The Demographics Of Denialism


Climate-change skepticism appears to be especially common in Anglophone countries:

Not only is the United States clearly the worst in its climate denial, but Great Britain and Australia are second and third worst, respectively. Canada, meanwhile, is the seventh worst. What do these four nations have in common? They all speak the language of Shakespeare.

Chris Mooney speculates:

Why would that be? After all, presumably there is nothing about English, in and of itself, that predisposes you to climate change denial. Words and phrases like “doubt,” “natural causes,” “climate models,” and other skeptic mots are readily available in other languages

One possible answer is that it’s all about the political ideologies prevalent in these four countries. … Indeed, the English-language media in three of these four countries are linked together by a single individual: Rupert Murdoch. An apparent climate skeptic or lukewarmer, Murdoch is the chair of News Corp and 21st Century Fox. (You can watch him express his climate views here.) Some of the media outlets subsumed by the two conglomerates that he heads are responsible for quite a lot of English language climate skepticism and denial.

Meanwhile, a study out of New Zealand suggests that people who live on coastlines also tend to take climate change more seriously than those who live inland:

And that’s not just because lefties prefer beachfront property. The researchers polled several thousand randomly selected New Zealanders across the country. While political orientation and gender were the strongest predictors of climate-change belief, proximity to the ocean also had a significant, isolatable effect.

There are two compelling explanations why this might be the case. First, people living near the ocean are more likely to experience significant, climate-change related impacts, like flooding and storms. And second, these folks have probably pondered how they and their communities will adapt to a potential rise in sea-level. On the flip side, inlanders might have less first-hand experience (or expectation) of climate change impacts, and are therefore less likely to take the issue of climate change seriously – or even think it’s happening.

In addition, it seems that the scientifically literate are not immune from from climate-change skepticism:

Ars has previously covered Yale Professor Dan Kahan’s research into what he calls “cultural cognition,” and the idea goes like this: public opinion on these topics is fundamentally tied to cultural identities rather than assessment of scientific evidence. In other words, rather than evaluate the science, people form opinions based on what they think people with a similar background believe. … A key feature of Kahan’s work, though, comes when he measures general science literacy or propensity for analytical thinking. Rather than ameliorating differences on scientific issues, these properties exacerbate them. Those who should be best equipped to have a handle on the science are the most divided along party lines. It seems that people more familiar with science are better at coming up with explanations to defend whatever conclusions their cultural group has reached.