A passionate, if also divisive, concern for many, the topic of eminent global climate failure has passed the point of being an issue merely for the ‘tree-hugging’ portion of the population. Interestingly, whether one considers the data pointing to global climate change as grounds for legitimate concern, or relegates it to the province of hyperbole, appears to have little to do with said data. A new study funded by the National Science Foundation suggests cultural conditioning may have the most to do with one’s concern over human-instigated climate change. In fact, whether one happens to be a transitioned military officer, or alternatively, a New Jersey immigration attorney, may have more to do with one’s opinion than any amount of reading one does on the subject.
The study, undertaken by Dan Kahan of Yale Law School and six others, purports to judge those polled on their ability to understand and make use of numerical and scientific data. Also taken into accounts is each respondent’s political affiliation, their stance as regards government and commercial sectors and whether, supposing the stance to be negative, the bias incurred stems from risks viewed as directly attributable to or enhanced by government and or industry. Another important element in the study is whether those perceived risks are judged by the respondent to affect society at large and the climate in particular.
Results culled from the study suggests those with cultural influences that advance a more individualistic approach tend towards a more positive view when it comes to industry, meanwhile exhibiting a more jaundiced view when it comes to accepting calculations of risk. Those emerging from a more egalitarian, inclusive, or ‘one for all’ type of background are by and large more sensitized in their concern for society’s inequalities, thus tending to view government and commercial sectors with a less favorable eye.
The findings buck the traditional assumption that more data and a clearer presentation of the data could of itself win over the dissenters. Instead, the survey’s findings suggests neither a lack of knowledge, nor an inability to assess it, has much to do with a dissenter’s point of view. Scrutiny of Kahan’s 1500 plus subjects suggests the more conversant and knowledgeable an individual is in the spheres of science and statistics the more likely he is to question the prevailing concern over eminent environmental issues and climate failure. In fact, “as respondents’ science literacy scores increased, their concern with climate change decreased.” Such was the inevitable conclusion noted in ‘The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks;” the paper amassed from the study’s findings and recorded in the Journal Nature Climate Change.