Research Roundup for November, 2017

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

  • Worry about climate change is at an all-time high. So is the number of Americans who say they have personally experienced the effects of climate change. Currently, more Americans feel angry, hopeless or afraid about climate change than feel hopeful. Half of Americans say they hear about climate change in the news at least once a month (Leiserowitz et al., 2017).
  • Three in four Americans say they will vote for a candidate in the upcoming election based, in part, on his or her position on climate change. Four in 10 Americans say they talk about climate change more than did a year ago. Almost none say they  talk about climate change less (EcoAmerica, 2017).
  • Climate change, air pollution and water pollution rank among Americans' top ten fears (Chapman University, 2017).
  • Eight in 10 Americans believe it's important for the world to be powered entirely by clean energy. Seven in 10 say they would be proud if the United States became a global leader in clean energy (Ørsted, 2017).
  • Around seven in 10 adults in Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia support ambitious fuel standards for cars and trucks (Sierra Club, 2017).
  • There is significant variation in opinion about climate change among Democrats and Republicans, respectively, across the country. Republicans in coastal areas, for example, are more likely to believe the climate is changing than are Republicans in the middle of the country (Mildenberger, Marlon, Howe, & Leiserowitz, 2017).

The proportion of registered Republicans who think global warming is happening.

  • A study of nine major newspapers, the three major broadcast networks and the three major cable news channels found that, between 2010 and 2016, these outlets collectively ran only 30 stories mentioning protests at UN climate talks. Several outlets—including ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox News—ran no stories mentioning protests at UN climate talks (Public Citizen, 2017).
  • Digital news outlets such as Vice, BuzzFeed and Huffington Post covered the 2015 Paris climate talks differently than legacy news outlets. Digital outlets focused more on protests and less on the minutiae of the negotiations (Painter, Kristiansen, & Schäfer, 2018).
  • Even small news outlets—meaning those with a circulation of around 50,000—can have a significant effect on the national conversation. If three small outlets report on the same topic on the same day, they will drive a 10 percent increase in the number of social media posts about that topic over the course of the following week (King, Schneer, & White, 2017).
  • Scientists who champion noncontroversial solutions to climate change (e.g. tax rebates for solar panels) are seen as more credible than scientists who don't recommend solutions (Beall, Myers, Kotcher, Vraga, & Maibach, 2017).


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