Mooney on the Hamilton Study on Climate Change Attitudes

Chris Mooney (who I suspect is working on a new book on this subject, which I can’t wait to read) has another item up today pointing to yet another study that documents the phenomenon that those on the left or right who self-identify as being more knowledgeable about the science of climate change tend to be more, rather than less, polarized in their views. That is, Democrats who see themselves as well-informed on the subject are more likely to acknowledge the actual scientific consensus, while well-informed Republicans are more likely to deny it, than those of either party who say they don’t know as much. See: Climate Change and Well-Informed Denial.

This core finding itself is not new – a 2008 Pew survey also found that Republicans with a college level of education were less likely to accept the science of climate than Republicans who lack such education. Other studies have also underscored this fundamental point. But for precisely that reason, Hamilton’s research kind of puts it in the realm of indisputable political fact. Not only are we polarized over climate change, but our knowledge and sophistication, when combined with our politics, make matters worse.

How could this be? For Hamilton, the explanation lies in the interaction between how we get information (from trusted news and Internet sources, we think, but we’re actually being selective) and our own biases in evaluating it (objectively, we think, but again, we’re actually being selective). “People increasingly choose news sources that match their own views,” Hamilton writes. “Moreover, they tend to selectively absorb information even from this biased flow, fitting it into their pre-existing beliefs.” In other words, we’re twice biased – based on our views and information sources – and moreover, twice biased in different directions.

14 Responses to “Mooney on the Hamilton Study on Climate Change Attitudes”

  1. shcb Says:

    It’s all about perspective

    That is, Democrats who see themselves as well-informed on the subject are more likely to acknowledge the actual scientific consensus, while well-informed Republicans are more likely to deny it, than those of either party who say they don’t know as much.

    Could be

    That is, Democrats who see themselves as well-informed on the subject are more likely to deny this is scam, while well-informed Republicans are more likely to acknowledge it, than those of either party who say they don’t know as much.

  2. Anithil Says:

    It’s easy to argue that global climate change is a scam. It’s also easy to argue that opposition to the global climate change idea is a scam.

    I don’t consider myself to be unfairly biased when it comes to global climate change. As someone who works in the sciences, I know as well as anybody that researchers are people, subject to bias and intimidation and pressure to get funding or to publish. That is why the logical thing to do is look at the _majority consensus_…that’s what the scientific community is for. Could the consensus be wrong? Yes, that is always possible. But it’s much less likely to be. And looking at the cost-benefit analysis of this, logically, I’m going to go with the vast majority of respected scientific groups issuing decided statements.

  3. shcb Says:

    As I’ve said so, so many times I think we have a problem, not a crisis, and many in the scientific community agree, even those that firmly believe in AGW. When you scam people into thinking there is a crisis they make just as many bad decisions as when you scam them into thinking there is no problem at all. But there is just as much if not more money to be made if this is portrayed a crisis than if it is portrayed as not a problem.

  4. Anithil Says:

    For clarification, do those in the scientific community that view it as a problem specifically view it as not being a potential crisis? The two views may not be mutually exclusive.

    True, money will be made either way. If one goes for that arguing, doesn’t that make each side equally scam-y or corrupt? Given that, we are still brought back to the cost-benefit analysis.

    Additionally, which organizations stand to benefit from a “scam” saying AGW deserves direct attention and effort? The national science academies that say it is an issue? Psh. What makes these organizations well-respected (and well-funded) is their credibility. True, they will receive more funding when their research is found to be correct. I always did like the idea of funding good and accurate science, which is what they are doing.

    I suppose there are the new industries that would stand to benefit from adaptation to AGW…I know people who are working on solar cell efficiency and it’s great stuff. I wouldn’t have a problem with those industries benefiting and arising.

    So the fact that money would be made (and more industries = more jobs) means immediate adaptation to AGW is a bad thing? Doesn’t that go against the argument of mass economical chaos, people waiting for their rations and what-not?

  5. Smith Says:

    The best thing about the Global Warming “debate”, is that if you are participating in it in earnest, you have already lost.

    Only one of you is attempting to have a sincere discussion and by conceding that there is anything of substance to discuss, has already granted victory to the other.

  6. Anithil Says:

    *Sigh*. I can’t help it, I suppose.

  7. shcb Says:

    The people I’ve heard seem to be of the opinion that humans have a small impact in the total scheme, that even if we stopped breathing most of global warming would continue, until it naturally decides to start cooling again. They also tend to have the view that even if we are the main factor we as the industrialized west can’t do much unless China and India do more than we do and that isn’t likely so hamstringing the place where the breakthrough is going to come from is counterproductive.

    To answer your question, potential crisis yes, likely crisis no.

