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Earth Education Science Politics

Scientific Literacy vs. Concern Over Climate Change 545

Posted by Soulskill
from the apparently-knowing-is-not-actually-half-the-battle dept.
New submitter gmfeier writes "An interesting study reported in Nature Climate Change indicates that concern over climate change did not correlate with scientific literacy nearly as much as with cultural polarization. Quoting: 'For ordinary citizens, the reward for acquiring greater scientific knowledge and more reliable technical-reasoning capacities is a greater facility to discover and use—or explain away—evidence relating to their groups’ positions. Even if cultural cognition serves the personal interests of individuals, this form of reasoning can have a highly negative impact on collective decision making. What guides individual risk perception, on this account, is not the truth of those beliefs but rather their congruence with individuals’ cultural commitments. As a result, if beliefs about a societal risk such as climate change come to bear meanings congenial to some cultural outlooks but hostile to others, individuals motivated to adopt culturally congruent risk perceptions will fail to converge, or at least fail to converge as rapidly as they should, on scientific information essential to their common interests in health and prosperity. Although it is effectively costless for any individual to form a perception of climate-change risk that is wrong but culturally congenial, it is very harmful to collective welfare for individuals in aggregate to form beliefs this way.'"
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Scientific Literacy vs. Concern Over Climate Change

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:15PM (#40146563)

    I'm pretty well educated, and all that jargon gave even me a fucking headache. Here is a much better summary, FTFA:

    A US government-funded survey has found that Americans with higher levels of scientific and mathematical knowledge are more sceptical regarding the dangers of climate change than their more poorly educated fellow citizens. . . .

    According to the [authors], this is not because the idea of imminent carbon-driven catastrophe is perhaps a bit scientifically suspect. Rather it is because people classed as "egalitarian communitarians" (roughly speaking, left-wingers) are always highly concerned about climate change, and become slightly more so as they acquire more science and numeracy. Unfortunately, however, "hierarchical individualists" (basically, right-wingers) are quite concerned about climate change when they're ignorant: but if they have any scientific, mathematic or technical education this causes them to become strongly sceptical.

    And here's a news-flash for whoever wrote that summary: Terms like "Culturally congruent risk perception" have no obvious meaning for the general reader. Field-specific jargon is just annoying to everyone who doesn't happen to be in your field (i.e., almost everyone else on the planet).

    And could you say "culturally" a few more dozen times in your next summary? It really makes you sound smart, and not full of shit at all.

    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:18PM (#40146609) Journal

      Here's the translation: "People are more apt to be influenced by their peers than by science". This is not new; it has been known for decades. The best way to influence someone is to use those around them. This is why you see change.org petitions. The petitions themselves are crap, but if five of your friends send you a petition, you are more likely to think about the subject the same way as your friends.

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:31PM (#40146833) Homepage

        Well, the translation of the TFA (as opposed to the bizzarro summary) is that climate models are very difficult to parse and so it's easier to talk about pretty much anything else. Even the culturally congruent lefties don't use modeling much.

        Doesn't surprise me. I'm a biologist by training, grew up in the era of quantitative biology and still find the reporting on the models pretty much useless. I don't really have a good feel for exactly how good the models are, how fast they change, what their strong points are, what their weak points are.

        I could spend the time to read the literature, except that I really can't. That would involve hundreds of hours of skull sweat that frankly I don't have even if I do have the background to assimilate it. And most people don't have that background.

        So, for the vast majority of humans, it does boil down to a leap of faith. I have more faith in dedicated scientists from multiple disciplines and localities working with inadequate, but nonetheless rather powerful, tools and concepts than in governmental / religious / financial institutions with a really narrow financial / social viewpoint.

        But that's just me.

        • by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @04:53PM (#40148111) Journal

          I wouldn't read too much into this study.
          http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/extref/nclimate1547-s1.pdf [nature.com]

          EARTHOT
          The center of the Earth is very hot [true/false]. 86%
          HUMANRADIO
          All radioactivity is man-made [true/false]. 84%
          LASERS
          Lasers work by focusing sound waves [true/false]. 68%
          ELECATOM
          Electrons are smaller than atoms [true/false]. 62%
          COPERNICUS1
          Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth? 72%
          COPERNICUS2
          How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun? [one day, one month, one year] 45%
          DADGENDER
          It is the father's gene that decides whether the baby is a boy or a girl [true/false]. 69%
          ANTIBIOTICS
          Antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria [true/false]. 68%

          None of these should be difficult if you've gotten through the first year of highschool

