How Can Scientists Convince People About Global Warming?
Jun 08 2016 Read 3321 Times
As far back as 2009, then climate change secretary Ed Miliband branded climate change deniers "profoundly irresponsible". Though we might have expected to have moved on in the intervening seven years, a new study has shown that many people around the globe are still not prioritising the imminent threat of global warming as highly as they should.
The study, conducted by social scientist Jing Shi, asked 2,495 people from six countries around the world about specific facets of climate change, how it came about, what its consequences would be and how important it was to address the problem, among other questions. The results were disappointing, to say the least.
Climate Change Denial Still Rife
In the wake of the Paris COP21 summit talks, the time for affirmative action to save our planet is now. However, bringing about such action could prove to be troublesome if a significant proportion of the Earth’s populace refuses to acknowledge that an issue exists or that it is a high priority.
Jing Shi’s study corroborated what many may have predicted – that respondents from the USA knew the least and cared the littlest about global warming, its consequences and taking steps to counteract it. Alarmingly, the UK was the second least well-informed, with Canadians, Germans and Swiss all more in tune with the implications of a rising global temperature, our role in its occurrence and the necessity for immediate action.
However, the Chinese were the clear frontrunners in terms of climate change awareness and willingness to address it. That might seem nonsensical since the Asian superpower remains as one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases (GhGs), but it should be noted that air pollution in China today is a hot political topic and the government are pouring significant funds and resources into reducing their emissions and educating the public about the importance of doing so.
The American ignorance on the topic was expanded upon further in another study by Yale and George Mason universities, which found that conservative Republicans were the most ignorant about and unreceptive to the importance of climate change.
What Can Be Done to Persuade the Doubters?
Social scientists have pinpointed a number of key pieces of information that is necessary to convey to sceptics before they will grasp the reality and the importance of climate change. These are:
- Strength of expert opinion. Currently, a staggering amount of people are unaware of just how high the expert consensus is that global warming is a manmade phenomenon, which sits between 90% and 100%. In America, for example, only 16% of the populace (and 4% of Republicans!) are aware that the consensus is so high).
- Humans are the cause. Understanding how many experts agree that humans are to blame will help people grasp the truth of the matter, and once they become aware of this fact, they’re more likely to desire affirmative action.
- The process of global warming, as caused by GhGs. If people are able to fully comprehend the science behind global warming, they’re more susceptible to the view that humans are the cause of it – thus making them more open to addressing the issue immediately.
So fundamentally, the key to convincing sceptics that global warming is a pressing concern in need of our immediate attention is to demonstrate how we as a species are responsible for it happening. If you are a doubter yourself and are still unconvinced by the studies above, why not take this free online course to educate yourself? You might just learn something.
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