Climate-change foes winning public opinion war

Climate-change foes winning public opinion war
Credit: Michigan State University

As world leaders meet this week and next at a historic climate change summit in Paris, a new study by Michigan State University environmental scientists suggests opponents of climate change appear to be winning the war of words.

The research, funded by the National Science Foundation, finds that climate-change advocates are largely failing to influence . Climate-change foes, on the other hand, are successfully changing people's minds—Republicans and Democrats alike—with denying the existence of global warming.

"This is the first experiment of its kind to examine the influence of the denial messages on American adults," said Aaron M. McCright, a sociologist and lead investigator on the study. "Until now, most people just assumed climate change deniers were having an influence on public opinion. Our experiment confirms this."

The findings come as leaders from 150 nations attempt to forge a treaty to reduce . During a speech Monday at the Paris summit, President Barack Obama said the "growing threat of climate change could define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other."

Nearly 1,600 U.S. adults took part in the MSU study. Participants read fabricated news articles about climate change and then completed a survey gauging their beliefs on the issue. The articles contained either positive or negative real-world messages about climate change, or both.

The positive messages framed the topic of climate change around one of four major issues: economic opportunity, national security, Christian stewardship and . According to the article addressing public health, for example:

"Medical experts argue that dealing with climate change will improve our public health by reducing the likelihood of , reducing air quality and allergen problems, and limiting the spread of pests that carry infectious diseases."

In half of the articles, participants were presented a negative message that read, in part: "However, most conservative leaders and Republican politicians believe that so-called climate change is vastly exaggerated by environmentalists, liberal scientists seeking government funding for their research and Democratic politicians who want to regulate business."

Surprisingly, none of the four major positive messages changed participants' core beliefs about climate change. Further, when the negative messages were presented, people were more apt to doubt the existence of climate change - and this was true of both conservatives and liberals.

"That's the power of the denial message," said McCright, associate professor in MSU's Lyman Briggs College and Department of Sociology. "It's extremely difficult to change people's minds on , in part because they are entrenched in their views."


Explore further

The politics of climate change

Citation: Climate-change foes winning public opinion war (2015, December 2) retrieved 16 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-12-climate-change-foes-opinion-war.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
22 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Dec 02, 2015
Laypeople might not understand the philosophical nuance of scientific modeling, but the re-casting of every single subject in terms of climate change or global warming is plainly over-the-top. Rather than the intended effect, what it has demonstrated is that scientists are subject to the same social and funding pressures that the rest of society is already dealing with every day.

Science used to have a very special place in our society, but the over-marketing of this effort is too obvious and is essentially cashing in on that prestige. Yet, now that the money spigot has been opened, this huge industry in service to this message will not be able to stop itself. And the hole it will dig will just get deeper over time -- until, eventually, the public will start to ask questions which it has never previously asked about the scientific community.

We will finally see the widespread birth of interest in challenges to textbook theory.

Dec 02, 2015
The reality of climate change means people's lives are going to have to change. Denial means they can maintain the status quo. Of course people embrace the path of least resistance. It's a shame but this is the inevitable product of 50 years of anti-intellectualism and poor education in developed nations.

Dec 02, 2015
Hi, HannesAlfven! Plasmasrevenge sure has been quiet since you started posting again. Are you having a hard time juggling your sock puppets or was plasmasrevenge merely a temporary shelter while Hannes was suffering from some sort of comment ban?

Dec 03, 2015
Look at the newspeak logic here: Climate change deniers, holocaust deniers, climate change = holocaust, deniers = Nazis. Very non biased scientific use of language.

Dec 03, 2015
Actually, nothingumbobesquire. I think you're projecting. Climate change deniers are called thus because they are outright denying fundamental physics. If you're so sensitive about the language, maybe you stop saying the sky is a bright multi-coloured rainbow of unicorn farts and the moon is cheese.

Dec 03, 2015
The saddest thing about the Chicken Little faithfuls is that they continue to burn fossil fuels while fervently believing that it's the reason there won't be a tomorrow. All the while preaching to the heretics while remaining blind to their hypocrisy. Now if you believe you can rationalize such behaviour then the AGW Cult welcomes you.

Dec 03, 2015
Climate-change foes winning public opinion war

The truth ultimately wins, that is what is happening here in spite of the chicken little propaganda.

Dec 03, 2015
Climate-change foes winning public opinion war

The truth ultimately wins, that is what is happening here in spite of the chicken little propaganda.


A conspiracy so insidious even the Arctic is in on it.

Dec 03, 2015
What a test. So weighted in favour of the AGW alarmism and yet they saw through the lies.
Just goes to prove you can only fool the Chicken Littles all of the time.

Dec 03, 2015
" . . they continue to burn fossil fuels while fervently believing that it's the reason there won't be a tomorrow"
---------------------------------

Nope. Must be the ethics of where you live. I have an electric car and am getting solar PV. Neighbors have them, too.

Dec 04, 2015
Climate-change foes winning public opinion war

The truth ultimately wins, that is what is happening here in spite of the chicken little propaganda.


A conspiracy so insidious even the Arctic is in on it.

