Research Roundup for January, 2018

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

  • Personal concern about climate change is at an all-time high across several polls, as is the share of Americans who believe humans are causing climate change. A growing number of Americans think the environment is getting worse. A majority thinks the environment should be a higher priority than the economy (EcoAmerica, 2017).
  • Six in 10 residents of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia say that sea-level rise and storms are very serious concerns. Eight in 10 recognize that humans are changing the climate. Seven in 10 support the construction of offshore wind turbines that can't be seen from the shore. About half support the construction of offshore wind turbines that can be seen from the shore (Monmouth University, 2017).
  • Americans trust government agencies and the news media more than the White House or Congress for information about the energy sector. Americans also trust the solar industry more than other energy industries. Notably, the public grossly overestimates how much of America's energy comes from wind and solar (Makovsky, 2017).
  • A new study finds that a national campaign to push universities to divest from fossil fuels succeeded in bringing unpopular policy proposals—such as a carbon tax—into the mainstream (Schifeling & Hoffman, 2017).
  • Both liberals and conservatives are more likely to believe scientists agree about climate change after being told that "97 percent of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused global warming is happening" (Van der Linden, Leiserowitz, & Maibach, 2017).
  • Researchers tend to treat emotions as levers that can be pulled to elicit a particular response. Fear, they warn, leads people to dismiss climate change. Hope, they say, is motivating. This is a gross oversimplification. In truth, people draw on a range of emotions, values and beliefs when processing messages about climate change (Chapman, Lickel, & Markowitz, 2017).


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