GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 186-6
Presentation Time: 9:25 AM


BENTLEY, Andrew Phillip Keller, ADAMS, Betty A.J. and COBERN, William, The Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, 1903 W. Michigan Age, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5444,

Addressing the impacts of anthropogenic climate change is one challenge facing the United States. One solution to this problem is fostering a public who can make well-informed political and personal choices. However, some Americans are unconvinced that the recent rapid rise of Earth’s global temperature is anthropogenic. The goal of this study is to document reasons why respondents choose to agree or disagree with the following statement: “According to the science community, human activities are responsible for the recent rapid increase of Earth's average atmospheric and oceanic temperatures.” This survey item is part of a larger study that aims to understand the relationship between individuals’ interpretations of the tentative nature of science and their acceptance of socioscientific issues. Participants (n=303) were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Only a small percentage (~10%) of respondents took a neutral stance with the aforementioned statement. Approximately 14% of respondents rejected the survey statement; the majority (~76%) accepted the survey statement. Qualitative analysis of survey responses indicates that dissenters use one or more of 15 different lines of reasoning. The majority of participants’ reasons to dissent were also uncovered in a previous analysis of the climate change dissenter ‘echo-chamber.’ The qualitative analysis identified 19 different lines of reasoning to accept the survey question, some (~10%) of which are well-documented climate change misconceptions. Interesting is the mirrored reasoning for accepting or rejecting the survey statement. The most cited reason for rejecting the survey question is the lack of scientific evidence which supports the theory of anthropogenic climate change. Inversely, the most cited reason for accepting the survey statement is the existence of evidence which supports the theory of anthropogenic climate change. Results indicate that anthropogenic climate change dissenters use preexisting anti-anthropogenic climate change rhetoric. Some of those who accept anthropogenic climate change do so using statements that indicated an inaccurate understanding of the science. In both cases we suggest that the knowledge deficit model may hold solutions to mitigating the public’s misunderstanding of anthropogenic climate change.