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Discussing global warming leads to greater acceptance of climate science


Discussing global warming leads to greater acceptance of climate science

We are pleased to announce the publication of a new research article, “Discussing global warming leads to greater acceptance of climate science” in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

There is an urgent need to engage Americans in the issue of climate change. Social science research has focused on many of the factors that influence public engagement, but surprisingly little of this research has examined the role of one of the most trusted sources of information: friends and family. In our new article, we investigate the role of climate conversations with friends and family in changing people’s beliefs and concern about climate change.

We surveyed a nationally-representative sample of American adults twice (N = 1,263), approximately seven months apart, and found that people learn important facts about climate change through discussion with friends and family. Specifically, discussing climate change with friends and family led to enhanced understanding of the extent of scientific agreement about human-caused climate change. In turn, better understanding of the scientific agreement led to increased belief that climate change is happening and is human-caused and to increased worry about it. Interestingly, we also found evidence that the link between discussion and climate beliefs can operate in the opposite direction. That is, increased perceptions of scientific agreement led to increases in discussions about climate change – suggesting that climate conversations can initiate a positively reinforcing cycle between learning, worry, and further conversation.

These findings highlight the importance of climate conversations with friends and family, which can engage people more deeply in the issue of climate change.

The open access article is available from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If you are not able to access the article, please send an email to climatechange@yale.edu, with the subject line: Request GW Discussion Paper.

This project was supported by the 11th Hour Project, the Energy Foundation, the Grantham Foundation, and the V. K. Rasmussen Foundation.