Research Roundup for May, 2016

Highlights from recent research on the science of climate change communication:

  • Explaining the physical characteristics of climate change will not make people feel more concerned. Explaining the causes of climate change may make people feel more concerned (Shi, Visschers, Siegrist, & Arvai, 2016).
  • In contrast with previous research, a new study finds that pessimistic messages (e.g. we are not managing to reduce emissions) can make people feel more concerned without making them feel less empowered. Consistent with previous research, the study finds optimistic messages can make people feel less concerned (Hornsey & Fielding, 2016). 
  • Teenagers who accept that climate change is happening are more likely to care about the problem. Those who talk about the issue with friends and family are also more likely to feel worried (Stevensona, Petersona, Bondellb, 2016).
  • Most supporters of the last remaining presidential primary candidates believe in climate change. Supporters of Cruz are the exception (Leiserowitz, Maibach, Roser-Renouf, Feinberg, & Rosenthal, 2016).
  • A large majority of voters in Florida, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsinall states suing to stop the Clean Power Plansupport the EPA rule to limit carbon pollution from power plants (Bloomberg Philanthropies, 2016).
  • Most Americans know little or nothing about the Clean Power Plan. After hearing an explanation of the plan, seven in 10 Americans support the measure (University of Maryland Center of International and Security Studies, 2016).
  • The vast majority of Democrats, 77 percent, say climate change is a major threat to the US. Just 26 percent of Republicans say the same (Pew Research, 2016).
  • Talk about our collective responsibility to deal with climate change (rather than our individual responsibility). This is more likely to move people to action (Obradovich & Guenther, 2016).
  • The large majority of Americans understand the climate is changing. However, new research shows people may not talk about climate change publicly because they do not realize they are in the majority. This may be because people do not want to be seen as incompetent by those who do not share their views (Geiger & Swim, 2016).
  • Among people who care most about climate change, those who take action are more likely to believe their peers are also taking action. They are also more likely to believe their actions will make a difference (Doherty and Webler, 2016).
  • People are more receptive to information about climate change when they believe the economy is strong. This is because people often feel measures to stop climate change threaten the economy (Hennes, Ruisch, Feygina, Monteiro, & Jost, 2016).
  • People who understand the workings of complex systems are more likely to support climate policy (Lezak & Thibodeau, 2016).


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