Tuesday, September 8, 2015

How Does the Wording of a Poll Affect Response to Risks from Climate Change?

The impacts of political cues and practical information on climate change decisions (11 page pdf, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi and Baruch Fischhoff, Environmental Research Letters, Feb. 26, 2015)

Also discussed here: ‘Global Warming’’ or ‘‘Climate Change’’? Whether The Planet Is Warming Depends on Question Wording (10 Page pdf, Jonathon P. Schuldt, Sara H. Konrath & Norbert Schwarz, Public Opinion Quarterly, Feb. 21, 2011)

And here: Surging Seas Risk Finder (Sea level rise analysis, Climate Central)

Today we review research into the effectiveness of calls to the public for action on climate change and how this is influenced by how the threat is labeled: climate change or global warming. Participants were given a situation where they were to buy a house on a coastal city in southeaster USA, Savanna, which is vulnerable to flooding. They were asked to consider the elevation of the site as well as a second independent factor, climate change and given a Risk Finder tool to quantify the risk from flooding. Earlier polls concluded that 7% more people believe in “climate change” than “global warming”, probably because the latter is more easily refuted using local cold spells. More Democrats than Republicans are believers in the sense that they saw a greater risk from climate impacts. Posing a prior question as to their climate belief tended to neutralize the response compared with not posing it beforehand, suggesting that the flooding issue could be addressed on factual grounds without involving political motivation. The authors conclude by suggesting that polls “focus on facts that people need, while avoiding terms that divide them”.

savanna flood zone

 Key Quotes:

“An analysis of web sites of conservative and liberal think tanks suggests that conservatives prefer to use the term ‘‘global warming’’ whereas liberals prefer ‘‘climate change.’”

“74.0% of respondents endorsed a value of 5 or above (implying that they believed the phenomenon to be real) when the question referred to ‘‘climate change.’’ Only 67.7% did so when it referred to ‘‘global warming,’’

 “ ‘global warming' entails a directional prediction of rising temperatures that is easily discredited by any cold spell, whereas ‘‘climate change’’ lacks a directional commitment and easily accommodates unusual weather of any kind.”

 “we examine how two manipulations, designed to heighten the salience of political identity related to global warming, affect responses to a realistic (although still hypothetical) decision: buying a home in an area subject to storm surges, potentially affected by sea-level rise”

“They saw greater risk, as expressed in their reduced willingness to move to a flood-prone area, when flood insurance was unavailable, when global warming was mentioned, and when they could learn more about flooding risks using the Risk Finder decision aid. “

“political debates, focusing on public policies (e.g., carbon tax, cap-and-trade), have only weak implications for personal decisions”

“nonbelievers [in global warming] see the probability of global warming as high enough to affect home purchases, even if it is not high enough to affect public policies (which might also be opposed on other grounds)”

“for communicators interested in informed decision making, the recommendation emerging from these results is to focus on facts that people need, while avoiding terms that divide them.”

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