Overcoming Climate Change Ignorance is Hard

Public opinion on climate change can seem staggeringly difficult to comprehend, and the findings in recent study by a group of Columbia researches illustrate exactly how malleable those opinions are.

People’s belief in and concern about global warming depended on whether the local temperature on the day of the study seemed warmer or colder than usual. Such increases in belief and concern also produced higher donations to a global-warming charity. We interpret this result as attribute substitution, in which an easily accessible judgment (the current day’s local temperature) is used in place of a more complex and less accessible one (global temperature trends).

Next time a politician points to snow in April as a sign global warming is a hoax, remember it’s not because of their ignorance and political opportunism, it’s simply because of a legitimate cognitive bias. (Ok, some tiny, tiny, tiny, piece of it due to legitimate cognitive bias.)

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