Science

The impact of reading about climate science fades away almost immediately

in great shape , Reading science news may make people accept climate science, but the effect is brief.

For decades, the scientific community has been almost unanimous: climate change is real, it is us, and the consequences are likely to be dire. Yet despite some of its effects being more difficult to avoid, survey after survey shows that the public has not gotten the message. There is little recognition of how strong the scientific consensus is, and much uncertainty about whether this is our job—and no voting numbers change very quickly.

Over these decades, there have been a lot of studies on why this might be the case. Many of them have found ways to change the opinion of the subjects of study – methods that have undoubtedly been adopted by communication professionals. Yet the electoral figures remain the same. Misinformation campaigns and political polarization have both been blamed, but the evidence that these factors make a difference is unclear.

A new study provides an additional clue as to why. While both polarization and misinformation play a role in how the public interprets climate science, the biggest problem may be that the public has very little memory, and most of what people learn about climate science lasts a week. forgets later.

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To test people’s reactions to climate information, the researchers collected a set of materials that had appeared in major publications. Some were not climate related and served as “placebos”. Others were coverage of an earlier report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Finally, there was a set of articles that focused on partisan disagreements about climate change (as opposed to scientific content) and a set of views that argued against accepting scientific evidence.

The study focused on creating a set of paths through this information with varying readings over consecutive weeks. For example, one group of participants may get science outright, while another may get science in one week and then be denied by an opinion piece week after week. The goal was to find out whether exposure to science had a lasting effect or if it could be reduced by time or misinformation.

The risk here was that having so many possible paths through the information would mean that only a few people walked each particular path, making any results statistically questionable. The researchers overcome this by recruiting a large number of participants—about 3,000 people completed the entire multi-week process. To do this, they had to rely on Mechanical Turk, a service that few users have managed to script. But several studies have indicated that the Mechanical Turk results have been replicated by individual studies, so the researchers felt it was reliable enough.

The experiment lasted more than four weeks. First, basic information about participants’ existing beliefs about climate change was established. Later, there were two weeks of reading the article, followed by additional voting. The fourth week only saw a final survey to determine whether previous weeks’ readings had changed any opinion.

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