We are pleased to announce a newly published article: "How to Communicate the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change: Plain Facts, Pie Charts or Metaphors?" by Sander van der Linden, Anthony Leiserowitz, Geoffrey Feinberg and Edward W. Maibach in the journal Climatic Change. The article is available for download here.Attitudes & Beliefs Knowledge / Climate Literacy Risk Communication
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A nationally representative survey finds that the terms “global warming” and “climate change” often mean different things to Americans—and activate different sets of beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, as well as different degrees of urgency about the need to respond.Attitudes & Beliefs Citizen Behavior Emotion / Affect / Imagery Knowledge / Climate Literacy Policy Support Risk Perceptions
Global Warming's Six Americas have very different ideas about how the climate system works:
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On Friday May 9, 2014, YPCCC Director Anthony Leiserowitz was a guest on NPR's Science Friday, in the week of the release of the 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment, to discuss Americans' responses to climate change. Other guests were Bill Nye (the Science Guy) and Sheril Kirshenbaum, Director of the Energy Poll at the University of Texas. Listen to the segment here.
Americans have very different mental models of the stability of the climate system. In a nationally representative study, we examined Americans’ understanding of how the climate system works. Survey respondents were presented with the following question:
“People disagree about how the climate system works. The five pictures below illustrate five different perspectives. Each picture depicts the Earth’s climate system as a ball balanced on a line, yet each one has a different ability to withstand human-caused global warming. Which one of the five pictures best represents your understanding of how the climate system works?”
Fragile: Earth's climate is delicately balanced. Small amounts of global warming will have abrupt and catastrophic effects.
Threshold: Earth's climate is stable within certain limits. If global warming is small, climate will return to a stable balance; if it is large, there will be dangerous effects.
Gradual: Earth's climate is gradual to change. Global warming will gradually lead to dangerous effects.
Random: Earth's climate is random and unpredictable. We do not know what will happen.
Stable: Earth's climate system is very stable. Global warming will have little or no effects.
Most respondents chose the Threshold model (34%), followed by the Gradual (24%), Random (21%), Fragile (11%) and Stable (10%) models. Scientifically, at different temporal or spatial scales the climate system can exhibit each of these behaviors, but the best overall answer is the threshold model.
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We just published a commentary in Earth’s Future, a new online, open-access journal published by the American Geophysical Union. The commentary is entitled: “Climate Scientists Need to Set the Record Straight: There is a scientific consensus that human-caused climate change is happening.”
In the commentary, we argue that the climate science community needs to do more to communicate the scientific consensus because: (a) most Americans don’t know there is a scientific consensus on this point; (b) this lack of awareness undermines people’s engagement in the issue; and (c) research by our team – and others – has shown that simple messages that communicate this basic scientific conclusion are highly effective, especially with political conservatives.
We encourage you to download the commentary and join the effort to set the record straight.Knowledge / Climate Literacy Risk Communication
Following up on her Sunday op-ed, CNN's Carol Costello sat down with YPCCC Director, Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz today to discuss why Americans continue to contend that climate change isn't happening.
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- Compared to the record-setting extreme weather disaster years of 2011 and 2012, the year 2013 in the United States was relatively calm, with no land-falling hurricanes, fewer tornadoes, and drought relief in the Great Plains. In turn, fewer Americans say they experienced an extreme weather event last year. People in the Northeast, Midwest, and South, however, were more likely to report experiencing extreme cold or a snowstorm in 2013 than they did in 2012.
- Over half of Americans (56%) say “global warming is affecting weather in the United States.”
- A large majority of Americans say their state and local government should make it a priority to protect public water supplies (78%), transportation/roads/bridges (73%), people’s health (72%), the electricity system (71%), agriculture (70%), and public sewer systems (69%) from extreme weather over the next 10 years.
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Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans’ Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in November 2013
The most recent national Climate Change in the American Mind survey found that 1 in 4 Americans think that global warming is not happening, and half say they are "worried" about it.
Other highlights include:
- There has been an increase in the proportion of Americans who believe global warming is not happening (23%, up 7 percentage points since April 2013). But about two in three Americans (63%) believe global warming is happening, a number that has been consistent since spring 2013.
- The proportion of Americans who say they “don’t know” whether or not global warming is happening has dropped 6 points – from 20% to 14% – since spring of 2013.
- About half of Americans (51%) say they are “somewhat” (38%) or “very worried” (15%) about global warming.
- Fewer than half of Americans (38%) believe they personally will be harmed a “moderate amount” or a “great deal” by global warming.
- By contrast, majorities believe that global warming will harm future generations of people (65%) and plant and animal species (65%).
- About four in 10 say they feel “helpless” (43%), “disgusted” (42%), or “sad” (40%) when thinking about global warming.
- By contrast, four in ten (42%), say they feel “hopeful” about the subject.
On Saturday, January 11th, 2013, YPCCC Director Anthony Leiserowitz spent the morning discussing, among other things, the parallels between climate change and the smoking debate on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry Show. Watch the conversation below.
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