Cold Weather Breeds Climate-Change Doubters

Wednesday, December 21, 2016
(photo: Timothy Clary, AFP/Getty Images)

By Sean Duffy, Courthouse News Service


(CN) – People living in areas with periods of freezing weather are more likely to doubt climate change than those where the effects are already occurring, as local weather seems to shape a person’s views on the topic.


Researchers used data from a survey of 12,000 people in the United States from 2008 to 2013 to determine whether regional weather caused them to either reject or accept a particular view of climate change. The findings were published Monday in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


“If you’re living in a place where there’s been more record cold weather than record heat lately, you may doubt reports of climate change,” said Utah State University researcher and study co-author Peter Howe. “Climate change is causing record-breaking heat around the world, but the variability of the climate means that some places are still reaching record-breaking cold.”


Failing to differentiate periodic cold spells from an increase in average global temperatures over decades likely stems from early terminology used to describe climate change, which focused on warming without explaining the associated broad range of effects.


“One of the greatest challenges to communicating scientific findings about climate change is the cognitive disconnect between local and global events,” said study co-author Michael Mann. “It’s easy to assume that what you experience at home must be happening elsewhere.”


The authors note the importance of separating weather – changes in temperature over weeks or a season in a given area, and climate – average temperatures of a period of 25 years or more. Emphasizing this difference is crucial to effectively explaining climate change.


“Our work highlights some of the challenges of communicating about climate change, and the importance of situating people’s experiences at the local level within the larger global context,” Howe said.


To Learn More:

Spatial Heterogeneity of Climate Change as an Experiential Basis for Skepticism (by Robert K. Kaufmanna, Michael L. Mann, Sucharita Gopal, Jackie A. Liederman, Peter D. Howe, Felix Pretise, Xiaojing Tang, and Michelle Gilmore, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) (abstract)

Climate Change Denier Trump Cites Global Warming as Reason to Build Wall to Protect His Luxury Golf Course (by Michael Biesecker, Associated Press)

California Sixth–Grade Science Books on the Fence over Climate Change (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Sen. Inhofe Goes for Hypocrisy Record, Saying Climate Change is a Hoax, but Nuclear Power is Good because it Avoids “Dangerous Climate Change” (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

People Who Live Inland more Likely to Deny Climate Change…and so are People Exposed to Media Owned by Rupert Murdoch (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Climate Change Has Arrived, but Americans May be the Least Likely in the World to Believe It (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Scientists Denying Human-Caused Climate Change Fade from Existence…Except in the Media (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


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