Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Climate change--what influences public opinion?

Has the recent "hot spell" in the middle of our usual snowy Minnesota Spring made you think about climate change? I was reading a recent article in Science Scope (March 2012)about how much public concern about climate change has varied over the years. For instance, in 2004, 26% of the public said they were "worried a great deal". By 2007, that figure had risen to 41%. But in 2010, it had dropped to 28%. Why?
A study was done to examine five factors which might influence U.S. public concern about climate change. These factors were: extreme weather conditions/events, public access to accurate scientific information, media coverage, advocacy groups, and economic factors. The study found that media coverage does exert an important influence, but it in itself is largely a function of advocacy group cues and economic factors. Weather extremely (like the one we're having in Minnesota!) have no effect on public opinion, and providing accurate scientific information to the public on climate change has minimal effect. The political mobilization by advocacy groups (like Sierra Club) seems to have the most influence overall.
All of this reminded me of how critical it is to make sure you are getting information from a reliable source. Just like the sixth graders in Mrs. Penrod's class were discovering, not everything on the internet is reliable or true!


  1. This is perhaps the most important conversation of our generation. I think the media has been blinded by their corporate interest in this matter and organizations that try desparately to get the message about globalarming to the public are marginalized by naysayers with ties to the fossil fuel industry. Unfortunately, its ever more difficult in the United States to promote scientific research as significantly important to huamn exhistance. I hope this research in Nova Scotia along with other important studies find a public forum.

  2. This issue is perhaps the most important one of our generation. I'm afraid public opinion will not change without castarophe at hand. Humans have become too lazy and fat to attend to the dynamics of an ecosystem the size of a planet. At the same time naysayers continue to condescend to the American public who cannot see "the forest for the trees". I sincerely hope your research along with countless other studies will find a place in a public forum.