Yep, so insidious, only in the Arctic they can claim to find it.

Dec 04, 2015
scaredofgore ought to look up Chikungunya. He may have it soon.

Dec 05, 2015
Climate-change foes winning public opinion war

The truth ultimately wins, that is what is happening here in spite of the chicken little propaganda.


A conspiracy so insidious even the Arctic is in on it.

Typical response from a rabid AGWite. The question is never whether or not the climate changes, AS IT ALWAYS HAS, the question is whether the cause is AGW. Your response is typical of the AGWite misinformation programs that pervade the debate.

BTW, the fact that the Arctic is warming faster only points to the Sun as being the cause. One of these days the pseudoscientific climate scientists will figure out the Sun-Earth connections and how it truly drives climate and weather on this planet. Until then, those who think like real scientists will have to suffer at the hands neophyte chicken little believers.

Dec 05, 2015
Twenty years ago, cantdrive85 took up smoking. Then scientists said he shouldn't smoke because smoking causes cancer. He said, "No it doesn't" and kept smoking. Five years ago he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He said, "I don't have cancer, you're lying to keep pharmaceutical profits high" and kept smoking. Now he has terminal cancer but, since he long ago decided smoking didn't cause cancer, he's decided the cancer just happened.

Never mind he was told that smoking caused cancer and then got cancer as predicted. Never mind there's a mechanism that shows smoking causes cancer and a predicted outcome from smoking that has been borne out by evidence. He believes smoking doesn't cause cancer because then he'd have to admit he should have listened to the evidence and stopped smoking.

So yeah, cantdrive85 is no longer denying he has cancer. He's just decided it was something other than his own actions that caused it. You know... because.

Dec 05, 2015
My Grandmother chained smoked for almost 60 years, she died in her 90's not of cancer. Your prediction would have been wrong.

Oh, and your analogy is ridiculous. You're an even bigger hypocrite being what you believe. Sitting there in your home which requires untold quantities of "fossil" fuels to build, with your lights on staring at your computer which requires even more "fossil" fuels. Driving your car, exhaling CO2, eating meat, etc, etc....Denying you're an accomplice in the destruction of humanity. You know...because.

Dec 06, 2015
We're talking about something that *has* happened. Even hard-core deniers can no longer deny the cancer. So my analogy stands.

Dec 06, 2015
I cite this very article as evidence that phys.org is intentionally harming scientific understanding for profit. That this site is not a science site, but an anti-science site, and that while the comments section is kept active this will only continue as a status quo.

The moon-howlers love it when I directly challenge their forum's existence, but I'm not kidding. I like a lot of the people here and I would miss talking to them, but I am rational, and if this banter and animal rutting is harming scientific understanding at the cost of lives, I am against it.

Dec 06, 2015
Twenty years ago.... hee...hawww....hee...hawww....

Twenty years ago, leetennant took up braying. Then his family said he shouldn't bray because braying causes him to look stupid. He said, "No it doesn't" and kept braying. Five years ago he was diagnosed with stupidity. He said, "I don't have stupidity, you're lying and kept braying. Now he has terminal stupidity but, since he long ago decided braying didn't cause stupidity, he's decided the stupidity just happened.

Never mind he was told that braying caused stupidity and then got stupider as predicted. Never mind... he should have listened to the evidence and stopped braying.

So yeah, leetennant is still denying he is stupid. He's just decided....... You know... because, well... he's stupid.

Dec 06, 2015
War of words? LOL. The great climate scientist Dr James Hansen, NASA. GISS shot himself in the foot when he shot his mouth off before Congress saying the oceans were going to boil away and we were to blame. Thanks to our evil fossil fuel burning ways we were turning Earth into Venus. Never mind water boils at 50F on Venus and Venus is closer to the Sun. Never mind CO2 wasn't always a trace gas and the oceans are still here. How much does NASA pay him? Jus' curious...

Dec 06, 2015
Twenty years ago.... hee...hawww....hee...hawww....

Twenty years ago, leetennant took up braying. Then his family said he shouldn't bray because braying causes him to look stupid. He said, "No it doesn't" and kept braying. Five years ago he was diagnosed with stupidity. He said, "I don't have stupidity, you're lying and kept braying. Now he has terminal stupidity but, since he long ago decided braying didn't cause stupidity, he's decided the stupidity just happened.

Never mind he was told that braying caused stupidity and then got stupider as predicted. Never mind... he should have listened to the evidence and stopped braying.

So yeah, leetennant is still denying he is stupid. He's just decided....... You know... because, well... he's stupid.


Thanks antigoracle. Nobody uses so many words to say nothing like you. It's impressive.

Dec 06, 2015
Well, if anyone should know, it would be you. Look again, they are your words, only with the garbage replaced with the truth.

Dec 11, 2015
Thanks antigoracle. Nobody uses so many words to say nothing like you. It's impressive.

What's not impressive, is that you needed all those words to confirm what an asshole you are, exploiting someone's illness just to score cheap points. But you need not worry, since you're in "good" company, judging by all the 5's you got from the rest of Chicken shits.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more