Why Information Isn’t Enough to Solve Climate Change

070814BeliefsandFacts_OrigFor some time, climate communicators have focused on giving people the facts about climate change. If people just understood the science behind climate change, the logic goes, then they would surely support solutions to address the problem. But the story is actually much more complicated, says a recent article in The New York Times. People who don’t believe in complex scientific phenomena like climate change and evolution are often well-versed in the science. The problem isn’t a lack of information. Rather, it’s that the science seemingly contradicts their political and religious views.
How, then, can advocates build support for solutions? The answer, the article suggests, may lie in dissociating identity from facts about scientific issues like climate change and evolution. In other words, advocates can help show how it’s possible to be, say, a conservative Republican and still believe that climate change is real and human-caused.

When Beliefs and Facts Collide

Brendan Nyhan, Contributor to The New York Times
Do Americans understand the scientific consensus about issues like climate change and evolution?
At least for a substantial portion of the public, it seems like the answer is no. The Pew Research Center, for instance, found that 33 percent of the public believes “Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time” and 26 percent think there is not “solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades.” Unsurprisingly, beliefs on both topics are divided along religious and partisan lines. For instance, 46 percent of Republicans said there is not solid evidence of global warming, compared with 11 percent of Democrats.
As a result of surveys like these, scientists and advocates have concluded that many people are not aware of the evidence on these issues and need to be provided with correct information. That’s the impulse behind efforts like the campaign to publicize the fact that 97 percent of climate scientists believe human activities are causing global warming.
Read more.
Image credit: Eiko Ojala via The New York Times

One Response to “Why Information Isn’t Enough to Solve Climate Change”

  1. At this point the issue is not how to change what people know, but rather what people do. We currently have a silent majority in favor of climate action which is large enough to generate political will to address climate change if we could only get them to be politically active.

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