          • by TubeSteak (669689)

            The math questions

            EVENROLL.
            Imagine that we roll a fair, six-sided die 1,000 times. (That would mean that we roll one die from a pair of dice.) Out of 1,000 rolls, how many times do you think the die would come up as an even number? 58%
            PCTTOFREQUENCY1.
            In the BIG BUCKS LOTTERY, the chances of winning a $10.00 prize are 1%. What is your best guess about how many people would win a $10.00 prize if 1,000 people each buy a single ticket from BIG BUCKS? 60%
            FREQUENCYTOPCT1.
            In the ACME PUBLISHING SWEEPSTAKES, the chance of winning a car is 1 in 1,000. What percent of tickets of ACME PUBLISHING SWEEPSTAKES win a car? 28%
            COMPFREQUENCY.
            Which of the following numbers represents the biggest risk of getting a disease? 86%
            COMPPCT.
            Which of the following numbers represents the biggest risk of getting a disease? 88%
            DOUBLEPCT.
            If Person A's risk of getting a disease is 1% in ten years, and Person B's risk is double that of A's, what is B's risk? 64%
            DOUBLEFREQUENCY.
            If Person A's chance of getting a disease is 1 in 100 in ten years, and person B's risk is double that of A, what is B's risk? 21%
            PCTTOFREQUENCY2.
            If the chance of getting a disease is 10%, how many people would be expected to get the disease:
            A: Out of 100? 84%
            B: Out of 1000? 81%
            FREQUENCYTOPCT2.
            If the chance of getting a disease is 20 out of 100, this would be the same as having a __% chance of getting the disease. 72%
            VIRAL.
            The chance of getting a viral infection is .0005. Out of 10,000 people, about how many of them are expected to get infected? 48%
            BAYESIAN.
            Suppose you have a close friend who has a lump in her breast and must have a mammogram. Of 100 women like her, 10 of them actually have a malignant tumor and 90 of them do not. Of the 10 women who actually have a tumor, the mammogram indicates correctly that 9 of them have a tumor and indicates incorrectly that 1 of them does not have a tumor. Of the 90 women who do not have a tumor, the mammogram indicates correctly that 81 of them do not have a tumor and indicates incorrectly that 9 of them do have a tumor. The table below summarizes all of this information. Imagine that your friend tests positive (as if she had a tumor), what is the likelihood that she actually has a tumor? 3%
            SHANE1.
            A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? 12%
            SHANE2.
            In a lake, there is a patch of lilypads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake? 27%

            The pdf didn't give complete information for a few of the questions.

        • by riverat1 (1048260) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @04:56PM (#40148177)

          Here are a couple of FAQ's on the big General Circulation Models (aka Global Climate Models) from the guys who actually write them. They should give you a good idea about what they are all about.

          FAQ on Climate Models [realclimate.org]

          FAQ on Climate Models, Part II [realclimate.org]

      • by pr0t0 (216378) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:42PM (#40147003)

        I've always felt the argument to curb greenhouse gases has been ill-stated. While there are some who still deny global warming is happening, the primary debate between the left and right seems to distill down to whether it is man-made (left) or cyclical (right).

        It seems to me the better argument from the left would be: is polluting the air good for you or not? The answer is obviously, no, it's not good for you. So regardless of whether it causes global warming, we should always be striving for less pollutants and cleaner air in much the same way we strive for safer cars. I suppose the global warming aspect helps push the immediacy of the need for change vs. the cost of that change, but so much time, effort, and money has been wasted on both sides arguing the merits of man-made global warming, I wonder if this was the most effective road to go down.

        No one is ever going to say how much it would suck if the air near factories or major metropolitan areas smelled as clean and fresh as the air in rural Vermont.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by itsybitsy (149808) *

          "is polluting the air good for you or not? The answer is obviously, no,"

          Open a biology text book once in a while, you'll find that CO2 is not a pollutant, it is an essential nutrient for plant life.

          • Open a biology text book once in a while, you'll find that CO2 is not a pollutant, it is an essential nutrient for plant life.

            By that logic, oxygen isn't a pollutant either. So, maybe you should breathe 100% oxygen for the rest of your life.

            • by slo (673297) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @04:28PM (#40147765)
              Or put those claiming it isn't a pollutant in a 10% CO2 atmosphere for 1/2 hour.
              • "Or put those claiming it isn't a pollutant in a 10% CO2 atmosphere for 1/2 hour."

                In order to increase O2 concentration by the same amount, you would have to have an atmosphere that was many, many times greater than 100% oxygen.

