Environment

More Facts on Climate Change = What?

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorAug 8, 2014 6:26 PM

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Climate concerned advocates received some welcome news yesterday:

A new study finds that when they understand climate basics, some conservatives are more likely to accept that climate change is happening

I continue to be amazed at how much time and resources are spent justifying attempts to win over the most ideologically entrenched demographic in the climate debate. I'm also amazed that some climate advocates still cling to the notion that inaction on climate change persists because not enough Americans believe global warming is happening. According to a 2013 Pew survey,

Two-thirds of Americans (67%) say there is solid evidence that the earth has been getting warmer over the last few decades, a figure that has changed little in the past few years.

True, of this percentage, only 39% can be classified as "concerned believers." Overall, 36% percent of Americans are squishy fence straddlers, while 25% are identified as the "cool skeptics" unconcerned about global warming. Is the goal of climate activists to convince more people that climate change is happening or to persuade more people that it is a major concern? It seems that those two aims often get conflated. But it is an important distinction, since as a 2014 report from the Yale Project on Climate Communication reiterated:

Few Americans are "very worried" about global warming and many see it as a relatively distant threat.

So do Americans need more convincing that human-cased climate change is real, or do they need to be persuaded to take the climate threat more seriously? The answer is the latter, of course, which is why many in the climate concerned camp have taken to associating severe weather events and other related disasters to global warming. This is done not to educate people about a 97 percent consensus, but to activate warning bells in our heads. Thus, I don't understand why anyone would get excited about a new study which finds "that people who had greater knowledge of climate change causes were more willing to accept that climate change is occurring." (One reputable researcher takes issue with the finding.) The takeaway point of the study, according to the climate-concerned Guardian writer:

There’s no question that ideological biases play a big role in rejection of global warming. However, the results of this study indicate that for a majority of the public, including some conservatives, information that increases understanding about the climate can also increase public acceptance of global warming.

But we know that the majority of the public already accepts global warming. And it hasn't mattered.

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