Scepticism and uncertainty about climate change: Dimensions, determinants and change over time

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Abstract

While scientific consensus and political and media messages appear to be increasingly certain, public attitudes and action towards the issue do not appear to be following suit. Popular and academic debate often assumes this is due to ignorance or misunderstanding on the part of the public, but some studies have suggested political beliefs and values may play a more important role in determining belief versus scepticism about climate change. The current research used two representative postal surveys of the UK public to: measure scepticism and uncertainty about climate change; determine how scepticism varies according to individual characteristics, knowledge and values; and examine how scepticism has changed over time. Findings show denial of climate change is less common than the perception that the issue has been exaggerated. Scepticism was found to be strongly determined by individuals' environmental and political values (and indirectly by age, gender, location and lifestyle) rather than by education or knowledge. Between 2003 and 2008, public uncertainty about climate change has remained remarkably constant, although belief that claims about the issue are exaggerated has doubled over that period. These results are interpreted with reference to psychological concepts of motivated reasoning, confirmation bias and 'finite pool of worry'. Implications for communication and policy are discussed. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

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APA

Whitmarsh, L. (2011). Scepticism and uncertainty about climate change: Dimensions, determinants and change over time. Global Environmental Change, 21(2), 690–700. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.01.016

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