                And 100% oxygen will kill you pretty damned quick, too. So your argument is nonsense.

          • by microbox (704317) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @08:28PM (#40150555)

            Open a biology text book once in a while, you'll find that CO2 is not a pollutant, it is an essential nutrient for plant life.

            I cannot believe how pathetic this argument is. Can you have too much of a good thing? Let's see:

            • Too much heat and things die. Too little and they die.
            • Too much oxygen and things spontaneously combust. Too little and aerobic respiration cannot occur
            • Too much salt and cells explode. Too little and they implode.
            • Too much or too little CO2 and according to you nothing happens, because CO2 is not a pollutant

            This is kindergarten stuff.

      • by Artraze (600366) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @04:03PM (#40147299)

        That's not what this says at all. Really this has very little to do with influence and everything to do with perspective and values. Basically the results were:

        Both populations are concerned when ignorant (leftists somewhat more so), but when more knowledge is obtained the leftists become slightly more concerned, while the rightists become significantly less so.

        So unless you're arguing that somehow acquiring more knowledge also acquires and different social influence with an effect larger than that of the knowledge, and one that varies with the individual's left/right perspective, your hypothesis is not only baseless, but actually _debunked_ by this data. Between the left/right groups we see _opposite_ effects for the addition of knowledge: concern increases with knowledge for the leftists and decreases for the rightists. Now, certainly you can make the argument that (as this study seems to be a simple correlation poll, rather than educating the ignorant and measuring change) social influence changes with knowledge. Still, it's a strong stretch to claim that that effect can account this disparity.

        What the results actually show is that right wing people and left wing people have different values. When they're ignorant of the facts, all they can go on is the mass media messages of "Oh noes, GW will ${bad things}", and having no real data simply default to "${bad things} = bad so GW is bad" logic. When educated as to the actually process, the risks and costs involved, they can actually evaluate the concerns of global warming against their own values. Given the general psychology of lefts/rights, I find this data entirely unsurprising (with the slight exception of the ignorant rights being "quite concerned" when I'd have expected "somewhat" or "rather").

        One other thing that one could take away from this (and perhaps should, and it's the real value here), is that the hype/emergency surrounding global warming isn't _science_ but rather _opinion_. Yes, the data is the data, and there is warming. But the costs? The sacrifices that should be made to prevent it? Opinion. And that people should stop pushing the 'OMG GW' / 'OMG denier' and instead have rational conversations about the real risks and the real costs and what action is actually reasonable.

        • by Artraze (600366) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @04:23PM (#40147667)

          On that final point I will add the following quote from the paper (via the article):

          One aim of science communication, we submit, should be to dispel this tragedy ... A communication strategy that focuses only on transmission of sound scientific information, our results suggest, is unlikely to do that. As worthwhile as it would be, simply improving the clarity of scientific information will not dispel public conflict ...

          This is just amazing to me. They are literally saying that educating people about global warming will increase their skepticism, and therefore actually transmitting sound scientific information would be bad. So simply conveying accurate information and allowing people to reach their own conclusions would be bad because those aren't the conclusions you want them to draw. So you reevaluate the merits of your own conclusions, right?

          Nope!

          It does not follow, however, that nothing can be done ... Effective strategies include use of culturally diverse communicators, whose affinity with different communities enhances their credibility, and information-framing techniques that invest policy solutions with resonances congenial to diverse groups. Perfecting such techniques through a new science of science communication is a public good of singular importance.

          That's right, kids. Just communicating facts won't work, instead we need to use "information-framing techniques" delivered by "communicators" specifically chosen to "enhance their credibility" in order to convey these 'facts'. This will be a new science. And we shall call it...
          Propaganda.

          • This is just amazing to me. They are literally saying that educating people about global warming will increase their skepticism, and therefore actually transmitting sound scientific information would be bad.

            That's not how I read what they're saying. They aren't saying "bad". They're saying "if you give them ONLY the facts, it won't help." You then strawman that into "they want to stop giving us the facts and just give us propaganda".

            Persuasive writing is all about knowing your audience. If throwing pure

          • Have you met people?

            You really think that simply explaining things clearly works?

            As phony as the article sounds, it's still true that convincing people of things is very complex, and little of it is to do with the facts themselves, but in fitting them into the listener's worldview.  Which is psychology, and all this cultural mumbo jumbo in the article comes in.
          • by Xyrus (755017)

            On that final point I will add the following quote from the paper (via the article):

            One aim of science communication, we submit, should be to dispel this tragedy ... A communication strategy that focuses only on transmission of sound scientific information, our results suggest, is unlikely to do that. As worthwhile as it would be, simply improving the clarity of scientific information will not dispel public conflict ...

