Recent reports have found citizens of the USA are badly misinformed on the causes of climate change. Over 90% of climate change experts believe that global warming is directly caused by human activity, and when accounting for peer-reviewed papers, this increases to 97%. However, only 15% of Americans are aware that the consensus is over 90%, as found by surveys by Yale and George Mason universities.
Given the views of the US president, Donald Trump, this isn’t a surprising fact. The Republican party are delivering a false message and calling into question the reality of climate change by stating that scientists are in debate as to whether humans have caused global warming. Donald Trump, in an interview for 60 Minutes, stated: “We have scientists that disagree with [human-caused global warming] … You’d have to show me the [mainstream] scientists because they have a very big political agenda.” Donald Trump has said he no longer believes climate change is a hoax, but that “I don’t think it [climate change] is a hoax, I just don’t know that it’s manmade.” The president continued on to talk about his hesitancy to spend large amounts of money in the name of preventing climate change, or to implement the shifts in job types that are needed.
Over 90% of climate change experts believe that global warming is directly caused by human activity
The message Donald Trump is spreading simply is not true – the IPCC report from the recent Korea summit attributes 100% of global warming since 1950 to human activity. In the wake of these bleak findings, we need all hands on deck in slashing carbon emissions; there is no room for denial.
The report from Yale and George Mason goes on to group Americans into six categories in order of engagement with climate change issues: alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful, or dismissive. Individuals in the dismissive and doubtful categories estimate the average consensus of scientists on humans being the cause of global warming as lower than 50%. Those in the disengaged category gave the highest percentage of “don’t know” answers. Numerous social science papers have shown that that perceived consensus acts as a “gateway belief”, or that the higher people think the percentage of experts agreed on a matter is, the more likely they are to believe it themselves. So are we facing a consensus miscommunication? Certainly, if leaders like Donald Trump spread misinformation as he has been.