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The Climate Knowledge Gap

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJune 21, 2011 9:28 PM


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Richard Harris of NPR has a story that explores why Americans are so ignorant about climate change. Here's how it begins:

The American public is less likely to believe in global warming than it was just five years ago. Yet, paradoxically, scientists are more confident than ever that climate change is real and caused largely by human activities. Something a bit strange is happening with public opinion and climate change. Anthony Leiserowitz, who directs the Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication, delved into this in a recent poll. He not only asked citizens what they thought of climate change, he also asked them to estimate how climate scientists feel about global warming. "Only 13 percent of Americans got the correct answer, which is that in fact about 97 percent of American scientists say that climate change is happening, and about a third of Americans just simply say they don't know," he said. Most Americans are unaware that the National Academy of Sciences, known for its cautious and even-handed reviews of the state of science, is firmly on board with climate change. It has been for years.

Huh? Most Americans probably don't know there is such a thing as the National Academy of Sciences, just as many of them don't know who the U.S. Vice President is. A bit farther down in the story, we come to this:

So does this public disbelief mean that Americans are becoming more anti-science? Leiserowitz of Yale University says that's not what his polls show. "Most Americans have overwhelming trust in the science and trust in scientists," he said. But the public is largely unaware of the consensus because that's not what they're hearing on cable TV or reading in blogs.

Huh? Is NPR's Harris opining here, or is he paraphrasing Leiserowitz? Either way, it's hard for me to believe that average Americans are getting their information about climate change from cable TV or blogs.

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