Americans rarely talk about climate change with family and friends. Tragically, research shows that this climate silence reinforces the dangerously wrong belief that climate change isn’t an existential threat requiring urgent action. But a major new study led by Yale researchers finds that just discussing the issue with friends and family leads them to learn more facts about the climate crisis, which in turn leads to greater understanding and concern about the issue. The study, titled “Discussing global warming leads to greater acceptance of climate science” was published Aug 2019 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
A 2018 study peer-reviewed study in journal Nature Climate Change points out, “only 11 percent of the US public correctly estimate the scientific consensus on climate change as higher than 90 percent.” So what happens when you inform people about the actual consensus on climate science? Researchers in the Nature study did a survey experiment with 6,300 Americans and found “Exposing the survey respondents to the message about the scientific consensus increases their perception of the scientific norm by 16.2 percentage points on a 100-point scale” (when asked the question later).
It is “massively important” we all start talking about climate change, a Yale researcher explains.
JOE ROMM JUL 11, 2019, 8:00 AM
Climatologist Michael Mann said that this study “casts doubt on claims in some quarters that the climate change issue has become too ideologically-driven for facts to matter.”
“[It] confirms what might seem common sense,” Mann wrote in an email to ThinkProgress. “The more people actually understand about the science of climate change, the more they are likely to accept the scientific consensus — that climate change is real, human-caused, and a threat to human civilization.”Here’s what happens when you tell people the scientific consensus on climate change
“Meaningful discussions and dialogue is how humans learn,” environmental sociologist Robert Brulle told ThinkProgress over email. “This study clearly shows that non-polarized discussions within a trusted social network can lead to increased understanding and acceptance of climate science.”
Brulle, who has authored numerous studies on climate communications, added, “Engaging in, rather than avoiding, climate change discussions is something that we should all be doing.”
Yet, most Americans “rarely” or “never” talk about climate change with family and friends, according to the latest research from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
This climate silence leads the public to underestimate how many other Americans realize climate change is happening. They “underestimate the social consensus on global warming,” as the Yale researchers explained. Remarkably, the Yale survey found that the public estimates that just 54% of other Americans realize climate change is happening, but in reality, 69% do.
At the same time, a 2018 study found that “only 11 percent of the U.S. public correctly estimate the scientific consensus on climate change as higher than 90 percent.” It also found that telling people how big the actual consensus is “increases their perception of the scientific norm by 16.2 percentage points on a 100-point scale.”
Inspired by the fact that increased awareness increases acceptance, the authors of the PNAS study decided to find out what would happen if they tracked over time “changes in perceptions of scientific consensus as a result of discussion with family and friends.”
They also tracked how perceptions of the consensus affect climate change discussions as well as how discussions indirectly affect people’s understanding of, and concern about, climate change.
The study concluded that “increased perceptions of scientific agreement led to increases in discussions about climate change.” This suggests that “climate conversations can initiate a positively reinforcing cycle between learning, worry, and further conversation.”
In other words, talking about the climate crisis to family and friends motivates them to learn about the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is happening and humans are the cause — along with other key facts. Increased understanding of the consensus in turns leads to an increase in understanding and concern about the climate.
The study’s lead author, Yale social psychologist Matthew Goldberg, told The Los Angeles Times Monday that talking more about climate change is “massively important, particularly because we are not doing it enough.”A new brain study shows a better way to engage voters on climate change
There are a variety of ways to communicate the consensus message to friends and family. The simplest version is to state that 97% of climate scientists understand that humans are causing climate change.
A more specific version: The overwhelming majority of climate scientists — 97% — understand that humans are the primary cause of global warming since 1950.
And a good analogy? We are as certain that humans are responsible for recent climate change as we are that cigarettes are dangerous to your health.
However you say it, experts agree: It’s vital everyone talk about climate change with as many of their friends and family as possible.
Here’s what happens when you tell people the scientific consensus on climate change
You can turn red states green
JOE ROMM APR 18, 2018, 1:13 PM
The overwhelming majority of climate scientists — 97 percent — understand that humans are the primary cause of climate change.
Yet, as a new peer-reviewed study in journal Nature Climate Change points out, “only 11 percent of the US public correctly estimate the scientific consensus on climate change as higher than 90 percent.” So what happens when you inform people about the actual consensus on climate science? Researchers in the Nature study did a survey experiment with 6,300 Americans and found “Exposing the survey respondents to the message about the scientific consensus increases their perception of the scientific norm by 16.2 percentage points on a 100-point scale” (when asked the question later).
In other words, a person’s understanding about what scientists know about climate change goes up after they are told just how many scientists agree it’s human caused.
