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From the Literature: What Do Most People Know About Climate Change?

June 10, 2011

This is the first of a series of posts I’m calling “From the Literature”, where I digest an academic article related to my future graduate school research.


Now What Do People Know About Global Climate Change? Survey Studies of Educated Laypeople

Reynolds, Travis W., Bostrom, Ann, Read, Daniel, and M. Granger Morgan. “Now What Do People Know About Global Climate Change? Survey Studies of Educated Laypeople” Risk Analysis, 2010; 30:1520-1538.


Climate change, global warming, and greenhouse effect = one phenomenon according to media and politicians. False. The People are confused.


I really need to watch An Inconvenient Truth. I’ve never actually seen it and I am clearly missing out on a major media source regarding climate change.

A couple new words:

  • Tautology – “a technical notion in formal logic, universal unconditioned truth, always valid” (Wikipedia)
  • Albedo – a measure of the reflectivity of the Earth’s surface (which is affected by cloud cover and particulates in the atmosphere). High albedo indicates high reflectivity, which correlates to a decrease in mean global temperatures.

I really need to learn statistics. That is going to kill me in grad school.


Climate change, global warming, and the hole in the ozone layer have all been conflated to mean one and the same thing by the media and politicians despite the fact that these are separate phenomena. I am now secretly afraid that I am also one of those confused people. MUST EDUCATE SELF.

This paper cited several sources indicating that richer countries tend to view climate change as a distant threat more so than poorer countries. In my experience, this is not true. When I did a SEA Semester, I visited Christmas Island, an atoll in the Pacific Ocean that is at risk due to sea-level rise. As far as I could tell, no one living on the island cared. Even an American (with a science background) who had moved there later in life did not care. When I visited, there was no rice or flour on the island and the next shipment was not for 3 more weeks. The only things on the shelves in the grocery stores were sauce and soap. People were much more concerned about that. (As was I, I went to three grocery stores before finally finding a beer. It was warm. I did not care.)

It’s really shocking how little people’s understanding of climate change has changed between 1992 and 2009.


Do not conflate weather and climate. There is an important distinction. I expect all readers of this blog to know that distinction.

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