That's true, and is the natural result of the public understanding of the whole business being about a micrometre deep. That's not a criticism of the public, because it results both from a failure to adequately inform, and from the fact that most people have neither the time nor the background to get into the science in any depth.Yeah, that's good for me, but perfectly will to listen to an opposed point of view. See, I get involved in a lot of agricultural work and the weather from June to October is pretty critical.
2007 was fantastic because while the summer was awful we had a great run all the way until practically December getting product out of the ground. 2008 and 2009 was in a word, crap. If we could just get our act together and make sure the sun shines in the right months I won't b1tch again, honest...
Pat is right though about public opinion. In the end, despite all the reports and analysis, this is the important thing to have on your side. Up until last year everyone was nodding their heads sagely when global warming was mentioned.
Lately it's been all 'I'm not so sure....'
In publicity terms, the 'climategate' PR has been very damaging for public perception, but hasn't made a bit of difference to the science. It was clearly aimed at taking the pressure off the climate opposition at Copenhagen, and did that very well.
Scientists are, in general, very poor communicators - and, indeed, understand the term differently. I put it to a friend of mine (who is a scientific academic) that scientists communicate poorly, and he said "I hardly think that's fair. We're good at communicating complex concepts within our discipline, assuming one has the necessary background, and of course we are far better at communicating the reliability and error margins in studies where the errors can be..." and so on for several minutes. At the end I said "exactly".
On the other hand, I would certainly criticise the role of the press, who have been as bad at reporting on this as on every other complex matter, from NAMA to cancer vaccines.