But the researchers were surprised to find that the change in perception varied significantly by state, which is not an effect most studies examine. Indeed, the changes were generally “highest in more conservative parts of the country, leading to national convergence in perceptions of the climate science consensus across diverse political geographies” (see chart)
In short, the message about the scientific consensus works in all states. But it has the biggest impact in the states that had the most misinformation about the overwhelming level of consensus (and the smallest impact in the most liberal states).
Back in March, a major Gallup survey on global warming found that only 42 percent of Republicans “say most scientists believe global warming is occurring,” whereas 86 percent of Democrats understand that.
So, messaging on the scientific consensus can reduce partisan polarization on the climate issue. Also, social science research has shown that when people are informed about the reality of the overwhelming consensus they become more inclined to want to take action.
A 2016 study by the authors of seven different consensus studies found that while the consensus varies slightly depending on which experts are surveyed, “most of our studies [found] 97 percent consensus among publishing climate scientists,” as lead author John Cook of Skeptical Science explained.
Also, “The greater the climate expertise among those surveyed, the higher the consensus on human-caused global warming.”
There are a variety of ways to communicate the consensus message. The simplest version: 97 percent of climate scientists understand that humans are causing climate change.
A more specific version: The overwhelming majority of climate scientists — 97 percent — understand that humans are the primary cause of global warming since 1950.
Finally, a good analogy to use would be: We are as certain that humans are responsible for recent climate change as we are that cigarettes are dangerous to your health.
A new brain study shows a better way to engage voters on climate change
Neuroscience startup studies emotional intensity of response to different terms.
JOE ROMMMAY 3, 2019, 8:00 AM
The phrase “climate crisis” engages voters emotionally better than either “climate change” or “global warming.”
That’s the new finding from the brain science startup SPARK Neuro, which used an electroencephalogram (EEG) and other bio-measurements to examine how 120 Democrats, Republicans, and independents responded to different terms for the growing threat we face from rising levels of carbon pollution.
According to the study, “climate crisis” got a 60% higher emotional response from Democrats than “climate change.” It triggered triple the response from Republicans.
It’s no surprise that different words have different emotional impacts in the climate debate. Way back in 2002, Republican messaging expert Frank Luntz wrote an infamous 2002 memo to conservatives and the George W. Bush White House with a variety of tested scripts — messages Republicans still use today in an effort to convey they care about the climate.
Luntz urged Republicans to use the phrase “climate change,” arguing that it is “less frightening” than “global warming.” He quoted one focus group participant saying climate change “sounds like you’re going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale.”
But nearly three decades later, the state-of-the-art tools for measuring the emotional impact of different words has gone far beyond focus groups and polls.
SPARK Neuro uses a proprietary algorithm to integrate four biometric measurements: An EEG that “collects brain activity to quantify attention and emotion,” skin sweat response (also used in lie detectors), micro-facial expressions that indicate specific emotions, and eye tracking to help measure engagement.
In the test, subjects heard audio recordings of a variety of phrases. Climate change and global warming had the least emotional impact and engagement, whereas “climate crisis” and “environmental destruction” had the most (see chart).
Interestingly, the chart above shows Luntz was right: Global warming elicits a stronger emotional response than climate change — especially among independents and Republicans.
But other terms garner an even more powerful reaction. “Environmental destruction” generated the most intense response among Republicans, but had a relatively poor response from independents. For SPARK Neuro, that extreme response “raised a red flag in comparison with terms like ‘climate crisis,’ which performed well across all three political affiliations.”
As a result, SPARK Neuro recommends “climate crisis” as the phrase to use to hit the “sweet spot” that could help “engage unconvinced voters.”
What helps make “climate crisis” a winning phrase is in part the fact that it uses multiple figures of speech, including alliteration (both start with a hard “c”) and assonance (the vowel sounds rhyme). Research by social scientists and Madison Avenue has long shown that these types of figures of speech are important to being memorable and persuasive. One major study of print ads found that three-fourths of ad headlines use figures of speech, with alliteration and assonance being among the most popular.Scientists say Ocasio-Cortez’s dire climate warning is spot on
Finally, from a scientific perspective, “climate crisis” is certainly accurate. Last October, the nations of the world unanimously approved a landmark report from scientists warning that we must make sharp reductions in global carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 to have any plausible chance of averting catastrophic climate change.
We have a decade to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions or we face decades, if not centuries, of ever worsening climate impacts. That is the very definition of a crisis.
A staggering 61% of the world’s new oil and gas production over the next decade is set to come from one country alone: the United States.
The sheer scale of this new production dwarfs that of every other country in the world and would spell disaster for the world’s ambitions to curb climate change – the effects of which we’re already witnessing through massive heat waves, flooding, and extreme weather.