            This is just amazing to me. They are literally saying that educating people about global warming will increase their skepticism, and therefore actually transmitting sound scientific information would be bad. So simply conveying accurate information and allowing people to reach their own conclusions would be bad because those aren't the conclusions you want them to draw. So you reevaluate the merits of your own conclusions, right?

            Nope!

            Epic fail at reading comprehension. The statement says nothing of the sort. It says that conveying clear scientific information to the public, while a noble goal, does not affect those with preconceived notions. No amount of evidence, proof, etc. no matter how obvious or clearly stated will have an impact. This isn't anything new or noteworthy, and it regularly comes up on slashdot (young earther's, creationistas, etc.).

            Also, the majority of people are not really qualified to draw conclusions from complex s

            • by Artraze (600366)

              Epic fail at reading comprehension. The statement says nothing of the sort. It says that conveying clear scientific information to the public, while a noble goal, does not affect those with preconceived notions. No amount of evidence, proof, etc. no matter how obvious or clearly stated will have an impact. This isn't anything new or noteworthy, and it regularly comes up on slashdot (young earther's, creationistas, etc.).

              Your epic fail, and indeed the one I was pointing out in the paper*, is that it's not about "preconceived notions", but rather different outlooks and values. Which is to say, that someone can know all the facts and simply not care. You can say 'hey, if you go skydiving it's X% more likely you'll die', and I can say 'yep, but I'm okay with that'. It doesn't make me wrong. It's not "tragic". It's just my outlook.

              * I put this asterisk here because the paper nearly points this out. However, it fails (mayb

          • by microbox (704317) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @08:40PM (#40150641)

            Propaganda

            Well, scientists have been sidelined by a sustained multi-decade propaganda effort. Frank Luntz was the (modern) author of the war on climate science, but he comes at a long list of propagandists who have a well-oiled machine. (See Merchants of Doubt [merchantsofdoubt.org] for a jumping off point on a stupendous amount of evidence for this point.)

            The extensive social psychology research on belief and the transmission of information has been used by marketing and political institutions -- but not by scientists. Given the extra-ordinarily bizarre quality of the public discourse on the topic, scientists are finally warming to the idea of making use of science in science communication [skepticalscience.com].

            What the scientists are proposing is not really propaganda, but trying to find ways to transmit information that actually work. Frank Luntz and his cohort are going more for the Noble Lie, which /is/ really propaganda.

          • by Thugthrasher (935401) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @08:51AM (#40154091)

            On that final point I will add the following quote from the paper (via the article):

            One aim of science communication, we submit, should be to dispel this tragedy ... A communication strategy that focuses only on transmission of sound scientific information, our results suggest, is unlikely to do that. As worthwhile as it would be, simply improving the clarity of scientific information will not dispel public conflict ...

            This is just amazing to me. They are literally saying that educating people about global warming will increase their skepticism, and therefore actually transmitting sound scientific information would be bad. So simply conveying accurate information and allowing people to reach their own conclusions would be bad because those aren't the conclusions you want them to draw. So you reevaluate the merits of your own conclusions, right?

            Nope!

            Completely wrong. They aren't saying that educating people will increase their skepticism. They are saying that ONLY communicating sound scientific evidence will NOT fix the public conflict. Because people's opinion on this matter is influenced a lot more by their "beliefs" than by how much they know about the science. So, just communicating the science will not change things.

            They NEVER said to convey inaccurate information OR not to communicate the correct scientific information. They just said that communicating sound scientific information would not be enough to convince many people. It's a simple fact of human nature that has been known for a while (many people will hang onto their beliefs in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary), they are just applying it to this particular subject here.

      • by ilguido (1704434)

        "People are more apt to be influenced by their peers than by science"

        Even scientists, mind you.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:19PM (#40146623)

      I don't know who said it (Richard Feynman, maybe?) , but:

      If you can't say it in small words, you don't know what the hell you're talking about.

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:23PM (#40146685)

      So let's put it in plain english:

      Political leanings had a bigger influence than their level of education.

