Highlights from recent research on the science of climate change communication:
- A growing number of Americans understand that most scientists agree that humans are causing climate change. Today, nearly seven in 10 Americans acknowledge the scientific consensus on climate change, up from five in 10 Americans in 2011 (Hamilton, 2018).
- Five in 10 Americans say the federal government bears a great deal of responsibility for addressing climate change. Four in 10 say the same about state governments, while three in 10 say the same about local governments (University of Michigan, 2018).
- Six in 10 U.S. millennials believe humans are causing climate change. Nearly eight in 10 think humankind should take action to stem climate change, including a majority of Republicans. Nevertheless, only around one in 10 millennials rank climate change as their top concern, which is less than the number who list the economy, immigration or healthcare as their top concern (Alliance for Market Solutions, 2018).
- Political parties provide people with a sense of belonging. For many, belonging to a group is more important than maintaining an accurate view of the world, which is why partisans often reject facts that conflict with their party's position, even if those facts come from a reliable source, such as a major newspaper or a leading academic journal. To overcome this tendency, experts should encourage people to think of themselves as American citizens rather than as political partisans (Van Bavel & Pereira, 2018).
- Conservatives believe scientists who talk about climate change are less credible than scientists who discuss other, less contentious issues (Vraga, Myers, Kotcher, Beall, & Maibach, 2018).
- Using humor to explain climate change is an effective means of engaging young people. Young people who saw a funny video about climate change were more likely to make plans to take part in activism than those who saw a neutral video. Notably, those who saw an ominous video about climate change were just as likely to take action as those who saw a funny video (Skurka, Niederdeppe, Romero-Canyas, & Acup, 2018).
- Two in three environmental journalists cite a lack of time for field research as a major obstacle to reporting on climate change. Roughly half cite a lack of time or space in their news outlet as an obstacle, while a little less than half cite a lack of training in climate science. Three in four environmental journalists trust government agencies for information about climate change less since President Donald Trump took office. While the overwhelming majority of environmental journalists agree the humans are causing climate change, around three in 10 say quote climate doubters in their reporting to maintain credibility with their audience (Maibach et al., 2018).
- On Twitter, fake news—including fakes news about science—travels farther and faster than real news (Vosoughi, Roy, & Aral, 2018).
- More than two in three voters in Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania support a statewide goal of generating 100 percent of electricity from clean energy by 2030 (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, 2018).
- Seven in 10 Utah residents believe their local air quality has worsened over the last 20 years. Most are worried about air pollution (Howe, Givens, & Coppock, 2018).
- Eight in 10 Oklahoma voters want to build more wind power in the state (SoonerPoll, 2018).
Want to stay up to date on all the latest climate change communication research? Sign up for our newsletter.