Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Some People's Climate Beliefs Shift With Weather

07.04.2011
Study Shows Daily Malleability on a Long-Term Question

Social scientists are struggling with a perplexing earth-science question: as the power of evidence showing manmade global warming is rising, why do opinion polls suggest public belief in the findings is wavering? Part of the answer may be that some people are too easily swayed by the easiest, most irrational piece of evidence at hand: their own estimation of the day’s temperature.

In three separate studies, researchers affiliated with Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) surveyed about 1,200 people in the United States and Australia, and found that those who thought the current day was warmer than usual were more likely to believe in and feel concern about global warming than those who thought the day was unusually cold. A new paper describing the studies appears in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science.

“Global warming is so complex, it appears some people are ready to be persuaded by whether their own day is warmer or cooler than usual, rather than think about whether the entire world is becoming warmer or cooler,” said lead author Ye Li, a postdoctoral researcher at the Columbia Business School’s Center for Decision Sciences, which is aligned with CRED. “It is striking that society has spent so much money, time and effort educating people about this issue, yet people are still so easily influenced.” The study says that “these results join a growing body of work show that irrelevant environmental information, such as the current weather, can affect judgments. … By way of analogy, when asked about the state of the national economy, someone might look at the amount of money in his or her wallet, a factor with only trivial relevance.”

Ongoing studies by other researchers have already provided strong evidence that opinions on climate and other issues can hinge on factors unrelated to scientific observations. Most pointedly, repeated polls have shown that voters identifying themselves as political liberals or Democrats are far more likely to believe in human-influenced climate change than those who identify themselves as conservatives or Republicans. Women believe more than men, and younger people more than older ones. Other, yet-to-be published studies at four other universities have looked at the effects of actual temperature—either the natural one outside, or within a room manipulated by researchers—and show that real-time thermometer readings can affect people’s beliefs as well. These other studies involve researchers at New York University, Temple University, the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley.

In the current paper, respondents were fairly good at knowing if it was unusually hot or cold--perceptions correlated with reality three quarters of the time—and that the perception exerted a powerful control on their attitude. As expected, politics, gender and age all had the predicted influences: for instance, on the researchers’ 1-to-4 scale of belief in global warming, Democrats were 1.5 points higher than Republicans. On the whole though, after controlling for the other factors, the researchers found that perceived temperatures still had nearly two-thirds the power as political belief, and six times the power as gender, to push someone one way or the other a notch along the scale. (The coming NYU/Temple study suggests that those with no strong political beliefs and lower education are the most easily swayed.)

In one of the studies described in the paper, the researchers tried to test the earnestness of the responses by seeing how many of those getting paid $8 for the survey were willing to donate to a real-life charity, Clean Air-Cool Planet. The correlation was strong; those who said it was warmer donated an average of about $2; those who felt it was cooler gave an average of 48 cents.

The researchers say the study not only points to how individuals’ beliefs can change literally with the wind. Li says it is possible that weather may have influenced recent large-scale public opinion polls showing declining faith in climate science. Administered at different times, future ones might turn out differently, he said. These polls, he pointed out, include the national elections, which always take place in November, when things are getting chilly and thus may be empowering conservative forces at a time when climate has become a far more contentious issue than in the past. (Some politicians subsequently played up the heavy snows and cold of winter 2009-2010 as showing global warming was a hoax—even though scientists pointed out that such weather was probably controlled by short-term atmospheric mechanisms, and consistent with long-term warming.) “I’m not sure I’d say that people are manipulated by the weather. But for some percentage of people, it’s certainly pushing them around.” said Li.

The other authors are Eric J. Johnson, co-director of the Center for Decision Sciences; and Lisa Zaval, a Columbia graduate student in psychology.

Kevin Krajick | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ei.columbia.edu

Further reports about: Climate change Democrats Republicans Science TV Weather global warming

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

nachricht Urbanization to convert 300,000 km2 of prime croplands
27.12.2016 | Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) gGmbH

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A big nano boost for solar cells

18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Glass's off-kilter harmonies

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>