Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me.

by Jassmin Del Rio

Is lack of education the reason that skeptics of climate change are skeptics? Chloe Lucas, Peat Leith, and Aidan Davison suggest that, instead, a lack of trust in the scientific community is a main contributor to the skepticism. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the United Nations (UN) to produce “consensus reports” on the effects of climate change. At first, IPCC was thought of as a trustworthy organization, however, that changed in some people’s eyes after the events of “Climategate” in 2009, the release of 1079 emails that were stolen from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. Upon reading the emails, conservatives concluded that scientists were reporting false statistics, dismissing data that disagreed with climate change, and covering up errors. Subsequently, the general public grew doubtful of the scientific community and their reports on anything related to climate change.

The authors state that there are different types of trust, but that the kind of trust people have in technology, people, the government, and “systems that underpin societal function”, is implicit trust. Implicit trust is defined as automatic and coming from experience. The example of implicit trust used in the article is trusting that the chair you sit in will hold your weight. This trust in our current way of life may be what prevents many people from accepting climate change. Should we believe that climate change is really happening, we would be forced to face the fact that we are the cause of it and that the same systems that allow us to burn fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases are the ones that are responsible for the deterioration of our planet.

The authors end the article having drawn three conclusions. The first is that, because climate change asks the people to challenge the implicit trust that they have in “carbon-intensive practices”, it would be more efficient to align climate change policy with current “trust networks” rather than ask them to abandon the systems altogether. The next conclusion is that there is no single answer that exists to make everyone believe in climate change; there are too many different groups of people with different positions on the subject. The final conclusion is that scientists should take the time to look at these different groups of people and avoid asking them to abandon their beliefs. It would be more useful to try to work with them than to try to tell them they are wrong.

Lucas, C., Leith, P., Davison, A., 2015. How climate change research undermines trust in everyday life: a review. WIREs Clim Change, 6:79-91.

TWEET: After “climategate, the #generalpublic is more untrusting of #climatescience.

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