Earlier this year, we crunched the numbers from the latest climate science and industry forecasts and found that we can’t afford to drill up any oil and gas from new fields anywhere in the world if we’re to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
In our analysis, we assumed that existing oil and gas fields are going to keep on pumping for as long as they can. That means that the decisions about new projects will shape the future for the oil and gas industry and our climate.
And when it comes to these new oil and gas fields, production from the US is set to eclipse the rest of the world.
Production from new fields in the US is set to be eight times that of the next largest producing country – Canada. New US production is forecast to be 20 times that of Russia and more than 1.5 times the total of all other countries combined.
Output is set to be so vast that if US states were treated as countries, Texas is forecast to be the biggest producer of new oil and gas in its own right, with production nearly four times that of Canada.
Seven out of the top 10 biggest oil and gas producers would be US states, with only Canada, Brazil and Russia making it onto the list. Pennsylvania is set to be the third largest producer of new oil and gas, producing more than double that of Russia.
If things don’t change, by the end of the next decade, new oil and gas fields in the US will produce more than twice what Saudi Arabia produces today.
The future of our changing climate and its increasingly devastating impacts across the globe will be shaped by future oil and gas production. And if the future of oil and gas production is decided by what happens in new fields, then it will be determined by what happens in the US in the next decade.
More Oil And Gas Is A Big Problem
To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, our analysis shows that global oil and gas production needs to drop by 40% over the next decade. Yet, instead of declining, US oil and gas output is set to rise by 25% over this time, fueled by expansion in new fields.
By now, it should go without saying that burning more fossil fuels is a disaster for the world’s climate. Each extra barrel of oil that comes out of the ground becomes more planet-warming CO2 going into the atmosphere.
The recent National Climate Assessment starkly laid out the risks the US faces from climate change. These include more extreme temperatures, rainfall, high tides, coastal flooding and forest fires, as well as worsening air quality, all threatening the health and wellbeing of the American people. These risks are highest for those that are already vulnerable, including low-income communities, some communities of color, children, and the elderly. The financial costs are staggering too, under a high emissions scenario where the world fails to mitigate climate change costs to the US economy could exceed $500 billion a year by 2090.
In addition to these harmful impacts and costs in the US, impoverished countries will continue to be hit the hardest by climate change and are at a disadvantage when it comes to managing these impacts.
So if all this new oil and gas production goes ahead in the US, it would drown the world in oil and gas – slowing down the shift from fossil fuels to renewables and releasing vast amounts of planet-heating greenhouse gases.
The US’s Next President Needs To Have A Plan
Climate change is set to become one of the biggest issues in the 2020 US presidential election, and is already a key issue in the race for the Democratic nomination. Almost all Democratic candidates have already emphasized the need to stop this unsustainable growth in US oil and gas production, committing to a moratorium on new fossil fuel extraction on federal lands. With about a quarter of US oil production taking place on federal lands, this is significant.
With respect to the other three quarters of US oil and gas production that takes place on privately owned land, the next president should look to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Official estimates for such subsidies range from $4.6 billion to a staggering $649 billion a year.
A recent study found that based on recent low oil prices, up to half of new US oil fields rely on government subsidies to be economically viable. This means that without these subsidies, those projects wouldn’t proceed. For the projects that are viable without subsidies, the money will go into the pockets of the oil and gas companies, giving them more money to invest in more new projects or simply boost corporate profits.
According to Greenpeace’s tracker of the Democratic presidential candidates, almost all are now on the record in favor of ending fossil fuel subsidies.
Scrapping these subsidies can also free up huge sums of money to ensure a fair deal for workers and communities that are currently reliant on polluting high carbon industries, through what is known as a just transition.
To ensure these policies become a reality, whoever wins the election will need to be free of the fossil fuel industry’s huge political influence over their administration. That’s why campaigners have now pushed 21 of the Democratic candidates to sign the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, rejecting the financial support of the fossil fuel industry for their campaign.
Time For A Proper Debate
Climate change isn’t a single issue topic; how governments act to curb climate change will touch almost every aspect of the economy and society overall. The climate crisis deserves dedicated space for the Democratic candidates to fully explain their plans and debate them with one another, as well as to be tested on their public commitments.
Here are the top questions we’d like to see the candidates answer in a dedicated climate debate:
- What action do you intend to take to curb oil and gas production from public lands and waters?
- Will you end government subsidies for oil and gas production? How will you ensure the money saved benefits the communities affected?
- Will you commit to not approving new oil and gas pipelines, export terminals and other infrastructure?
- How will you ensure your appointees to key agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior serve the public interest and not the fossil fuel lobby?
The American people deserve to know what these candidates’ plans are and where their priorities lie.
This week, the DNC will vote on whether or not to host a dedicated climate debate – we believe it’s vital they do.
The next US president needs to have a credible plan for tackling climate change. And any credible plan to tackle climate change has to prevent the US from drowning the world in oil.