Happy people are more likely to vote, and it turns out that politics ALSO influence whether or not a person believes in climate change. This could be why important climate change legislation never seems to pass. Most Americans now agree that climate change is occurring, but still disagree on why. Their opinions about the causes of climate change are defined by their political party, and NOT scientific understanding. And teens (who are too young to vote) don't do much better: A new poll shows that only 25% of American understand the real causes.
A recent survey shows that Republicans most often point to natural causes of climate change while Democrats most often believe that human activities are the cause. The greatest polarization occurs among people who believe they have the best understanding. Sociologist Lawrence Hamilton says, "Although there remains active discussion among scientists on many details about the pace and effects of climate change, no leading science organization disagrees that human activities are now changing the Earth's climate. The strong scientific agreement on this point contrasts with the partisan disagreement seen on all of our surveys.
"However, most people gather information about climate change not directly from scientists but indirectly, for example through news media, political activists, acquaintances, and other nonscience sources. Their understanding reflects not simply scientific knowledge, but rather the adoption of views promoted by political or opinion leaders they follow. People increasingly choose news sources that match their own views. Moreover, they tend to selectively absorb information even from this biased flow, fitting it into their pre-existing beliefs."
Will the next generation take this more seriously? Alas, as Jennifer Welsh reports in LiveScience.com, many of the teens polled in the recent survey had serious misconceptions about the causes of and solutions to climate change, which led some of them to doubt that it's really happening or understand how people are part of the cause of it, much less its possible solutions.
But we'll all learn the truth eventually: As Hamilton says, "We will find out in time--either the ice will melt, or it won't. The Arctic Ocean, along with other aspects of the ocean-atmosphere system, presents an undeniable physical reality that could become more central to the public debate. In the meantime, however, public beliefs about physical reality remain strikingly politicized." Here at unknowncountry.com, we're PROUD that we have been warning about climate change for years, while everyone else was (and is still) denying it. Join the fight for what's right: Subscribe today!