Obama tweet gives Australia climate researcher 31 million reasons to celebrate – ‘Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: climate change is real, man-made, and dangerous’Posted by Jim at Friday, May 17, 2013
By Peter Hannam, Carbon economy editor
17 May 2013
(Sydney Morning Herald) – It's the social media equivalent of hitting the jackpot: having your study tweeted by US President Barack Obama.
Australian researcher John Cook, an expert in climate change communication, was inundated with requests for interviews by US media outlets after Obama took to Twitter to endorse his project's final report.
“It was pretty cool news,” said Mr Cook, a fellow at the University of Queensland's Global Change Institute and founder of the website skepticalscience.com. “It was out of our expectations.”
A survey of scientific papers by a team led by Mr Cook and published by Fairfax Media this week found more than 97 per cent of researchers endorsed the view that humans are to blame for global warming. The peer-reviewed outcome flies in the face of public perception in countries such as the US or Australia that scientists are divided on the issue.
"One of the highest predictors of how important people think climate change is, is cues from political leaders,” Mr Cook said. “So if the leaders don't seem to care, people don't care either.
“A cue from Obama is a big step,” he said. “The fact it goes to more than 31 million followers, it just raises the awareness of consensus.”
That's 31,541,507 followers, to be precise. Retweets recently stood at 1,746 with Twitter carrying a long stream of comments.
The peer-reviewed report also sparked international media interest, with CNN among the news outlets chasing Mr Cook.
“It went crazy,” he said. “I've never experienced that before.”
Mr Cook's timing was fortuitous. The Obama administration is battling Republicans in Senate who are opposed to the president's nomination of Gina McCarthy to lead the country's Environmental Protection Agency.
Without sufficient Congressional support for a price on carbon, Mr Obama has used the EPA as his main tool for trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are blamed for warming the planet.
Mr Cook said reports on the scientific consensus linking humans to climate change “tend to bounce around the echo chamber”.
“Something like what Obama did really helps in getting that information out into the general public,” he said. [more]