Is Your Global Warming Position Affected by Local Weather? Should it Be?

global warming weather photo
Photo: auntjojo, Ed Yourdon, and Zoonabar, Flickr, CC
When Everybody Thinks They're an Expert...
There are many scientific fields that are very complex and hard to understand for the lay person (quantum mechanics, biochemistry, cosmology, etc), and the study of global climate systems no doubt falls in that category. Yet in that field, unlike in others, many people feel that they can ignore what the experts say and take a position opposed to the scientific consensus. Why is that? Three new social-science studies might have found the answer...global warming weather photo
Photo: trekyandy, Flickr, CC

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.

"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." (source)

I think this might fall within what is called the "availability bias" by psychologists. Some people, when trying to decide if global warming is a real phenomenon, will use the data most easily available and understandable to them - the current local weather - rather than look at more objective and useful data (ie. global temperatures over long periods, atmospheric greenhouse gas ratios, models of the atmosphere's energy inputs and outputs, etc).

snow tree photo
Snow is more about precipitation than temperature. You can have a winter that is warmer than usual but yet also has more snow than normal. Photo: Kevin Burkett, Flickr, CC
Other Non-Scientific Factors
But it's not only the weather. Other non-scientific factors, like age and political orientation, play a big role. For example, people who identify themselves as politically liberal are more likely to think global warming is happening than political conservatives, the young are more likely than the old, women than men, etc.

Via Science Daily
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