Thursday, December 3, 2015

Climate change: Fear and unfounded allegations work fine at promoting denial

The oceans are clearly warming. 

The sea level is rising. 

The seas are acidifying. 

Corals are bleaching. 

Low islands are awash with seawater.

In Hawai`i, rainfall is diminishing and our coastlines are eroding.

You’d think we could get our heads around this problem of climate change. 

But while world leaders work on defending the globe against climate change in Paris this week, a new study from the Michigan State University says the deniers are winning the war. Here’s a story on that

The Michigan State folks conducted a study that gave a large group of people positive messages about resolving climate change, and negative messages about denying it exists.

The negative messages resonated. The positive ones didn’t.

The paper, entitled “Examining the Effectiveness of Climate Change Frames in the Face of a Climate Change Denial Counter-Frame,” was printed in the journal Topics in Cognitive Science. Find the abstract here

The authors developed a series of messages on doing something about anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change, using four approaches for why it’s important: economic opportunity, national security, Christian stewardship, and public health.

Resopondents getting those messages were told that, "Medical experts argue that dealing with climate change will improve our public health by reducing the likelihood of extreme weather events, reducing air quality and allergen problems, and limiting the spread of pests that carry infectious diseases."

The other half of the 1,600 participants got a negative message along these lines: "However, most conservative leaders and Republican politicians believe that so-called climate change is vastly exaggerated by environmentalists, liberal scientists seeking government funding for their research and Democratic politicians who want to regulate business." 

The researchers found that the positive messages didn’t change anybody’s mind, and the negative message significantly weakened support for climate action.

People getting the negative message were more apt to doubt the existence of climate change. And that applied to both conservatives and liberals.

“That's the power of the denial message. It's extremely difficult to change people's minds on climate change, in part because they are entrenched in their views." said lead author Aaron McCright, associate professor in MSU's Lyman Briggs College and Department of Sociology.

This, of course, confirms the sad news that lots of industries already know. Like politics: negative campaigning may be repugnant, but it often works. 

Fear and allegations of conspiracies are powerful tools—if you can use them and still sleep at night.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2015


MAtt said...

Agree, you'd think that by now we'd all agree it's a real problem and work towards a solution.

Matt @

Anonymous said...

Fear and unfounded allegations:
"Boiling seas of acid rising all around us."