      There. Simple, to the point, guaranteed to have rooms full of people shaking their finger at the computer screen. Because that's what you get when you simplify. :D

    • Here's a hint, the article is full of opinion and appears to be the very problem that this peer reviewed letter is warning us about. Your first hint should be the slang for psychologists that they use (trick cyclist, psychohistorians, etc). From the Register article:

      Your hierarchical individualist, however, might sneer cynically – first at the prospect of a shower of trick-cyclists managing to change his or her mind on climate change by means of spin rather than hard numbers. The hierarchical individualist might also view the "science of communicating science" push as a rather ignoble attempt by the soft-studies profs to get a share of the climate change research funding bonanza that has poured into the hard science and biology faculties in recent decades. And anyone at all might be rather alarmed, perhaps, at the prospect of actual success in the matter of developing a working discipline of Psychohistory – which could and would surely be used in other areas than climate change policy, and would surely be a threat to democracy if it worked as advertised.

      And you're complaining about "culturally congruent risk perception"? This isn't news. This isn't factual reporting. This is someone framing their interpretation of a scientific letter to try to get you on board with him. I think he's rippi

      • by Entrope (68843) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:59PM (#40147241) Homepage

        The first paragraph of the letter (after the abstract) almost perfectly identifies the problem, although the authors, being social "scientists", predictably fail to understand the implication: "As members of the public do not know what scientists know, or think the way scientists think, they predictably fail to take climate change as seriously as scientists believe they should."

        The same is true of climate change, diet, exercise, privacy, foreign policy, gas mileage, law, and so forth: The general public does not take any of these issues as seriously as specialists in those fields think they should. This is not because the specialists are right, though; it is because the specialists devote their careers to those areas, and as a result have a distorted view of how much concern the average citizen should dedicate to the specialist's area of expertise. If I was as concerned about everything as experts thought I should be, I would spend all day worrying and no time getting anything done. Considering that dynamic (which often results in "rational ignorance" by average citizens), it is not at surprising that individuals look to peer groups or ideological leaders for cues on complicated issues.

        (I suspect the authors also have an ideological bone to pick, based on the breakdowns they chose -- why focus on "hierarchical individualists" versus "egalitarian communitarians", and mention the hierarchy/egalitarianism and individualist/communitarian axis results in passing? How many other proxies did they look at before settling on those, and why did they reject other possible proxies? These social scientists might be unduly concerned with their narrative and as a result not take methodology as seriously as statisticians think they should [wink, wink -- I know that social scientists tend to take post-hoc analytic methodology more seriously than many domains because they are short on testably predictive hypotheses].)

    • by gmfeier (1474997) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:26PM (#40146719)
      It just magically appeared. I am no more fond of it than you are.
    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      Or, in even simpler English, people tend to believe what they want to believe and education doesn't change that, it just means they can rationalize away their own beliefs better. Everyone does this, some people are just more or less subtle about doing so. Note that doesn't mean one side isn't right, but it certainly can mean large portions of one side are right for the wrong reasons. Science is actually rife with those kinds of people, and always has been.

      Interesting tidbit: Galileo believed that the tides

    • Terms like "Culturally congruent risk perception" have no obvious meaning for the general reader. Field-specific jargon is just annoying

      I did have to think about it for a second, but I don't find that phrase particularly field specific. YMMV

    • by pitchpipe (708843) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:54PM (#40147167)

      According to the [authors], this is not because the idea of imminent carbon-driven catastrophe is perhaps a bit scientifically suspect. Rather it is because people classed as "egalitarian communitarians" (roughly speaking, left-wingers) are always highly concerned about climate change, and become slightly more so as they acquire more science and numeracy. Unfortunately, however, "hierarchical individualists" (basically, right-wingers) are quite concerned about climate change when they're ignorant: but if they have any scientific, mathematic or technical education this causes them to become strongly sceptical.

      So, what it is saying essentially, is that to effectively combat global warming we must educate left-wingers and keep right-wingers in the dark. Encourage the home-schoolers, and tell the god-fearin', gun totin', gay haters that academics really will turn them into a godless, muslim-loving, pot-smoking, tofu-eating, pagan-worshipping, Birkenstocks-wearing, tree-hugging, cross-dressing, PETA-supporting, anti-life, hybrid-car-driving, homosexual, lesbian who reads the New York Times.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      I'm assuming the submitter quoted that bit from somewhere (it's not the paper abstract). I'm making that assumption because the submitter did something incredibly annoying: he wrote "quoting:" followed by a quote, properly enclosed in quotation marks.

    • Indeed, anytime your noun is composed of four words, you need to go back and re-write the damn thing.

