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Study finds accurate weather information changes views, but only briefly

people Perspectives on the climate crisis They could be influenced by the media, according to new research. But accurate scientific information has only a limited impact on people who already have a strong political view, especially if they oppose climate action.

Researchers who conducted an experiment in the United States to explore how people interact with media reports about weather found that people’s opinions about climate science actually changed when they read reports that accurately reflect scientific discoveries. They were also more willing to support policies that would solve the problem.

But the effect soon wore off, especially when people were exposed to other media that cast doubt on climate science, according to the article to be published Friday in the peer-reviewed journal. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Thomas Wood, associate professor of political science at Ohio State University who led the study, said: “It is not true that the American public does not react to scientifically informed reports, when exposed. But even accurate scientific reports get out of people’s frame of reference very quickly.”

He suggested that one way to enhance the effects of an accurate scientific report is to repeat it more than once. “We were surprised at how receptive the people in our study were to what they were reading. [in scientifically accurate reporting] on climate change in our study. But what they learned faded very quickly.” “What we found suggests that people need to hear the same specific messages about climate change over and over again. If they only hear it once, it will come back very quickly.

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The researchers recruited 2,898 online participants who were first asked to read news articles reflecting microclimatology in the fall of 2020.

In the second and third phase of the experiment, one week later, the same participants were placed in random groups, and asked to read another scientific article; Editorial casts doubt on climatology; Article on the partisan debate on the climate crisis. Or another “dummy” article about something unrelated, like cooking.

In the fourth step, participants were asked about their attitudes toward policies and their understanding of climate science. After each step, participants were asked if they believed climate change had occurred and was caused by people. They were also asked if they support renewable energy.

After the first stage, some people who were Climate skeptic They reported a change in their positions and were more willing to consider government actions on climate change and renewable energy. However, by the third and fourth stages, these people had largely reverted to their previous status.

The researchers concluded, “Exposure to scientific content improves factual accuracy, but improvements are short-lived and no longer detectable at the end of our study. We also find that exposure to skeptical scientific opinion content can neutralize or reverse accuracy gains.”

Contrary to expectations, we did not find that exposure to media coverage focused on partisan conflict reduces the accuracy of the facts. Immediately after exposure, scientific coverage of climate change increases support for government actions to address climate change, but this effect wears off over time. »

The effects of reading materials questioning climate science have had a greater impact on Republicans and those already inclined to deny climate science.

The research was conducted in the United States, where scientific reports are often heavily politically influenced and where many positions appear to reflect a partisan approach to even the most basic facts. Most Republicans, for example, They say they believe In fact, Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election, not Joe Biden.