Scientists are such bad communicators, which is why the majority of the public doesn’t believe in climate change despite scientific consensus.
Well, Zoe Leviston of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and other researchers offer at least some relief. In work published recently in Nature Climate Change, Leviston and her coauthors report evidence of a strong “false consensus effect” around climate change belief in Australia.
Essentially, people who believed that climate change was “not happening” grossly overestimated how prevalent that same opinion was in society, whereas those who did believe in climate change (the vast majority) underestimated how common their views were.
Just 7.2% of the roughly 10,000 people surveyed rejected the occurrence of climate change, but on average, these same people believed that over 42% of the population held the same view as them.
The explanation for belief in the commonness of climate rejection predictably includes media bias in coverage of community attitudes. Believing in climate change certainly doesn’t imply that someone would choose action if it requires making trade-offs, but it’ s certainly a better base to work from then denial.
If this study suggests our communication around climate change might not be as bad as we think, it also highlights a key piece of communication we’re missing – that most people are in our camp!
Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.