Given the same evidence, why do some people become concerned while others deny it?

Previous post was on the question whether the political left is more science-minded than the political right, based on a Conversation article by David Hall. In that post, there was a link to another Conversation article titled “Climate explained: Why are climate change skeptics often right-wing conservatives?. It is written by three authors in the field of Psychology. Their article start with this paragraph (my emphasis):

The scientific evidence for climate change is unequivocal: 97 per cent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that human activities are causing global warming. Given the same evidence, why do some people become concerned about human-caused climate change while others deny it? In particular, why are people who remain skeptical about climate change often identified as right-wing conservatives?

The link that apparently proves that 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree goes to the Cook et al 2013 paper. Which is certainly not correct and that is not hard to prove: just look at the paper. Nowhere in the paper is claimed that they investigated papers by climate scientists, it says that they examined papers extracted from ISI web of science with the search terms “global warming” and “global climate change”. There were papers from scientists in the fields of economy, agriculture, psychology and so on. This means all scientists who used these terms, not only climate scientists as is claimed in the Conversation article. There is no indication whatsoever that the authors of the Cook 2013 et al paper selected only climate scientists.

The second sentence is even more interesting. It depends on what this “same evidence” is and what they mean by “human-caused climate change”. If the evidence they refer to is the consensus position found in the Cook 2013 paper that was mentioned in the previous sentence, then it is not that surprising that some will be concerned and other “deny” it. As seen in previous point, the conclusion of that paper is not as clear-cut as they seem to think it is. The conclusion of that paper is that there is a consensus on “humans causing global warming”, but global warming is an ambiguous term. It can mean different things for different people, going from the neutral definition (the atmosphere is warming) to a far-fetching interpretation (we gonna die).

The article being part of the “Covering Climate Now” series and this series is explained as a “concerted effort among news organizations to put the climate crisis at the forefront of our coverage”, it is a safe bet that their definition of “climate change” is something like “dangerous anthropogenic climate change”.

Reading the methodology of the Cook 2013 paper and the examples that were given in the consensus project, it is clear that the found consensus was on a rather broad and trivial definition of “human-caused climate change” and probably (leaning towards) the latter definition.

Those who interpret the term “global warming” in its neutral form will most likely not be alarmed, contrary to those who interpret the same words as meaning “dangerous anthropogenic global warming”. Although the “evidence” is the same, the interpretation of this evidence is not, especially when dealing with an ambiguous term. By referring to the Cook 2013 paper, the authors of the Conversation article may be a good example of this (if they read the paper they referred to, that is).

In the third sentence the authors focus their attention specifically on the right-wing conservatives. Reading the rest of the article, it is clear is that these authors only look at one side, just as we also seen in previous post. They focus solely on the right-wing conservatives who are ideologically biased when it comes to climate change, which makes it difficult to set policy agendas. But then, is the other side (left-wing liberals) free of ideological bias? Or do they maybe have a correct ideology? It is this blind spot that leads to the then inevitable conclusion that the biased other side must be convinced of the own rightness.

Why is it that only one side seem to be affected by ideological bias? Knowing that global warming (stated as a crisis) as well as its proposed solution are perfectly in line with left-wing values, there should be quite some bias from the left-wing side. Not mentioned in the article.

Concluding, I don’t find it much surprising that, even when looking at the same evidence, some people become concerned about human-caused global warming while others don’t, especially when ambiguous terms like “global warming” or “climate change” are used. I don’t know whether this ambiguity is a factor in the divide between those who are concerned and those who are skeptic, but it should at least bring a lot of confusion into the debate.

3 thoughts on “Given the same evidence, why do some people become concerned while others deny it?

  1. poitsplace

    One might even say its verification of the actual bias, that the researchers can’t perceive even a potential for their own ideological leanings as a potential issue. Its part of a larger liberal/leftist bias, the same thing we see when moderate liberals go against the established identitarian leftist/liberals and are immediately classified as far right extremists.


    1. trustyetverify Post author

      It was the one-sidedness of the authors that caught my attention. They framed the partisan divide as the responsibility of the right. It is even more surprising knowing that the global warming narrative (and its solutions) perfectly aligns with the left’s ideology, therefor I would also expect left-wing ideological bias at work. That is why my alarm bells went off.


  2. oiltranslator

    Whenever anyone approaches me moaning about climate I ask them for the ºC version of 72ºF. Pamphleteers or ward heelers are as easily scraped off by asking “what is government?” Left-wing and right-wing verbiage conveys that the speaker believes freedom is divisible or has no clear idea what it means.



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