Knowledge may be power, but when it comes to global warming, it seems that the more you know, the less you care, at least according to one recent study published in the journal Risk Analysis.
After polling 1,093 Americans over the phone, researchers found that high levels of confidence in scientists resulted in a decreased sense of responsibility for global warming.
The findings were somewhat unexpected, says Paul M. Kellstedt, a political science associate professor at Texas A&M.; He noted that the focus of the study was not to measure how informed or uninformed Americans are about global warming, but to understand why some people who are more or less informed about it showed more or less concern.
"In that sense, we didn't really have expectations about how aware or unaware people were of global warming," he says. ""The findings that the more informed respondents were less concerned about global warming, and that they felt less personally responsible for it, did surprise us. We expected just the opposite."
Kellstedt noted, however, that although their findings held fast no matter how they modeled the data, other variables played a much larger effect on concern for global warming. Plus, measuring knowledge about global warming is a tricky proposition to begin with, he adds.
"That's true of many other things we would like to measure in surveys, of course, especially things that might embarrass people (like ignorance) or that they might feel social pressure to avoid revealing (like prejudice)," Kellstedt says. "There are no industry standards, so to speak, for measuring knowledge about global warming. We opted for this straightforward measure and realize that other measures might produce different results."
Still, it can't be comforting for climate-change researchers to know that the more trust people have in them as scientists, the less concerned they are about their findings. ::Texas A&M; University