    Organizations that stand to benefit, governments and trading companies that organize the cap and trade funds, everyone skims a little off the top, and when those transfers are in the billion, a little goes a long way.

    As far as funding science, one of the scientists I heard said the joke in the community is if you want to get funded to study the breeding habits of some little critter good luck, but if you want funding to study the effects of global warming on the breeding habits of said critter you’ll have more money than you can spend. The science still may be good and accurate but it gives the impression we have a crisis “look how many studies on global warming are being conducted now, there must be a huge crisis”.

    I don’t have a problem with industries working on new technologies, hell, that’s what pays my bills. We’ve been working with a partner company and one of our companies in Canada on some solar products for almost a year now, we have a little test setup on the roof with state of the art cells, control systems, monitoring systems etc. I’m in the middle of all that, cool stuff, but it’s not there yet. It is still a little more than a novelty. In the lab this stuff is impressive, but in real applications it has a long way to go. Things like the most practical place for the cell in one of our applications is against a window, but the cell won’t produce electricity if it is against glass. But from everything I have seen I am convinced nothing will work in solar or wind until we can store the energy more efficiently. I’m not talking about a little improvement, I’m talking about a huge revolutionary change in technology because ultimately that is always the roadblock we hit.

    My problem is when government starts mandating that a certain percentage of power has to come from technologies that aren’t mature yet just because it make the politicians feel and look good, that just takes money from people and solutions that could really make a difference.

  8. Anithil Says:

    In response to the idea that humans can do little to nothing to mitigate consequences of AGW, I like to think of the adaptation idea more.

    Every scientist has to present potential applications for their work. Otherwise it is very hard to get funding. I have to constantly talk about how my work could potentially impact the design of synthetic adhesives, although that is pretty far from what I research on a day-to-day basis. Yes, people studying AGW have all the funding that they want. That’s because it’s a very important subject that, obviously, a lot of people find very relevant. I’m cool with that.

    I don’t very much care who stands to benefit from what, and such. What really gets me is that this is what is happening, and some huge percentage of scientists agree on it (begin argument on why this is a scam, yadda yadda), and people are *still* arguing about it. Unfortunately, I guess adaptation isn’t going to happen until people start seeing reason. I can keep saying cost-benefit, cost-benefit, but I don’t think it’s going to make a difference.

  9. shcb Says:

    From what I’ve seen the percentage of scientists that don’t agree as to the severity of the problem is somewhere between 20% and 50% depending on how the question is asked. The amount of skepticism is greater than advertised.

    I think building windmills with no way to store energy is silly but it makes more sense to have windmills in Kansas and Colorado than mass transit, I suppose people will make something, so go for it, worst case they are going to make awesome zip line parks when they are obsolete. I draw the line at cap and trade, nothing is produced.

  10. Anithil Says:

    I’m not necessarily arguing for cap and trade. I’ve said I’m going for the adaptation view. Although yes, less hummers used to drive to the supermarket would be nice too.

    And 20-50% versus 95%? That’s not at all what I’ve seen. Guess that goes back to the original jbc post here, interesting.

    I’m starting to see that Smith has a point.

  11. shcb Says:

    “I’m starting to see that Smith has a point” that is probably validation of JBC’s post as well :)

  12. shcb Says:

    It’s hard to get 95% of any group agree on anything other than the bare basics. If you ask scientist if the earth is warming you will get 95% agreement, but as soon as you ask what is causing it and what can be done to fix it the agreement level gets back into the normal range.

    Back in the days this theory was floated and the hockey stick was still thought to be accurate something like 2200 climate scientists signed a document saying they thought AGW was a problem, what was more interesting to me was half of them had concerns of how the science was conducted.

    This has been the interesting part to me in the last few years and fits JBC’s many recent posts. I don’t know how many scientists I have heard interviewed in the last few years that will say something like “the data wasn’t collected properly, the statistical calculations weren’t done properly, and the models aren’t accurate, but I agree with the conclusions” what? All I can come up with is they have so much blind faith in the system they don’t think it can be circumvented. Or like you’ve said here, the system can be foiled but it hasn’t in this case.

  13. knarlyknight Says:

    the vast majority of the data was collected properly, the vast majority of the statistical calculations were done properly, and the models are the best that we have and appear to replicate past events accurately, however there are errata in all of that which would have only negligable effects on the results therefore I agree with the conclusions. to paraphrase, that’s what I’ve heard them say.

    but why listen to me, I think the earth is getting warmer due to latent heat within the earth’s core escaping at a greater rate over the last century, likely due to expanding undersea venting in the great Pacific ring of fire, and I base my conclusion on gut instincts and psychic powers.

  14. shcb Says:

    I for the most part agree with your first paragraph except for the models being able to replicate reality, but the rest is off just enoughs to make it a crisis instead of a problem

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