    • Wait, wait: you're knowledgeable and informed about the science and you still don't agree with us on climate change?! You must be a Republican ...
  • well ... (Score:3, Funny)

    by migloo (671559) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:19PM (#40146613)
    Or, to put it in more naive terms, people are idiots and democracy is doomed to failure.
  • At some point, having a disagreement/debate with someone becomes about personal perception and world view. All the truth in the world on your side just won't make a damn bit of difference if the person you're debating/disagreeing with just cannot or will not come around to your point of view. Gay Marriage, Abortion, Climate Change, Conservative/Liberal, at some point it all comes down to one thing: you are facing your polar opposite and you cannot give in because to do so would mean that you are no longer

    • by mbkennel (97636)

      And exactly one of "Gay Marriage, Abortion, Climate Change, Conservative/Liberal" is a physics problem subject to rigorous empirical validation independent of human opinion.

  • by metrix007 (200091) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:27PM (#40146737)

    The problem is not scientific literacy, bur that you need to be an expert in several fields.

    Claims are made from both sides with explanations and theories beyond what most laymen can understand, beyond what even those with a basic scientific literacy can understand.

    I consider myself scientifically literate to a basic level and generally have no problem reading studies or extracts to get a basic idea on an issue. The whole climate change thing is impossible though. People make specific claims about carbons, how they bond in the atmosphere, half-lives, tree rings, ice, sea levels...

    There is too much stuff being quoted and claimed from both sides, often seemingly backed up.

    What we need is a nice, easy summary page, summarizing all the relevant studies so far, and what they imply or mean when it comes to climate page. AN overall summary taking every study into account, giving a good indication, meaning to oppose it is to go against peer reviewed studies or to speculate without a firm basis.

    • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:42PM (#40147013)
      That summary page is called the IPCC report. Or at least, that is the plan behind it. Good summaries for the generally scientific literate person are also to be found on realclimate.org.
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @04:00PM (#40147255)

      The scientific theory of human caused global warming is that the prime or exclusive cause of the observed warming over the past 100 years, outside of known cycles, is CO2 emissions from humans. Ok, no problem. That is a theory that can be looked at and evaluated, though you are correct it is quite complex to evaluate it.

      The problem then comes when it is demanded that you not only accept that, but you accept that the only thing to do about it is to massively reduce CO2 emissions and to do that we need things like cap and trade and so on. If you disagree with any of that you are a "denalist" and "anti-science". They try to act as though the politics and policy of a solution are part and parcel to the theory.

      Not even close. You can believe that the theory is correct and disagree with the proposed solution for any number of reasons. However question any part and people want to claim you are anti-science. It really does get like a religious argument: "You accept everything we say or your are the enemy."

      • by Xyrus (755017)

        You're confusing scientists and scientific results with policy makers and politicians.

        Scientists don't want to be politicians. They really don't. They want to do science. Yes, they have opinions. We all do. But they have neither the time nor money nor influence to create policy. They may be consulted, or asked to give their opinions on policy but they do not make policy. They may be paraded before congress and peppered with idiotic questions. But they do not make policy. That is the realm of the politicians

      • by rrohbeck (944847)

        Nobody who is an AGW "believer" has a problem with people who say "OK, the science has shown that 90%+ of GW is anthropogenic, but I believe that reducing CO2 emissions is not cost effective compared to the cost of climate change."
        That's a totally valid viewpoint, for example Lomborg's today (after his conversion.)
        What riles "believers" like me is the standpoint that the science can't be true because it would be too expensive to do anything about it.

        • by khipu (2511498)

          Nobody who is an AGW "believer" has a problem with people who say "OK, the science has shown that 90%+ of GW is anthropogenic, but I believe that reducing CO2 emissions is not cost effective compared to the cost of climate change."

          Are you kidding? AGW believers will either tear you apart as an evil right-winger bent on world destruction, or they'll just ignore economic arguments altogether and tar you with the same brush as AGW deniers. And then they stand up in forums like these and claim that they woul

    • by Kozz (7764) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @04:05PM (#40147329)

      There is too much stuff being quoted and claimed from both sides, often seemingly backed up.

      What we need is a nice, easy summary page, summarizing all the relevant studies so far, and what they imply or mean when it comes to climate page. AN overall summary taking every study into account, giving a good indication, meaning to oppose it is to go against peer reviewed studies or to speculate without a firm basis.

      THIS! Yes. I'm left-leaning, politically speaking. A very good friend of mine is right-leaning. Though we both have some Libertarian tendencies, we have very different ideas. And we're both college-educated, smart people who enjoy (friendly) battles of wits with one another on a variety of topics, and we are big fans of using facts and truth, not propaganda. It's a rare situation where people with differing political views can have constructive arguments and inform one another and learn (unlike much of American politics).

