Monday, October 07, 2013

Has the flood of interest in the IPCC and climate change already dissipated?

The release of the IPCC report caused a short surge in public interest about climate change, according the Google Trends search data. Like a river after a flood, the waters have receded. Ten days later, the flood wave has dissipated, and search volume is back to baseline levels for the past year, or what hydrologists would call baseflow levels.


A longer view shows that this IPCC flood was much smaller than the last one. After the 2007 report was released, search activity for "IPCC" and "climate change" spiked. The report also left a legacy; searches remained at a higher level than before the 2007 report for several years, no doubt accentuated in late 2009 by the media coverage of and web obsession with "Climategate".


This comparison, however, may be misleading. The long-term trend smooths out the dips between the release of the reports from the different IPCC working groups. There are still two more IPCC reports to be released over the next year, starting with Working Group II's report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability in January. One thing that appears to have changed since 2007 is the preferred language. Global warming used to be a far more common search term than climate change; that gap has narrowed in recent years.

What has not changed is the relative public interest in the sister problem of ocean acidification. Search volume for ocean acidification has increased from essentially zero in the mid-2000s, but still pales in comparison to the volume for climate change and global warming. The search volume is too low, even today, to register on the same graph as climate change and global warming:

No comments: