Research Roundup for April, 2018

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

  • Almost half of Americans are certain the climate is changing, the highest level since 2008. Almost six in 10 believe humans are to blame, the highest level on record. (Leiserowit et al., 2017).
  • Only one in four Americans are concerned about the availability and affordability of energy, the lowest proportion in 18 years. Relatedly, around six in 10 Americans believe the United States should prioritize environmental protection over energy production, the highest proportion in 18 years. By a three to one ratio, Americans are more interested in developing renewable energy than in developing coal, oil and gas (Pew Research, 2018).
  • African-Americans and Latinos are considerably more concerned about climate change than white Americans. They are also more likely to say they are personally affected by the issue (EcoAmerica, 2018).
  • Since the beginning of 2016, one in five Americans have shown up to a political protest, rally or speech. More Americans have protested in support of environmental protections than have protested on nearly any other issue (Washington Post & Kaiser Family Foundation, 2018).
  • When temperatures spike, people tend to feel more concerned about climate change, but the effect is small. Future warming may lead the public to worry more, but probably not enough to produce any kind of consensus on climate change (Bergquist & Warshaw, 2018).
  • Some 97 percent of climate scientists agree that humans are warming the planet. After being told this fact, residents of conservative states were just as likely as their counterparts in liberal states to acknowledge that scientists broadly agree about climate change. This message had the biggest impact on residents of states that are heavily invested in fossil fuels (Zhang et al., 2018).
  • Science publications and their associated Facebook pages tend to focus on health, food, animals, engineering and astronomy more than energy or the environment (Pew Research, 2018).
  • Presenting climate change as a matter of public health—as opposed to a matter of economics, national security or the environment—in online news articles can drive traffic among Democrats and, to a lesser extent, independents. Republicans are uninterested in news about climate change regardless of how it's presented (Feldman & Hart, 2018).
  • Australian voters tend to adopt the policy positions espoused by the leaders of their party. When leaders of their party and a rival party agree on particular policy, voters tend to support that policy (Kousser & Tranter 2018).
  • A study of U.S. media coverage of climate change from 1980 to 2014 found that Democratic elites speak about climate change more consistently and in more certain terms than Republican elites. Researchers suggest the abundance of Democrats pushing for climate policy may have spurred Republican voters to reject climate science (Merkley & Stecula, 2018).
  • Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that humans are driving climate change. Americans of every political stripe are more convinced of this fact when they hear it from Republican leaders than when they hear it from either Democratic leaders or scientists (Benegal & Scruggs, 2018).
  • Paradoxically, Americans who worry about climate change are less likely to take public transit or buy green products than Americans who dismiss climate change (Hall, Lewis, & Ellsworth, 2018).


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