“What sceptics believe”: The effects of information and deliberation on climate change scepticism

From Public Understanding of Science

Public opinion polls suggest that 10% of Australians, and 25% of those polled in the UK do not think that the climate is changing in any significant way with even higher figures for the USA. Even more believe that – although climate change may be happening – it is not caused by human activity but is the result of natural cycles alone. What sceptics believe is an important question, because their voices are heard in governments, editors’ offices, boardrooms, and – most importantly – the street. Scepticism about climate change now appears a pervasive social phenomenon. This paper discusses research into public reactions to projected climate change in the Australian Capital Region. Using Q Methodology and qualitative data, it outlines five discourses of scepticism and explores the impact regional-scale climate scenarios and a deliberative forum had on these discourses.

 

 

Abstract

Scepticism about climate change now appears a pervasive social phenomenon. Research to date has examined the different forms that scepticism can take, from outright denial to general uncertainty. Less is known about what climate sceptics value and believe beyond their climate change doubt, as well as how “entrenched” such beliefs are. In response, this paper discusses research into public reactions to projected climate change in the Australian Capital Region. Using Q Methodology and qualitative data, it outlines five discourses of scepticism and explores the impact regional-scale climate scenarios and a deliberative forum had on these discourses. Results show that both forms of intervention stimulate “discourse migration” amongst research participants. However, migrations are rarely sustained, and sceptical positions are infrequently dispelled outright, suggesting the relationship between climate scepticism, broader beliefs, and the methods used to inform and debate about climate change, are pivotal to comprehending and addressing this issue.

 

 

Read this research for free

Article details
Hobson, K., & Niemeyer, S. (2012). “What sceptics believe”: The effects of information and deliberation on climate change scepticism Public Understanding of Science, 22 (4), 396-412 DOI: 10.1177/0963662511430459

     
This entry was posted in Earth & Environment, SAGE Insight, Science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.