      And yet when he and I come to the climate "debate" (my scare-quotes tell you which side I'm on), we carried it to its logical conclusion which resulted in a war of links backing up our claims. It was almost the equivalent of a schoolyard taunt, "my scientists can beat up your scientists!" because neither of us are specialists in the field. I think we were probably both quite frustrated -- and we actually were interested in getting to the real facts, not just name-calling, generalizations and ad hominems (though we employ those just for fun).

  • fail? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:35PM (#40146901)

    What guides individual risk perception, on this account, is not the truth of those beliefs but rather their congruence with individuals’ cultural commitments.

    Here's the fail. What is this "truth" they're measuring against?

    Something like F=ma seems to correlate with education, not so much with culture. I would hazard a guess that indicates F=ma is a scientific topic.

    Something like Jesus is the son of god and belief in him results in your salvation seems to correlate much higher with culture than with education. For example even the dumbest redneck from Texas and some scientist from Texas might agree, but a highly educated scientist from TX might disagree with a highly educated scientist from Japan from a non-christian Japanese family. I would hazard a guess that indicates Jesus's parentage is a non-scientific topic.

    Along comes "concern over climate change" and there is a wishy washy hand wringy that based on observation its getting a non-scientific response from the general public. You can almost see the literary dancing to avoid suggesting that maybe, just maybe, the PC orthodoxy about the dangers of climate change is, in fact, non-scientific?

    Now please don't jump all over me assuming I think humans have no effect or climate change could never matter. I am well aware its occurring. However,
    1) I don't think its very important relative to other more pressing concerns. Seriously, it just isn't that important.
    2) I think there is nothing to do anyway. We've burned at least a majority of the EROEI positive carbon fuels and nothing really bad has happened. Twice not much is still not much. The closely related semi-permanent economic decline we've been experiencing for a few decades, and will continue to experience, will "naturally" take care of the rest. The TLDR is SUVs don't matter not because we passed enviro laws, but because they'll never be affordable to the masses again. By the time the next credit bubble comes around, maybe 70 years or so, we'll be waaaaay past peak oil, etc, it just won't matter anymore.
    3) There are bigger natural climate changes that we need an advanced industrialized civilization to fight
    4) I hate being FUDed so reflexively that I'll fight against the side using FUD, in this case the orthodox climate panic-ers.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Some questions for you, then:

      1) I don't think its very important relative to other more pressing concerns. Seriously, it just isn't that important.

      How much of an impact does climate change have to have before it will be considered a serious problem? Could you name monetary cost or number of people killed that would make it important enough to do something about?

      2) I think there is nothing to do anyway. We've burned at least a majority of the EROEI positive carbon fuels and nothing really bad has happened.

      What's your standard for "really bad"? What level of proof would you require to decide that a particular event was caused by climate change? For instance, if climate change was thought by some to be a possible cause of greater hurricane intensity, what kind of evide

      • by vlm (69642)

        Could you name monetary cost or number of people killed that would make it important enough to do something about?

        No. And people are notoriously bad at comparing risks. How bout speaking generically a small multiple of current "worse than current weather related death rate of lightning + wind + flooding + hurricanes + tornados + famine" and/or a small multiple of the std deviation of that number (which is likely to be pretty big) . Realizing that "doing something" historically means the politicians F stuff up and the cure is going to kill more than the disease, if those morons are in charge (and they are)

        What's your standard for "really bad"?

        See above?

        What level of proof would you require to decide that a particular event was caused by climate change?

        T

  • by Ranger (1783) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @03:40PM (#40146975) Homepage
    Smarter people are better at justifying their own ignorance. Unless they have critical thinking skills they are better able to cherry pick and fit whatever information they find to support their views rather than derive their views from the big picture. I've met some very smart people who believe weird shit. I myself know that flying commercially is safe, but the monkey in brain is going we're all going to die! and mull over a million different ways a plane could crash.

    Anyway, skimming the paper lends neither support for nor contradicts the evidence that humans have caused and are causing the climate to change. It only addresses the likely belief systems of people in their peer groups and how that information can be used to communicate effectively with those groups:

    For the ordinary individual, the most consequential effect of his beliefs about climate change is likely to be on his relations with his peers. A hierarchical individualist who expresses anxiety about climate change might well be shunned by his co-workers at an oil refinery in Oklahoma City. A similar fate will probably befall the egalitarian communitarian English professor who reveals to colleagues in Boston that she thinks the scientific consensus on climate change is a hoax.

