Hearing only one side of the story is one thing, believing it is another

On the statement “Even the scientists don’t really know what they are talking about on environmental issues”, 43% of the Belgians agreed and 45% didn’t. To me that was the most surprising result of the Ipsos MORI Global trends 2014 on Environment.

In the Global trends poll summarized 200 questions in 16,000 interviews from people of 20 different countries, including our tiny little country. The most interesting were the 8 questions on the environment from which the one above. To come straight to the point, here are the results:

Ipsos MORI Global trends 2014 on Environment: "Even the scientists don't really know what they are talking about on environmental issues"

Ipsos MORI Global trends 2014 on Environment: “Even the scientists don’t really know what they are talking about on environmental issues”

So, 43% of the Belgians agreed with the statement, that is a lot. Much more than I expected. 45% didn’t agree. To me this was surprising because in Belgium all the mainstream media sources are very warmist in nature. There is only one story line in the media. No skeptics invited in discussions. Warmists have free range in the media here, unhindered by any skepticism. In that sense I expected much more who would disagree. Yet 43% of the Belgians are having doubts at what the “experts” tell about the environment (48% for all polled countries). About as many Belgians have faith (42% for all polled countries).

This also puts a different light on the statement that climate communication just need to communicate the science better to the public. If the results of this poll is any measure, almost half of the population isn’t influenced by hearing only one side of the consensus story. If one doesn’t acknowledge authority, then hearing that “97% of the scientists agree” is an empty statement. With even more bickering on how many scientists stand behind the consensus, it wouldn’t make any difference for them.

This lack in trust in scientists can have many reasons like past experiences, hearing conflicting messages, disinterest, global warming communication fatigue, ones attitude towards authority and what not more. This attitude towards authority was also a conclusion by Ipsus-Mori. According to them there is less trust in authority. Whether it is government or science. People are trusting their peers more than authority.

This distrust of the scientists in a situation where the focus is on only one story is important. It means that impregnating people with only one side of the story doesn’t necessarily mean that they believe it or are influenced by it.

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2 thoughts on “Hearing only one side of the story is one thing, believing it is another

  1. eSell

    That seems like a discouraging report…but I guess it makes sense. I read something a week or two ago about an area of North Carolina where people build expensive houses on sand bars just off the coast. They absolutely will not hear anything about CC or rising oceans. Of course, they have a vested interest in all this not being true, so it doesn’t matter about “scientific consensus”.

    Of course, one era’s “scientific consensus” is the next era’s “they thought WHAT?”; just take phrenology, for example. It used to be the Scientific Consensus that accurately measuring a person’s head could tell you all you needed to know about their Intelligence and likely Personality traits. Now “science” (or humanity’s collected knowledge…call it what you will) knows better.

    Reply
    1. trustyetverify Post author

      If those people build expensive houses near the sea, they will have a vested interest in them staying there for quite some time. So I guess they had at least a look at the actual sea level data, otherwise they are reckless. Sea level changes are not the same over all locations. Some are going up, some stay the same and there are even places were it goes down. In that case a general consensus (sea level will on average go up) is not that relevant, actual local observations are.

      Even Al Gore bought a property near the waterfront at the time he was telling us that we will look at a 20 ft (≈6 meter) sea level rise. But that is another story altogether 😉

      I agree that scientific consensus changes over time. If history can be our guide, it learns us that a scientific consensus at such is not a very good argument. Actual evidence is a much better one. Consensus is about the level of agreement, not about the strength or amount of the evidence…

      Reply

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