NEW YORK – Despite suffering through one of the hottest summers on record, Americans are finding that their previous concerns about the possible long-term effects of global warming have been nearly eradicated as a result of their newfound fears about the global debt crisis.
“Honestly, I had almost completely forgotten about global warming until you asked about it,” said construction worker Craig Wilson, as he paused to wipe his brow at the building site of the new Freedom Tower in lower Manhattan.
“I’ve been so mad about the gridlock in Congress over the debt ceiling that the whole global warming thing just slipped my mind,” he noted.
And he’s not alone. With the U.S.’s recent near-default on its debt obligations, its continuing high unemployment, and the looming prospects of a double-dip recession, a new survey finds that Americans are now so frightened about the nation’s economic outlook that the threat of devastating worldwide climate change barely registers on their personal fear dashboards.
As she tried to cool off by dipping her feet in the reflecting pool in front of her midtown office building, investment analyst Elizabeth Morton commented, “Now that you mention it, I sort of remember something about…what was it? The icecaps melting? Or sea levels rising? Or was it both? Is that still going on?
“I feel like I haven’t heard anything about that lately. Not that I care. Did you see the report in the Times this morning about the possible impact of the country’s downgraded credit rating? Now that’s scary!”
Indeed, a review of the nation’s leading media reveals a precipitous decline in recent news coverage related to climate change, as newspapers, magazines, and broadcast networks continue to focus nearly all their attention on the country’s economic decline and political infighting.
For example, while the front page of today’s Washington Post carries six separate articles on the debt crisis and the 2012 election, the paper’s only climate-related story does not appear until page 38, a brief one-column report headlined, “Hey, Has Anyone Seen Antarctica Lately?”
“Thanks to the global debt crisis as a whole, and especially the economic implosion here at home, Americans are finally enjoying a respite from worries over the long-term fate of our planet,” observes Dr. Leonard McGill, head of the sociology department at Columbia University.
“While previously they may have been horrified at the prospect of leaving their children and grandchildren a barren natural wasteland, today they are far too terrified about their own short-term survival to give such environmental worries much thought.”
“In sum,” Dr. McGill concludes, “our fears about global warming seem to be gently melting away like the snow on Mt. Kilimanjaro and then pleasantly evaporating like the global supply of fresh water.”