Scientific coverage of climate change can change minds — in a nutshell

Climate change

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A new study suggests that scientific reporting on climate change is leading Americans to adopt more accurate beliefs and support government action on the issue, but those gains are fragile.

Researchers have found that these subtle beliefs quickly fade and can be eroded when people are exposed to skeptical coverage of climate change.

Thomas Wood, assistant professor of politics, said: Sciences at The Ohio State University.

“But even factually accurate scientific reports fall back from people’s frame of reference very quickly.”

The study will be published on June 24, 2022 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Wood conducted the study with Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College and Ethan Porter of The George Washington University.

The results showed that rigorous scientific reporting didn’t just convince Democrats—Republicans and people who initially rejected human-caused climate change also changed their minds by reading accurate articles.

The study included 2,898 online participants who took part in four waves of the trial during the fall of 2020.

In the first wave, they all read original articles in . format popular media which provided information that reflects the scientific consensus on climate change.

In the second and third waves of the experiment, they either read another science article, an opinion piece they were skeptical about. climatologyan article discussing the partisan debate on climate change, or an article on an unrelated topic.

In the fourth wave, participants were simply asked about their beliefs about the science of climate change and their political positions.

To evaluate the participants scientific understandingAfter each wave, the researchers asked if they (correctly) believed climate change was happening and had a human cause. To measure their attitudes, researchers asked participants whether and if they would prefer government action on climate change Renewable energy.

Wood said it’s important that accurate reporting has positive effects on all groups, including Republicans and those who originally rejected climate change. But it was even more encouraging that it affected attitudes.

“Scientific reports not only changed people’s understanding of facts, but also conveyed their political preferences,” he said.

“Making them believe that climate change was an urgent government concern that the government should do more about.”

But the results showed that the positive effects on people’s beliefs were short-lived. These effects largely disappeared in subsequent waves of study.

In addition, opinion stories that were skeptical scientific consensus on climate change reversing the accuracy gains from scientific coverage.

Articles depicting party conflict have no measurable effects on people’s beliefs and attitudes.

Overall, the findings suggest that the media plays a major role in Americans’ beliefs and attitudes about scientific issues such as climate change.

“It was surprising to us how well the subjects in our study fit what they read about climate change in our study. But what they learned faded pretty quickly,” Wood said.

The results of the study contradict the imperative of the media only on what is new.

“What we found suggests that people need to hear the same exact messages about them Climate change again and again. “If they only hear it once, it backs off really fast,” Wood said.

“The news media is not designed to work that way.”

Explaining the scientific consensus may help convince the naysayers

more information:
Time content and skeptical opinion undermine the effects of scientific coverage on climatic beliefs and attitudes, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2122069119.

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Ohio State University

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