people’s understanding of global warming,” Hulme said. “It’s usual that short-term weather phenomena get mixed with long-term climate trends.”

Erik Solheim, Norway’s government minister in charge of environmental issues, said he was “actually impressed” that as many as 51 percent still believe that people contribute to climate change.

“Commitment goes in waves, but most folks have understood that the group of researchers who reject global warming is small,” Solheim told Bergens Tidende.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
Join our Forum if you’d like to comment on this story.