It might be a tried and true way to start this piece with the effects of climate change, but it’s essential nonetheless. This time there are no happy fountains in the heat wave, but the sprinklers have stopped due to severe drought. It’s Italy sighing for water shortages. In some places, not a drop from the tap overnight, crops failing, cows craving moisture: the problems are so serious that a state of emergency has been declared in several regions.
Obviously to experts. Here’s what a warmer atmosphere means: often harsher weather. But does this also apply to citizens? Do they make this contact? Surprisingly little can be extracted from the research that has just been published in six European countries. Researchers at a research center at King’s College London fired a test question on 12,000 people in Britain, Poland, Norway, Germany, Ireland and Italy. The question was what percentage of climate scientists determined that the climate is changing due to human causes. This results in a startling underestimation of agreement in science. Only 68 percent, is the average score. In fact, it is 99.2%.
The scores do not differ much from country to country. The statement of true and false shows a clear difference. True or False: Climate change is largely caused by human activities. Of the Norwegians, who are blessed with coolness and plenty of forest, only 61 percent answered “correct.” Nearly a quarter say explicitly “wrong”. Italians scored the highest here, with 82 percent stating this to be true. Therefore, one’s own experience, in which one personally suffers from the consequences of heating, is important. The study was conducted at the beginning of this year, but for Italians it is not the first time they have experienced high temperatures, rain or drought.
Too far from the bed
Another question confirms the relationship between feeling and thinking. When do you think your country will be affected by climate change? Norwegians are the least concerned: one in four already see consequences, and more than a quarter doubt it won’t happen until the next century or ever. Again, Italians see this completely differently. More than half believe this is already the case, nearly 90 percent at least in the coming decades.
Beliefs seem quite stubborn. People are more likely to be convinced if their feet literally get wet or feel too hot. The study shows that Norwegians may also hear in the news about the impact of climate change already, but it does not reach them fully. Too far from the bed.
Professor Bobby Duffy of the King’s College think tank says the results of this large-scale study are cause for concern. Because of this limited opinion, support for emissions control measures is less robust than it could be. According to Duffy, the critical misunderstanding of the scientific consensus about climate also shows that providing factually correct information about warming is very important. “The results show how careful we have to be about giving credibility and airtime to very marginal voices against climate science.”
Correct information does not adhere
A recent American study confirms this. It shows how quickly those climate-denying voices get people. Researchers from Ohio State University, among others, subjected nearly 3,000 people to a media experiment. The good news: scientifically correct information about the climate gets into people’s minds, including skeptics. This surprised the researchers. But it’s less exciting: it doesn’t stick, especially if it’s accompanied by climate-skeptical voices.
According to researcher Thomas Wood, climate education appears to be very important. It seems that people need to hear the subtle messages about climate over and over again. If it only happens once, it fades away very quickly.”
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