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article imageHigher science scores lead to less climate change concern

By Gar Swaffar     May 28, 2012 in Environment
Indications from a recent test of 1,540 respondents posits the idea that higher scientific literacy leads to a lessened concern in relation to climate change.
The respondents who scored higher on a general science quiz of twenty two questions appear to have shown less concern, from an individual perspective, toward climate change as a problem.
The study was led by Yale Law Professor Dan Kahan. While the results don't have a correlation to the effects of climate change on the planet, the study does seem to show the lack of correlation in the belief regarding Anthropogenic Climate Change (ACC) and a lack of understanding about science by the general public.
The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change and reported at Fox News, a link to the supplementary information of the study at Nature Climate Change is here. The supplementary information link includes the test questions and also the multivariate regression analysis of climate change risk perceptions.
From an educational and ability to reason perspective, two questions seem to pose the greatest concern regarding both the test subjects in general, and specifically, the respondents who had less scientific acumen.
Question 5: Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?
Question 6: How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun? (one day, one month, one year)
The respondents who answered question 5 correctly were only 72% of the total. That result, sadly, indicates 431 pre-Gallilean respondents exist within the sampling of the study group.
Of the respondents who correctly answered question 5, only 45% of them correctly answered question 6. Only those who correctly answered question 5 were given question 6. That indicates that of the 1,109 people who actually knew the Sun is the center of the Solar System, only 499 were able to deduce that a full transit of Earth's orbit would require a full year.
The group with the higher scores who considered climate change less of a threat were able to achieve 57% correct answers on the twenty two question test, while those with more concern regarding climate change got 56% of the correct answers.
A quote from Fox; "As respondents’ science literacy scores increased, their concern with climate change decreased,"
In regard to the study, Prof. Kahan remarked that the cultural implications of the results were perhaps even more important. cultural views – how much they value things like individualism and equality -- affect their views on global warming much more than actual knowledge about science.....individualists were relatively unconcerned about global warming, whereas those who value equality were very concerned.
Overall, the study has no impact on deciding whether climate change is caused by humans or is simply a function of the current poorly understood solar cycles and solar activity. It does point out though that one of the arguments of the ACC crowd, that those who deny ACC are less scientifically astute is simply not the case.
The study is being touted by both sides of the argument for ACC as "proof" of their position, with Union of Concerned Scientists spokesman Aaron Huertas quoted at Fox as saying; “Over the last few years, the policy issues surrounding climate change have become increasingly politicized, and that’s bleeding over into people’s perceptions of climate science.”
While on the other side of the argument, MIT Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Dr. Richard Lindzen stated that climate change skeptics knowing more about science "surprised him not at all" and "MIT alumni are among my most receptive audiences,"
Dr. Lindzen is also one of sixteen concerned scientists signatory to a letter published at the Wall Street Journal; "No Need to Panic About Global Warming" with the premise that "There's no compelling scientific reason to 'decarbonize' the world's economy"
While both sides use the study to further their arguments, the study linked above has quite a bit of very interesting data, including on page 12, the observation that cultural world view creates greater disagreement than political orientation when discussing climate change.
Left unstated in the study is that beyond all of the observations on climate change, political orientation, and cultural world view is an underlying problem. The problem seems to be the 28% of the study respondents who still believe the Sun orbits the Earth. It is this author's hope they might be prompted to pick up a book and read what Galileo has to say regarding that issue.
More about Climate change, Global warming, Ice age, Science, Test scores
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