    • by tmosley (996283)
      If the study had shown that it AGW believers were smarter and more scientifically literate, I doubt you would be singing the same "smarter people are better at justifying their ignorance" tune.

      Did you ever ask the "smart" people you know WHY they don't like to fly? Maybe they don't like being teabagged by arrogant TSA agents, or they are concerned about doing something wrong and being labelled a terrorist, or being detained for some stupid reason, or maybe they get bad motion sickness. There are plenty
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @04:01PM (#40147273)

    If political leanings sway your view the more you know about the science involved, then obviously the subject under discussion is not really a science.

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @04:11PM (#40147449)

    What??!?

  • by hsthompson69 (1674722) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @04:24PM (#40147691)

    The more scientifically informed you are, the less likely you are to believe that human CO2 emissions are going to cause unprecedented, catastrophic global warming.

    The less scientifically informed you are, the more likely you are to believe that the past 60+ years of climate change has been mostly driven by human CO2 emissions, and that continued CO2 emissions will cause catastrophic global warming.

    The talk about preconceived cultural bias goes for *both* sides - assuming that what we have is a large group of uninformed people who happened on the *right* answer, without actually being as well informed as those who assert the opposite answer, is a stretch, to say the least.

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @05:06PM (#40148315) Homepage Journal

    I understood the writeup very well. It goes directly to the heart of the debate, for me at least.

    The global climate change issue has morphed from a brief global cooling 'scare', to global warming debate, and now global climate 'change'. During these changing arguments, I've become convinced of these beliefs:

    1- Many parties have ulterior or hiden motives. These vary from wanting to advance their cultural or political policies to wanting to prevail in a factual or scientific debate, and others. I also have an ulterior motive in this debate, and of course I see mine as honest and true, and of course just as I assume everyone else does.

    2- All parties seem prepared to use whatever eivdence supports their motives, and discredit the rest. Just as the writeup would suggest.

    3- This is not new, and is (I propose) evident beyond contradiction to anyone who engages in minimal critical analysis of the issue. If it wasn't evident to you earlier, you are not paying attention, or not trying very hard at all.

    4- Many parties purposefully either fabricate or embellish the evidence they present to make their case. Some do so despite knowing of contrary evidence, and some simply refuse to consider any other evidence at all.

    5- Many who make their eivdence fit the argument have good intentions, and seem genuinely to not understand why others, seeing this, tend to mistrust their argument entirely.

    Early on, when 'cooling' became 'warming', I started asking why this was so important. And one of the first things I learned was that many who joined the debate and believed that warming was occurring, and that it was man-caused, and could 'only' be solved by reducing our impact on the planet, was that they already wanted us to 'reduce our impact' on the planet, and this was the latest and hopefully (for them) conclusive argument . Scientists rarely like to admit mistakes (neither do I) so many climatologists are engaged in futher analysis of their data to make it fit when reality doesn't quite match with their predictions. Looking at the work done to adjust, normalize, and clean up this data to make it fit leaves me, in particular distrustful of their process.

    Now we read some articles on ice melt, , and I'm left wondering how this could have occurred 14,000 years ago before industrialization, and if it could be happening now for those reasons, and nothing we can do would stop it. And the article I linked to doesn't explain much at all. And then [reuters.com] this article [slashdot.org] blames fresh water consumption. We fix this by what, reducing population? Or just becoming more efficient users? Population growth wipes out all but the most aggressive and costly conservation, and then only if we ignore the developing world.

    So this dovetails nicely into the anti-capitalist/industrial/consumer movement's goals, and the anti-population growth movement similarly will love this. Basically, they love anything bad for me. I'm just part of the 98% in America trying to get along, doing infinitely better than 90% of the rest of the world. I have a roof to sleep under, and something to keep me off the ground when I do - that makes me better off then most of the world. Add in my access to safe drinking water, and I probably do better than 95% or more of the world. My big complaint is how thick my steaks are.

    So I do come to the debate with a very strong 'prove it!' attitude, and when the climate change proponents/worriers are so often aligned with the movements to take from me as much as they can, I rationally (if not logically) react with caution. Actually, skepticism, tainted with outright rejection. these groups can make no scientific argument - they are not motiviated by science.

    And the scientists are largely so invested in protecting their reputations that I consider their arguments self-serving at best.

    If warming is real, and we can stop it, I'm also conce

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