This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.


Has the Flood of Interest in IPCC and Climate Change Dissipated?

Simon Donner's picture
University of British Columbia

Simon Donner is a professor in the Geography Department at the University of British Columbia who studies why the climate matters to people and aquatic ecosystems, including rivers and coral reefs.

  • Member since 2018
  • 232 items added with 32,875 views
  • Oct 11, 2013

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”. It also left more of a legacy; searches remained at a higher level than before the 2007 report was released for several years, no doubt accentuated 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 registering on the same graph as climate change and global warming:

Simon Donner's picture
Thank Simon for the Post!
Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.
More posts from this member
Spell checking: Press the CTRL or COMMAND key then click on the underlined misspelled word.
Lewis Perelman's picture
Lewis Perelman on Oct 13, 2013

Thanks, Simon. This is a valuable reality check.

It fits with Pielke’s Iron Law: That the world is far more concerned with the economy than the climate.

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »