Lead U.S. climate negotiatior calls for climate change 'educational effort'

According to December polling data from Rasmussen, 41 percent of Americans believe climate change is caused by human activity, while 47 percent say it is part of the natural variation in the planet’s temperature.

Stern said misinformation about climate change was spread during the recent midterm elections, which heralded into Congress a slew of climate change skeptics. “There was a lot of skepticism expressed,” he said. Quoting former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, he added, “Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but they’re not entitled to their own facts.”

Stern — who lead U.S. efforts to reach an agreement at recent United Nations climate change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico — also downplayed the importance of coming to a legally binding global climate treaty, a goal that has eluded the world for years.

“My whole message when it comes to this is to not be overly focused on a legal treaty,” he said.

Modest agreements, like the one signed in Cancun this month, might be the only way to make progress in the interim until countries such as China are willing to sign on to a legally binding agreement, he said.

“If we can get there, it would be a good thing,” Stern said. “Many countries in the world are attached to the idea [of a legally binding treaty] because it feels serious, but the type of agreement we just did is serious.

“The day will come when things are ripe for a legal agreement, and we’ll be there when that’s the case,” he said.