Research & Insights

Moving Climate Change Skeptics to Believers

Moving climate change skeptics to believers is fundamental if we are going to address the growing threat of global warming.

Researchers are now studying strategies for reaching climate deniers.

Emphasizing the scientific consensus on climate change can increase belief in the science and support for policy, according to new research published in the February 2015 journal PLOS One.

Over 1,100 participants were asked to estimate what percentage of scientists agree that climate change is real and caused by humans. They were then asked questions about their political ideology, how much they worry about climate change and whether they believe we should be doing more or less to combat it.

They were then exposed to the statement “97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.” Afterwards, they completed the same questionnaire about their climate beliefs.

The researchers found that seeing the statement about the scientific consensus increased not only participants’ estimation of the consensus, but also their level of concern over climate change and support for climate policies.

This suggests that believing in the scientific consensus can serve as a “gateway” belief that that can potentially lead to attitude change for both Republicans and Democrats. However, the researchers found consensus messages were especially influential on republican participants.

“Particularly, repeated exposure to simple messages that correctly state the actual scientific consensus on human-caused climate change is a strategy likely to help counter the concerted efforts to misinform the public,” suggest the researchers.


Sander L. van der Linden, Princeton University
Anthony A. Leiserowitz and Geoffery D. Feinberg, Yale University
Edward W. Maibach, George Mason University


Posted: May 18, 2016
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