Research Roundup for August, 2016

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

  • Only 15 percent of Americans now doubt the planet is warming (University of Michigan, 2016).
  • In an experiment, photos of solar panels and stories of climate action made subjects feel more empowered. In contrast with previous research, images of pollution and severe weather did not make people feel less empowered or make climate change feel less relevant (Hart & Feldman, 2016).
  • People who are curious about science are more likely to consider information that challenges their political beliefs, including the existence of climate change (Kahan, Landrum, Carpenter, Helft, & Jamieson, 2016).
  • When asked what Americans could do to conserve energy, people tended to list more difficult actions (e.g. driving less). When asked what they could do to conserve energy, people tended to list easier actions (e.g. turning off the light). People regarded more difficult actions as being less personally applicable (Attari, Krantz, & Weber, 2016).
  • Three in five CA voters say air pollution is a problem. Two in three say the effects of global warming are have already begun (Public Policy Institute of California, 2016).
  • Three in four voters in states belonging to the Northeast cap-and-trade program support their state's participation in the program (Hart Research, 2016).
  • New Yorkers were polled after Hurricane Sandy. Democrats gauged the flood risk following a hurricane to be much higher than Republicans did. Democrats were also more likely to invest in flood protection measures and more likely to expect to receive federal disaster relief after a major flood (Botzen, Michel-Kerjan, Kunreuther, de Moel, & Aerts, 2016).
  • Conservatives are more likely to support fracking the farther away they are from fracking operations (Clarke et al., 2016).
  • In an experiment, news stories of Americans tackling climate change made subjects feel more empowered. News stories of the government failing to tackle climate change made subjects feel less empowered. Feelings of empowerment, what social scientists call efficacy, influence political participation (Hart & Feldman, 2016).
  • Some 95 percent of Americans want carmakers to continue to improve fuel economy. Almost four in five want the government to continue to increase fuel efficiency standards (Natural Resources Defense Council, 2016).
  • Celebrities can have a huge impact on public awareness. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar speech about climate change triggered Twitter’s largest ever climate discussion (Leas et al., 2016).
  • Educated people are more likely to reject science when it conflicts with their political beliefs. When people understand the mechanism underlying a scientific finding (e.g. that carbon pollution causes climate change), they are more likely to accept that finding (Lewandowsky & Oberauer, 2016).
  • Tweets about climate tend to spike after severe weather events, suggesting personal experience with weather is driving interest in climate change (Sisco, Bosetti, & Weber, 2016).


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