Nav: Home

Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance

June 21, 2017

ITHACA, N.Y. - On the heels of President Donald Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, a new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.

The U.S. public doubts the existence of "global warming" more than it doubts "climate change" -- and Republicans are driving the effect, the research shows.

In a nationally representative survey, 74.4 percent of respondents identified as Republicans said they believed that climate change is really happening. But only 65.5 percent said they believed in global warming. In contrast, 94 percent of Democrats replied "yes" to both questions.

Some Republicans may discredit climate science because they may not like the policies that have been proposed to address the problem, said the study's co-author, Jonathon Schuldt, assistant professor of communication at Cornell.

"Acknowledging the reality of global warming or climate change may lead to new government regulations on businesses, which goes against core conservative values," Schuldt said. "So, telling a pollster that the phenomenon isn't happening may reflect something about a person's general policy preferences, not just their level of certainty that the global climate is changing."

The research is an extension of an earlier study co-written by Schuldt. The first study included references to temperatures going up versus changing. The new research focuses on how labels impact acceptance of climate-science in a now more charged political environment.

Nonetheless, it's important to remember that 65 percent of Republicans did indicate that global warming is occurring, said co-author Peter Enns, associate professor of government. "In other words, although the term matters -- climate change versus global warming -- an overwhelming majority of Republicans still state that global warming is happening," he said.

The labels' effect the researchers identified is especially relevant given Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, Enns said. "Nearly 75 percent of Republicans in our sample indicated that climate change is really happening and almost all coverage of Trump's decision on this issue emphasizes the word 'climate.'"

In contrast, Trump's Twitter messages use "global warming" more often than "climate change" and often characterize global warming as a hoax. The researchers conducted a search of Trump's tweets and found 106 contained "global warming" but only 36 mentioned "climate change."

"Our results suggest that Trump's emphasis on 'global warming' may be an effective rhetorical strategy that resonates with his Republican constituents, who express more skepticism in response to that term in particular," said Schuldt.

Although the United States seems to be entering a new era of climate politicization, the chasm between Republicans and Democrats on climate science might not be as large as it seems, Schuldt said.

"If you ask people what they think about climate change -- not global warming -- we find that the partisan gap shrinks by about 30 percent," he said. "There's actually more agreement here than we think."

This research appeared in the journal "Climatic Change".
-end-
Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews. For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.

Cornell University

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1°Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Climate change scientists should think more about sex
Climate change can have a different impact on male and female fish, shellfish and other marine animals, with widespread implications for the future of marine life and the production of seafood.
Climate change prompts Alaska fish to change breeding behavior
A new University of Washington study finds that one of Alaska's most abundant freshwater fish species is altering its breeding patterns in response to climate change, which could impact the ecology of northern lakes that already acutely feel the effects of a changing climate.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
The psychology behind climate change denial
In a new thesis in psychology, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial.

Related Climate Change Reading:

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
by Elizabeth Kolbert (Author)

Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know®
by Joseph Romm (Author)

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
by Paul Hawken (Editor), Tom Steyer (Editor)

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
by Naomi Klein (Author)

A Global Warming Primer: Answering Your Questions About The Science, The Consequences, and The Solutions
by Jeffrey Bennett (Author)

Climate Change: The Facts 2017
by Jennifer Marohasy (Editor)

The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change
by Robert Henson (Author)

Dire Predictions: The Visual Guide to the Findings of the IPCC
by Michael E. Mann (Author), Lee R. Kump (Author)

Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know®
by Joseph Romm (Author)

Introduction to Modern Climate Change
by Andrew Dessler (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Hacking The Law
We have a vision of justice as blind, impartial, and fair — but in reality, the law often fails those who need it most. This hour, TED speakers explore radical ways to change the legal system. Guests include lawyer and social justice advocate Robin Steinberg, animal rights lawyer Steven Wise, political activist Brett Hennig, and lawyer and social entrepreneur Vivek Maru.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#495 Earth Science in Space
Some worlds are made of sand. Some are made of water. Some are even made of salt. In science fiction and fantasy, planet can be made of whatever you want. But what does that mean for how the planets themselves work? When in doubt, throw an asteroid at it. This is a live show recorded at the 2018 Dragon Con in Atlanta Georgia. Featuring Travor Valle, Mika McKinnon, David Moscato, Scott Harris, and moderated by our own Bethany Brookshire. Note: The sound isn't as good as we'd hoped but we love the guests and the conversation and we wanted to...