Communicating Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

by Juana Granados

In a review of 12,500 scientific abstracts by Cook et al. (2013), 97% accept the consensus position that climate change is caused by humans. On the other hand, only 42%, of Americans believe the idea that scientists regard global warming as real concern. Why? Is it because these 42% are uninfluenced by the objective forms of data presentation used by scientists such as pie charts and the type of language used in scientific papers? Would these people be better served by the use of metaphors?  Van der Linder et al. (2014) conducted a randomized online survey consisting of 1,104 people, aimed at reflecting the entire United States’ population. Participants were told that they were going to be focusing on popular topics. Thus, a mix of topics were presented to hide the study’s real objective. Two separate tests, both asking the same question about the certainty of climate change’s occurrence were conducted. The first was in the form of a simple opinion poll while the second consisted of descriptive text, belief vs. action metaphors, and pie charts. Continue reading